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Friday, December 19, 2008


I'm not here, and if all goes as planned, I won't be back.

I am moving to, and all of my posts will be available over there. Please bookmark the new site and update your links. Feed readers, please subscribe to my new feed.

Many thanks to Amy and Shauna, who are awesome and know much more about web design than I ever will.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Best NWT Blogs

We are now taking nominations for the 2008 NWT Blog Awards. For more details, head over to the contest site.

Harrumph, harrumph!

I am about to get on a plane, and I am not particularly happy about it.

I have to go to Edmonton for an uncomfortable medical test called a "sleep-deprived EEG", so I haven't slept since I got up for work yesterday morning. If I am even less coherent than usual, that's why. The test measures the electrical activity in my brain.

Don't worry about me: I am totally fine except that I have epilepsy, a brain disorder that can be controlled with medication. It's not a secret, but I don't blog about it because it's not relevant.

The test is not painful, but it's very uncomfortable. I have to be tired to the point of exhaustion for the test, and it leaves me with electrode gel all through my hair. For extra fun, the technician will flash a strobe light in my eyes and ask me to hyperventilate. The idea is to push the brain beyond its comfort zone: a normal brain (yes, ha ha) will be able to deal with it, but an epileptic brain won't.

I used to have it done here in town, but now I have to go to Edmonton. Because I cannot possibly finish the test and get on a plane six hours later, I am staying overnight and coming back tomorrow evening. I need to shower and sleep when this stupid test is over.

The timing sucks, and the logistics suck, and the test sucks.

The point -- and I do have one -- is that I will probably be a bit slower to respond to your e-mails for the next couple of days. If you need to reach me, call my cell.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"I can give you lots of links to prove it"

Reader-submitted complaint: I CANNOT believe how much you defend journalists. They are not honorable, they are DISHONORABLE.

Uh, you know whose blog this is, right?

"I'm not even sure who to blame"

Reader-submitted item: Thought you might find this interesting, albeit incredibly sad. I wonder what will happen to our system of checks and balances. I don't think there will be any.

Yes, I am starting to become alarmed at the state of the news industry.

The future of news is online -- I almost never read a dead-tree version of a newspaper -- but the industry has been so slow to react that I'm afraid it might all come tumbling down.

I get my news from, and, along with a bunch of local and specialty websites. You have probably already identified the problem here: These websites are successful because they get most of their content from somewhere else. The Globe and Mail's staff work to publish a newspaper, which used to produce profit to pay those employees. The stories from that newspaper are fed to

Now, what will happen if people stop buying the newspaper?

News organizations have tried to respond to this shift, but they haven't found a business model. The New York Times put its columnists behind a pay wall, but then took them out. Slate and Salon experimented with charging for access to their stories, but their content is free now. The Globe and Mail charges readers for access to older stories. I'm not sure how well that's working for them.

There is a strong sense that online content should be free, and blogs are partly to blame. However, blogs can never take the place of newspapers. Most of us don't do original reporting; we simply provide commentary or personal anecdotes. This isn't bad, but it doesn't give readers the kind of information they can get from newspapers. Even the best local blog can't replace a newspaper.

The infrastructure required to keep a newspaper running is staggering. Costs must be kept to a minimum, so journalists are generally paid next to nothing. I made $250 a week at my first reporting job in 1997. I no longer have a personal stake in the matter, but I still think this is a huge problem. As long as salaries remain low, the newspaper industry will continue to churn through young, inexperienced staff, continually losing them to other professions as they lose their idealism.

This is a problem for all of us: everyone's got to start somewhere, but I think most people can agree that a person who's been on the job for a while is generally more valuable to an employer than a person who has no experience. In the case of journalism, our society is the main beneficiary when we have a vigorous, talented free press. If you have your eye on the bottom line, though, a green reporter costs much less than someone who's been around for a while, and can probably produce the same amount of copy.

You can see how this is a business model that was at least partly founded on a belief that the work serves a public good. So when advertising revenues fall and readers abandon the only version of the product that was ever profitable, where does that leave the industry? I'm afraid of the answer.

