Monthly Archives: February 2011

British investigative journalist speaks at Ryerson, praises newspapers

Brian Deer spoke to a packed house today about his investigation and his love of newspapers (Photo from briandeer.com)

Brian Deer spoke at Ryerson in front of a group of journalism students, writers and doctors today and had nothing but praise for the medium of the newspaper.

Deer is the journalist who investigated a report by Andrew Wakefield that linked autism to a vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). He later found that the report was fraudulent and that Wakefield was paid to produce it by a lawyer who aimed to sue drug companies.

Deer went over the timeline of his investigation from the initial report Wakefield published  in 1998, to Deer’s exposure of the report as false in 2005, to the report’s retraction in February of this year.

When Deer published his findings in The Sunday Times he went on to do a TV program about the MMR vaccine scare. He said he found the experience fun but still remains “a newspaper guy.”

“The magic is in TV, but the romance for me will always be in newspapers,” Deer said.

Deer went over the greatest moments of his life, all of which related to newspapers.

One of these moments occurred when Wakefield attempted to sue Wakefield, The Sunday Times and Channel 4 for aggravated libel.

Wakefield attempted to have the trial stayed but thanks to the support of Deer’s colleagues at the Times and Channel 4, Mr. Justice Eady, the judge presiding over the case, ordered Wakefield to continue with the suit or drop the case.

Wakefield’s other favourite moments included winning a British Press award and having his name in a New York Times editorial.

Deer said his groundbreaking investigation started as a routine newspaper assignment.

Click here for a few clips from Deer’s lecture

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Canada finally gets love at the 2011 Grammys

Arcade Fire took home the biggest Grammy of them all Sunday night (Anton Corbijn)

Arcade Fire, the Montreal orchestral-pop band recognized across the world, has won the 2011 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. The Suburbs beat out competition from Eminem, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Lady Antebellum.

This is the first time a Canadian act has won in the Album of the Year category since 1997, when Celine Dion’s Falling Into You took the top prize.

Though the night wasn’t as great for other Canadians such as Drake and Justin Bieber, the win for Arcade Fire came as a huge upset. Lady Antebellum had won five awards that evening and could have taken the Album of the Year award as well.

Traditionally, the Grammys have more or less snubbed Canadian acts for awards. As well, the Grammys have had a reputation for awarding albums based on record sales. This has caused some musical acts to be very critical of the awards.

Maynard James Keenan of Tool said in an interview: “I think the Grammys are nothing more than some gigantic promotional machine for the music industry. They cater to a low intellect and they feed the masses. They don’t honor the arts or the artist for what he created. It’s the music business celebrating itself. That’s basically what it’s all about.”

Still, Canada finally had a reason to celebrate in an American-dominated award show.

Newspapers may make money online, eventually

The iPhone is one of many devices making newspapers' transition to the internet more difficult (Public domain)

While it’s no secret that the print industry is struggling to make profit on the internet, the print industry is not necessarily dead.

Clay Shirky described in an article on his blog that “nothing works” with regards to newspapers making money from online content. There are several reasons why he may be correct.

First, newspapers haven’t quite figured out the most effective way of selling advertising space.

Ken Beattie of Killbeat Music, a Toronto-based music PR firm, said that newspapers have very high minimums for advertising spots. Instead, he suggested newspapers could reduce the minimums and allow advertisers with smaller budgets to be seen. That way newspapers could advertise more for the same amount of money.

He also said some newspapers didn’t realize they needed to make changes to their business models fast enough. “I think [some newspapers] were really late out of the gate,” Beattie said.

Newspapers also need to reimagine what their audience looks like.

“Readership is fragmented now,” said Cheryl Kim, a manager at Edelman’s Toronto branch. Kim stresses that newspapers aimed at the general population need to find a way to cater to more specific needs.

Finally, newspapers need to realize that a print business model won’t easily translate to an online business model.

“[The newspapers’] online presence is not a mirror image of their print presence,” said Donalee Moulton, a freelance journalist and principal at Quantum Communications.

Moulton also suggests that people in the industry may also make the difference.

“Print people aren’t necessarily the tech people, ” Moulton said. “The next wave of editors will be those who grew up with technology.”

There is already some hope. Moulton points to allnovascotia.com which started in print but moved completely online successfully.

“Don’t think print is dead,” Moulton said.