Top 10 conversations in journalism today

ReporterSummer's over, are you ready to talk shop and impress your peers? Yeah, that’s what we were afraid of. Our guide to the top 10 (okay, 11) conversations in journalism today is a good place to start (in no particular order).

1. Canwest newspapers reborn as Postmedia

ReporterSummer's over, are you ready to talk shop and impress your peers? Yeah, that’s what we were afraid of. Our guide to the top 10 (okay, 11) conversations in journalism today is a good place to start (in no particular order).

1. Canwest newspapers reborn as Postmedia

After filing for bankruptcy protection, the struggling Canwest Global Communications Corp. sold its newspaper assets – a collection of community papers and major dailies like the National Post, Ottawa Citizen and Vancouver Sun – to a new entity called Postmedia Network, led by CEO Paul Godfrey. By September several Postmedia papers, including the Edmonton Journal, reported newsroom layoffs and buyouts as the company tries to reduce spending in preparation for its IPO.

2. Fox News North/Sun TV

Former Prime Minister communications rep Kory Tenecyke crosses into journalism to become the head of the Parliament bureau for Qubecor Inc. The company has announced plans to create Sun TV, a Fox-style, right-leaning 24-hour news channel  (quickly dubbed “Fox News North” by critics) and has applied for Category 1 licensing from the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission – prime cable real estate that would force cable companies to provide the network, a perk that few news organizations enjoy.

3. BCE acquires 100% of CTV

BCE Inc., the country's largest phone company, acquires 100% CTV, the country's largest broadcaster, in a friendly $3.2-billion takeover deal announced in September. The Globe and Mail is sold back to the Thomson family. The move gives BCE a new place in the market and will remake the media landscape in Canada. 

4. WikiLeaks and the Afghan war logs

Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks ignited ethics debates after obtaining – and publishing – 90,000 pages of classified U.S. Military documents about the war in Afghanistan, known as the “Afghan war logs.” Because WikiLeaks is not a journalistic organization, it gave the exclusive to three news organizations – The New York Times, UK’s Guardian and Germany’s Der Spiegel – that dug through the documents to figure out what was relevant. Critics accused WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of publishing documents that could potentially put people in harm’s way, while others lauded the site for making whistleblowing sexy again.

5. Stursberg leaves CBC

Controversial CBC head Richard Stursberg announced he was leaving the public broadcaster in August. He’s been criticized for ignoring news and investigative journalism stalwarts like Marketplace and the fifth estate while pouring energy and money into entertainment (he spearheaded the runaway success Battle of the Blades). He also introduced the “Hub”, a workflow system designed to streamline news production that some reporters insist does just the opposite. Journalists hope the next CBC head will bring the focus back to reporting.

6. G20 coverage

Journalists covering the riotous G20 Summit in Toronto this summer reported aggressive arrests and assaults from both police and protesters. Some claimed that police erased cameras, used threats, broke gear and forced reporters to hand over their notebooks.

7. Bono and Bob Geldof guest edit the Globe

The Globe and Mail recruited two rock stars to guest edit a special Africa edition of the paper. The celebrity stunt became a story in itself. Critics accused the Globe of selling out its journalistic standards and choosing style over substance in order to sell papers. Others suggested that it’s this type of outside-the-box, attention-grabbing journalism that will bring much-needed attention back to newspapers.

8. Conrad Black leaves prison

In July, Conrad Black, the founder of the National Post and former owner of one of Canada’s largest media companies, was released from prison after being found guilty of fraud and obstruction of justice. The multi-millionaire media baron is now requesting permission to return to Canada, and will write a column for the National Post (now owned by Postmedia Network). Media pundits suggest that Black still has a few tricks up his sleeve, and might make a play for media assets in Canada.

9. Two TV network news shows will be anchored by women

When CTV and Global both announced, within days of each other, that they had found new hosts for their flagship newscasts, a big part of the storyline drew on the fact that they had chosen women: Lisa LaFlamme at CTV and Dawna Friesen at Global. Why? Because both will be Canada’s first female, full-time, solo, weeknight, English-language, broadcast-channel news anchors (Friesen starts the job first so technically gets the title to herself).

10. Anonymous comments – Ottawa Citizen bans them, Nova Scotia judge orders publication to reveal them

In April, a Halifax newspaper was ordered to hand over information that could identity seven anonymous online commenters. The Nova Scotia Supreme court approved a request by Halifax firefighters to unmask the anonymous commenters, who say they made libelous allegations of racism and incompetence on a story run by weekly newspaper The Coast. The story was about black firefighters filing a human rights complaint against the Halifax fire department. This news comes in tandem with an on-going discussion over the rights of anonymous commenters: the Ottawa Citizen decided to out-right ban them. It's also a wake-up call for anyone who thinks they can hide behind anonymous comments.

11. Andrew McIntosh and the National Post ruling: protection of sources

After nine years in court, the National Post has been ordered to hand over its Shawinigate document in a Supreme Court ruling that offers mixed results for the protection of sources: while the court ruled that there is no blanket protection of sources, it was the first time judges recognized that a journalistic privilege against divulging sources can exist, saying that each case must be weighed on its own merits. (The case arose after a source mailed National Post reporter Andrew McIntosh a document that appeared to link then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien with the owner of a golf course in Shawinigan, Chretien’s Quebec riding, and a loan from the federally run Business Development Bank of Canada. Police believe the document was forged and want to find the person who sent it.)