Thanks for sharing this link. Now I'm depressed.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sadly, this probably WAS one of my better moments

This arrived by e-mail this morning. It's from the Christmas party I attended Saturday night.

I think of it as photojournalism: it's not the sort of picture I would plan to have of myself, but it DOES accurately capture a moment.

Best NWT Blogs

OK, so Clare is well ahead of me, as usual. The Nunavut bloggers seem much more coordinated than we are. (Or maybe it's just that Clare is more coordinated than *I* am.)

Who's up for the 2008 NWT Blog Awards?

I propose the following rules:

  • To be eligible, a blog must be about the NWT or written by a person in the NWT.
  • Anyone can nominate a blog for the contest.
  • Winners will be chosen by judges, who will also provide the prizes for their categories and can be non-bloggers or from outside the NWT.
  • To be eligible, individual blog entries must have been published in 2008.
Please let me know:
  • What you think of these rules: I'm open to other ideas.
  • If you are interested in judging one of the categories.
  • Which categories we should include (check out the Canadian Blog Awards for some ideas).
You can either leave a comment or e-mail me privately: dryas at theedge dot ca.

I will ask judges not to judge categories they will be entered in, and to put real effort into choosing between the blogs that are nominated: I would love it if this contest could draw attention to the undiscovered gems of the NWT blogging world rather than just confirming who has the most readers.

If there's no interest in running a contest this year, we won't do one.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I've been thinking about trolls lately.

Trolls are the jerks of the Internet: they show up only to bother people and derail conversations. They take advantage of the good will of people in online communities.

In general, I believe that people should be heard, and that the proper reaction to speech we don't like is to encourage MORE speech, not to silence the original speakers. But where does that leave us when the trolls arrive?

I watched with interest as the PETA folks re-discovered Darcy at Way Way Up last week. I've had threats before, but Darcy wins for the sheer number of angry anti-hunting comments.

Townie Bastard makes the point that these guys make a lot of noise, but rational people don't pay attention. I wonder if that's the case. I've certainly heard them on the radio lately, which is not necessarily proof that people listen to them: it could just show that the CBC feels that people need to know what they're saying.

But I do have to agree with his main point: when jerks show up on my favourite blogs, I don't really pay much attention to them. If anything, I become less sympathetic to their goals. In PETA's case, I'd be the first to agree that killing animals is bloody and horrible and should never be done lightly, but the way they present themselves wrecks any credibility they might have gained.

I'm not sure that other people feel the same way, though. What do you guys think?

"If I had money falling out of my butt, I would totally buy one."

Reader-submitted item: Okay, there's nothing naked or even DEAR GOD, I CAN'T STOP LOOKING AT HIS CROTCH involved in this link. At all. I swear. It is kind of awesome, tho.

You're right: this website DOES have obvious drawbacks. However, in this holiday season, I think we can all agree that this would be the perfect gift.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Curiouser and curiouser

Last night, Tina and I put two and two together.

Well, sort of.

We put this:

together with this:
and then with this:
That is my dear friend LeeAnn (Alison's behind the camera: the three of us were roommates at King's). Above that photo, you can see LeeAnn with Dan, who was her "gentleman caller" at the time. And above that, you can see Rob, Tina and Dan.

Tina and I appear to have been missing each other by days since the middle of the 1990s. I'm sure to be wherever she just left. The coincidences are freaking us out.

Everyone will suffer the fire we've made

Reader-submitted item: A journalist told me it's not his fault if there are mistakes in his stories as long as it's because people didn't call him back.



I'm not even sure where to start with that. I had to pull Tusk out just to calm myself down. I embedded a video in this post so it'll be available if I start to hyperventilate.

Journalism is an HONOURABLE profession. It requires work and dedication and constant vigilance. "They didn't call me back" is not any of those things. This is not something you say out loud. It's something you think inside your head after you get fired.

Here's the problem with that excuse: It devalues your entire news organization. People who know anything at all about the issue will know you've made stupid mistakes, and they'll assume that you are just as sloppy with your other stories, too. Now, that's the very last thing you want. Your credibility is more important than any individual news story. (Remember Mary Mapes?) Depending on the situation, there can be ripple effects across your newsroom or even your news organization. Yep, you've just made all of your co-workers look like morons. They'll thank you the next time they need to call the person who has all of the answers.

If you can't get the information you need, you can't go to air. It's as simple as that. Let's not pretend this isn't the standard. We ALL know it's the standard.

Journalists have an obligation to the public, not to a deadline. I have always hated it when half-researched stories are rushed to air or to print. It makes you look stupid. Really, really stupid. And you only make it worse when you blame someone else for your mistakes. If you can't do a story unless someone calls you back, you can't do the story until he or she calls you back.

When you destroy your own credibility with shoddy research, nobody will want to talk to you. Imagine how hard it'll be to get people to call you back when that happens. And then it's going to be hard to get a new job. And you're definitely going to need a new job.

Seriously, be selfish and hold the story until you can verify it. Isn't your credibility worth that much?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Hello, Mr. President

Reader-submitted question: Didja know the Hoff became President of the US in an alternative future?

Okay, I can't beat this. You win.

"I report, you decide"

Reader-submitted question: In your post-journalistic life, do you ever find yourself dealing with people who would have been your colleagues (not necessarily your work friends, but one of those people who you don't necessarily know well, but work with), and thought to yourself, 'my god, THAT is why I left journalism'?

Well, this is an interesting question. You see, I didn't exactly shake the dust off my sandals when I left the MotherCorp. I like almost all of the reporters I know. I bear no grudges against the industry, and I often think about going back. A former "cops 'n' courts" reporter once described me as a gal on the dark side who has her heart firmly stapled to journalism. I am pretty sure that if I hadn't had a baby, I would still be with the CBC.

So even though I can identify problems, I don't usually see them as reasons to leave. Quite the opposite, in fact: I usually see them as reasons I should go back.

Most of my closest friends are former reporters. One of them visited recently, and we eventually got to talking about the frustration we sometimes feel as news consumers rather than producers. I will listen to the radio or read the paper and think that the news could have been reported much better. I often see developing trends that are never reported. I can see how one incident raises a number of questions, none of them answered in the story. There can be enough material for an entire series, but the story ends up as a one-off because the reporter hasn't identified the real issue.

It's frustrating. And it's depressing when journalists pretend that none of this matters. It does matter, and they are responsible for helping us to understand our world.

I do think about going back; I think about it all the time. I've been told that you can never go back, but I'm not sure that's true. I write about journalism because I really do believe that the industry can improve. I don't think I'd be able to bear it if I believed otherwise.

Thanks for your question.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Happy birthday, Sally

"I love the questions you get sometimes."

Reader-submitted question: If you could reach through the computer and slap people who leave you stupid questions, would you exercise that privilege? And would it be a privilege or a right?

One of my favourite things about the Internet is that I really feel like I know people. The other day, I caught myself speaking about "Jackie in Rankin" as if she's a trusted friend, when in fact we've never met or even talked on the phone.

I know that my readers feel the same way about me. I get a lot of e-mail and comments from readers, and they almost all address me as if we know each other. I would be neglecting my duty as a blogger if I did not point out that most of the complaints are from people who are not actually jerks at all, just sarcastic folks who really understand what my blog is all about. They're not complaining so much as playing along. I love my readers, but I lurrrve these guys. I'm flattered that they like the complaints feature and want to be part of it. I'm friends with some of them in real life.

But I also get messages that make me wonder what the heck the person was thinking. Some readers truly seem to believe that I am only what they see on their screens each morning, as if I don't have an entire life that's much, much larger than the few things you'll see here.

It's easy to be a jerk on the Internet, but it's also easy to be an idiot. I've been told many times that I have a dry sense of humour, and I think that some people don't realise that if it seems like I can't be serious, I'm probably not being serious.

I hadn't thought about slapping people: I prefer to mock them. But that would certainly be an interesting option, wouldn't it? I'm pretty sure I wouldn't technically have a right to do this, though.

I do like the way you think. Thanks for your question.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Especially for Townie Bastard

Reader-submitted item: I saw this and thought of you.

What a masterpiece. We all thank you for sharing this with us.

A challenge!

Reader-submitted item: I was thinking of doing a Night before Christmas ripoff but I can't think of a good parody.

What a great idea!

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the Arctic
Blog readers were looking for something cathartic.
They showed up at Snow-Covered Hills, not to share
But just to complain about what they read there.

Folks with bad grammar were filled with great dread
While visions of periods danced in their head. (HA!)
Harper-ites with their placards, and liberals with their crap
Had just settled down: we've had a cold snap.

When out on the tundra arose such a chatter
I felt it must be the crux of the matter.
And so to my editor's pen I did dash
There can be no excuses for printing this trash.

Bad columns, bad headlines, and news that's not news
So many great options, and still I must choose.
But one guy writes garbage so fast and so quick
I knew in a moment it must be his schtick.

More rapid than eagles his columns they came
And I howled and I shouted, and called him by name:
"Russell, stop! We can't bear it! Our anger just clicks in!
We don't care if YOU like it: we're getting our kicks in!"

Then I spoke not a word, and went back to my work
Although I admit that I did have a smirk
And felt that I ought to produce some more prose
For all of my readers who don't know who blows.

And so I wrote poems that made readers bristle
And send me rude e-mails and call for my dismissal.
But I heard SOME exclaim as I started to write:
"Merry Christmas, dear Megan. Don't be TOO polite."

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Once a year

Everyone in my family likes Christmas a lot
But you know, I'm a grinch, and I surely do NOT
It's true! I hate Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
And go ahead - ask why! 'Cause I'll tell you the reason.

It's not about the snow and its blankets of white
It's not even that all the songs are so trite
So I'll tell you the truth, and don't be too appalled
I just hate the pressures I get in the mall.

You see, whatever your budget, I'll give you some news
It won't be enough to buy what my friends choose
And it's not just my friends! It's my family, this year!
And next week is Christmas! It's practically here!

I grab the Sears catalog, start nervously thumbing -
I MUST find a way to stop Christmas from coming!
But I've got an idea - an awful idea!
And I've got a wonderful, awful idea!

I'll call all the family, put it down to a vote
Let's buy our OWN presents, even Nan, the old goat!
I like this idea, now I'm one smart chick
I could do it online with just one mouse click.

I just need to convince them - no matter the frown
Don't buy gifts for me, go the other way round!
Does that interest the family? NO! They've simply said
"If you can't find a gift, give us money instead!"

Shall I name some of the gifts I've received since I wed?
The giant knick-knack, for one, that'll make you stop dead!
If my son gets more presents, or even more slacks
Something else has to go - there's no room on the racks!

I can't buy more gifts for uncles and aunts
Like books they don't read, or yet some more plants
It's time to stop draining our bank accounts down
To zero, just 'cause there are Santas around!

I'd like to see Christmas as old-fashioned cheer
Instead of a gift-buying frenzy this year
I don't need more stockings, or hairpins, or pets
I just want to have Christmas without any debts.

Monday, December 08, 2008

You've got your ball; you've got your chain

Reader-submitted question: I don't understand why you like Stevie Nicks.

Well, I don't like YOUR taste in music, either.

I've always liked gutsy older female singers. I love Cher and Annie Lennox and Madonna. I am not a huge fan of too-cool or too-cute younger singers in tight tops. I don't care if you kissed a girl and liked it; I prefer the Philosopher King's version of that song: I Kissed A Squirrel. (Sorry, Katy Perry, but interspecies relationships are MUCH more interesting than wanna-be lesbians, at least when you don't provide any context.)

I don't write about my secret hopes and fears: I'm not nearly strong enough to put those things out there for you to read. Yes, this would probably be a better blog if I put more of myself into it; still, I can only hint at those things. I'll probably never tell you that I'm wild-eyed in my misery or that no one looked as I walked by. I admire writers who are tough enough to say that.

If you don't like Stevie but still like Fleetwood Mac, you're probably a Lindsey Buckingham fan, and who could blame you?

If you ever visit me at work, there is a better-than-average chance that this song will be playing on my iPod.

When I renamed my blog I immediately attracted a group of readers who are hard-core Fleetwood Mac fans, although this wasn't my original intention. They don't usually show themselves in the comments section -- they keep their visions to themselves -- but I know they're here and I'm glad they've decided to stay.

Thanks for your question.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The season of giving

It's December, which means that I am grouchily pretending that Christmas is not coming up within the next few weeks. I am trying to find the perfect gift for a family member who was (un)lucky enough to be randomly assigned to me back in November.

There are now seven of us in my generation of the immediate family, so we have been picking names for a few years. This cuts my stress: instead of finding something meaningful and significant for six people, I only have to find something meaningful and significant for one person. Well, to be more precise, I should say "two people", seeing as how I am in charge of buying for whoever Steve is assigned. But still, this is a better system than the one we had before.

I am never sure what to buy. I have a few tabs open in my browser right now so I can consider the merits of various options. So far, I have ruled out the "Ten Plagues Bowling Set", but it is so awesome that I have to show it to you:
Just imagine the look on my family member's face if he or she saw THAT under the tree. (I especially like the depiction of Plague #6: Boils.) I might buy it anyway so it can be available for parties.

The other one I have ruled out is the package of watermelon-flavoured Sigmund Freud lollipops:
Hmmm. Now that I think about it, this particular family member might like these, because they would give him or her an excuse to yell Suck on it, Freud! at random intervals. Perhaps I shouldn't be so quick to close the tab on this one.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Post-Mortem (ha!)

OK, I'm a loser. I'm chuckling over my own bad pun, and I hate puns. Let's just move past this and get on to business, shall we?

I think it's time to talk about post-mortems.

I don't know most of my readers, but I'm guessing that at least half of you have never worked as journalists and have never been through a post-mortem. This is one of the ways to improve the quality of a publication or show. There are lots of ways to do them: through a meeting or a written report, daily or weekly or even less often, with all of the staff or just certain people. The only constant is that a post-mortem is a candid discussion of what went wrong.

Yeah, they can be tough.

Post-mortems provide constructive criticism. The point is not to insult other people or their work ("YOU SUCK! And you have NO IDEA how to interview city councillors! I should have that beat!"), but to make the publication better by pointing out problems that can be fixed. Sometimes it's hard to be there. You really don't want to hear someone criticise the story you worked so hard on. It's even worse when you know their criticism is valid: your attempt at humour came off as pretentiousness, or you buried the lede, or the headline someone else put on your story was completely inaccurate.

I occasionally receive e-mails from people who think I hate the news media or just want to take shots at my former industry. Nothing could be further from the truth. Journalism is an honourable profession that is critical to maintaining a free society. That's why we need to make sure that job is done well. I do media critiques out of a sincere appreciation for the role of the media in our society and out of the affection I feel for reporters. I know we can all do better, but we can't criticise out of anger, entitlement or snobbery. We need to criticise because we really want the industry to improve.

Let's do a post-mortem on the last thing I published. I'll get us started.

Dear Megan,

I have no idea why you thought this was interesting enough to publish. And it appears that you didn't, either: I don't care much for posts that begin by warning readers to expect something boring. Why bother? Seriously, why did you put in the effort if you thought it was going to be boring? Why didn't you try to make it interesting?

You don't NEED three reasons in this post, but I think a third reason would have strengthened it a bit. Every extra argument helps when you're starting from a position of weakness.

The paragraphs are unbalanced. I don't usually pick at paragraph length, but this post struck me as odd. It's weird that you say your son is the most important reason for staying, and then you go on three times longer about your job. I'm not saying the first bit should have been longer: I'm saying you should have cut some of the stuff about being a writer. Let's get this over with quickly. I could be reading another blog that actually IS interesting.

Finally, I know that reader-submitted items are your schtick, but I'd like to see more background in them. Obviously, these questions come from somewhere. If you're simply going to publish a one-line question, can you at least link to whatever made the person want to know the answer? I'd like to see more depth to these posts. Context is everything, and that's exactly what's missing in so many of your posts that answer reader-submitted questions: Everything.

Thanks for trying. But please don't try this sort of thing again.

Yours truly in blogdom,
Megan, Reflections in the Snow-Covered Hills

Friday, December 05, 2008

It's the great northwest for me

Reader-submitted question: Why did you stay in the north?

I wish I had a really exciting story to tell you about this, but I don't.

The main reason is that I don't want to uproot my son. I even refuse to move out of this neighbourhood, because his best friend lives across the street. When you're a parent, your child is the most important consideration. His happiness is worth more than mine.

I have a really great job, so I don't need to go anywhere. I'm a writer, and I chose my job very carefully: I wanted a job that would give me the opportunity to write about the issues that affect the north. I also wanted to be part of the solutions in my own small way. The things I write are in books, in brochures and booklets, in ad copy, and in speeches and the things people say to reporters and the people who are sometimes called "stakeholders" (I hate that word). I often meet people who tell me that something I wrote helped them through a particularly difficult time. These people are usually dealing with terrible situations beyond their control. They often can't make plans too far in advance: they need to know what their first step should be. I can only imagine what their lives must be like. I'm honoured to be able to help them in any way I can.

I've been living here almost a decade, and I do sometimes think about moving on. One day, I probably will.

Thanks for your question.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Dear CBC,

Remember when I said that you speak for the governing party? That was just a joke, and not even a very good one. I was taking an easy shot at Fox News. I didn't mean for you to take it seriously.

The political craziness is driving me nuts, and you're not helping. I don't need to hear reports about Tory "messaging" or "communications plans". Please, spare me.

It is becoming incredibly obvious, even to stupid people, that almost all of politics is just theatre. That's how much you're screwing up. The issues are real, and the differences of opinion are real, but the crap you show us on TV exists only for the cameras. And the parties only do it because you lap it up every time. We know that the real work happens in committees and closed-door meetings. When the MPs are singing "O Canada" lustily in the hallways, it's not REAL. Question Period's not real. These are stunts, and you keep falling for them. The last thing we all need is for the media to start reporting on the party's "messaging". You only get a pass on this if you're funny or ironic. You are neither.

There's plenty of real news this week: you don't need to choose to report on the stupid stuff that doesn't matter. We might have a new prime minister soon: isn't that interesting enough? Doesn't it make the "No To The Coup" buttons seem ridiculous in comparison?

Oh, and it appears that the comment sections of your website have been hijacked by people who work for the parties. I thought I should let you know, just as a courtesy.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

"Prepare to pee your pants."

A couple of readers have contacted me to make sure I didn't miss today's Fleetwood Mac news. Who's up for a concert in March? Anyone?


Sunday, March 1st Pittsburgh, PAMellon Arena
Tuesday, March 3rdSt. Paul, MN Xcel Energy Center
Thursday, March 5th Chicago, IL Allstate Arena
Sunday, March 8th Detroit, MI Palace of Auburn Hills
Tuesday, March 10th Washington, DCVerizon Center
Wednesday, March 11th Boston, MATD Banknorth Arena
Friday, March 13thUniondale, NY Nassau Coliseum
Saturday, March 14th Uncasville, CTMohegan Sun Arena
Monday, March 16thRochester, NY Blue Cross Arena
Tuesday, March 17th Albany, NYTimes Union Center
Thursday, March 19th New York, NY Madison Square Garden
Saturday, March 21st East Rutherford, NJ Izod Center
Tuesday, March 24th Ottawa, ONScotiabank Place
Wednesday, March 25th Montreal, QC Bell Centre
Thursday, March 26th Toronto, ON Air Canada Centre

More information is available at Heroes Are Hard To Find. Yes, Rumours is being re-released. Suddenly the financial crisis and political shenanigans look a lot less important, don't they?

I bet that even if you don't like Fleetwood Mac (freaks and weirdos, the lot of you), you'll like this video of Lindsey Buckingham correcting Stevie Nicks's grammar:

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Democracy. Right.

Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: Wouldn't it be great if people used their real names, even though we encourage them to be anonymous and take no responsibility for the things they post on our website?

I really, really hate "reader comments" on newspaper articles. It's hard for me to say that, because comments are the best thing about some blogs. For some reason, comment sections on mainstream media sites are a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

The Paper of Record's technology columnist, Matthew Ingram, mentions this briefly in yesterday's -- well, I guess it's a blog post. (The Paper of Record is totally "with it" and "groovy", so they have blogs now.) He says it would be nice if people used their real names. Then he quotes the idiot commenters, whether they use their real names or not, and whether they have anything to say or not. I guess that doesn't matter. The point is that they said it on the Paper of Record's website. Got it? The Paper of Record is TOTALLY COOL. You can write any stupid thing you want on their site. It's all about democracy, or so Mr. Ingram says.

To be honest, I don't know why anyone would use his real name on the Paper of Record's site. Why bother, when you can say what you're REALLY thinking and never be held accountable? These comment sections are full of bile. They almost never provide any extra information that would help me to function in a free society. You'll recall that that is the purpose of journalism.

The other day, someone who works for a national Canadian news organization told me that her employer allows uncensored comments because people want to have a voice. (Kids today!) While I certainly applaud their efforts, I cannot help but think that it is a failed experiment.

No reporter at the Paper of Record would interview someone who insisted on being identified as Great Southwest or Some Guy. It wouldn't even occur to the reporter to suggest it to his editor.

Reporters put a lot of effort into getting good quotes and checking on sources. That's because they are responsible for the things they publish or broadcast. Anonymous comments are usually stupid, and they're impossible to verify. They don't suddenly become news just because they're posted on the Internet.

In fact, I'm not aware of many news organizations that publish anonymous letters to the editor. CBC doesn't broadcast anonymous TalkBack or put anyone on air who won't give his name. Why would the standards be any different for

I'd like it if news sites made it easier to track who is blogging about the news. CNN is already doing this, and it seems to be working well. Blogs are often anonymous and even more often stupid, but they have a few things going for them:

  1. They're not hosted on the Paper of Record's site: idiots don't get the satisfaction of having their offensive ideas published without editing on a website that should be respectable and respected.

  2. They require some -- not much, but some -- responsibility from the people who write them. Usually, a blog is maintained over time, and the writer takes some pride in it.

  3. They're easy to follow. In fact, people might be more likely to blog about issues in the news if they knew they would get traffic through the Paper of Record or the CBC. Some bloggers might even want to write about the paper every day.

  4. They're easy to ignore if they're stupid: you just don't visit them.

  5. They usually provide links, which news sites often covet.

It seems to me that this would be a better way to "track the conversation" about news stories, without opening the newspaper's publisher to libel and copyright issues. It wouldn't just be one conversation; it would be many. We could track entire threads instead of seeing all comments in the order they were posted to the site.

Perhaps I should suggest this to Mr. Ingram. I wonder if the Technology columnists Google themselves as often as the Arts columnists do.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Stacey's visit

Stacey left this morning, and we already miss her.

I am the last of my crop of CBC girls: the young women who came to the Arctic in 1999 and 2000 to work for the MotherCorp after graduating from King's or Carleton. If Stacey hadn't been working there, I probably wouldn't have applied for the job at CBC North. We've been friends forever: we met in 1995, in our first year of journalism school. After we graduated, she moved to Inuvik, and our friend Jaime moved to Rankin Inlet. I worked my way around the east coast for a while, taking short-term contract after short-term contract. Eventually, I found permanent work at the station in Inuvik. I started on the same day Cindy did: she'd been working for the paper here in town, but wanted to try radio. A few others started within the next couple of months, including Sally.

There's always a new crop of CBC girls.

Everyone else has now left the north. Stacey, Jaime, Cindy and Sally all moved away. Josee moved away, and Vanessa moved away, and the other Megan moved away, and even Mack the Hack moved away (although he's not a CBC girl: he's more of a NOPW queen).

I'm the only one left.

I miss my girlfriends.