Get this—a post that doesn't lead with the words "layoff," "severance," "grim," or "death!" (Simple pleasures, for us folks at the Review; just let us have it.)

No, today it's good news! A new online fashion mag has just been launched! Yes, you read that right—growth.

The Style Notebook is the new sister site to Torontoist and promises to go beyond the streets of Toronto to document the latest in fashion and style. Editor-in-chief is Laura deCarufel, formerly senior editor at ELLE Canada. DeCarufel has worked at FASHION and The Look and will continue at ELLE as a contributing editor.

The site? Still in the baby stages it seems, but already offers great photos and illustrations. Time will tell if the women at have something to worry about. "

Posted on March 31, 2010

I was just in Cuba. You all know this because I blogged about it here before I left.

Well, there were no issues with the custom agents; most of them were young and female and attractive and more interested in finishing their evening shift than sifting through our bags. The reception we received from the Cuban public and baseball players, however, was mixed. People were willing to open up and be candid with us once they learnt that we were journalism students on assignment for our university. They shared tales of their displeasure with the country's socialist system and the frustrations that accompany playing baseball in a country where players earn between $10-15 a month.

Now I'm back in Canada with a notebook filled of material and I'm at odds with what to do with it. I can certainly use it to benefit our Ryerson oriented project but is it ethically wrong to pitch and potentially publish a story on this subject in a newspaper or magazine. Can I use quotes if I don't attribute it? Can I paraphrase? Can I use non-sensitive quotes? If a ball player in Cuba even hints at wanting to play outside his country he could be banned from the sport. Tell me, readers.

What should I do?

Posted on March 31, 2010

Journos often complain that online news websites don't provide the same surprise factor as their print counterparts. Well no longer! The Guardian and The New York Times have both developed Stumbleupon-like apps that randomly brings up an article published within the last 24 hours. Serendipity, indeed; it's almost as fun as clicking on Wikipedia's "Random article" link, though not quite as addicting as looking through the 50 most interesting articles on Wikipedia.

Rupert Murdoch, of course, is heading in the opposite direction. I know some are hoping the random approach will win out, but if Murdoch's paywall is a desperate gambit for money, then newsroulette is a band-aid gimmick to increase page views and keep users engaged. Fitting that the idea came from a joking remark.

Posted on March 29, 2010

In between fighting an expensive divorce battle with his wife, being punched in the face by his constituent and making wildly inappropriate comments about Barack Obama, Silvio Berlusconi has found time to slash the $2.8-million his government gives to Canada's only Italian daily newspaper by half. The Globe and Mail reported today that Corriere Canadese, the 55-year-old paper read by many first-generation Canadians, is now in dire financial straits because Berlusconi's government is scaling back on cultural expenses. Um, thanks?

Although not of Italian heritage, I, for one, will notice the change if the paper folds—my Little Italy neighbourhood is home to many who read some of the paper's 35,000 daily copies and sit around discussing the day's news in Canada and Italy at the College Street strip's bars and coffee shops.

Luckily, it doesn't sound like the paper is going down without a fight. Editor in chief Paola Bernardini says the paper is launching a feisty campaign to attract other top Italian donors. And maybe lessening its ties with the Italian government isn't such a bad thing. As Bernardini tells the Globe, "it's funny for us to cover the [upcoming Italian] election from here because we have a government who decided to cut funds running in the elections." Funny, indeed.

Oh, and here's some good news: to read more about Corriere Canadese, take a look at Elizabeth Pagliacolo's story from the Spring 2002 issue of the RRJ.

Posted on March 24, 2010

Yesterday, Exclaim! magazine published a letter to the editor on its Facebook fan page. It was in response to Keith Carman's concert review of the punk band Vivian Girls' performance during last week's Canadian Music Week festival.

Titled "Angry-ish Ravings from a Feminist Cunt" — the reader's word choice, by the way — it has now sparked a debate on the fan page between staffers and readers. It started as a debate on sexism in the magazine, but is now more focused on the ethics of music journalism.

Carman wrote that "if these band members had penises, people would say they suck."

The reader responded: "This kind of half-assed music 'journalism' is offensive and sloppy. This is also one of the most chauvinistic things I've read in any magazine article in this century."

Posted on March 19, 2010

Senator Mike Duffy threw down some tough words for Canadian journalism schools this week. Duffy gave a speech to Conservative party members Monday in Amherst, saying that journalism programs these days train their students with a leftist bias.

"When I went to the school of hard knocks, we were told to be fair and balanced," said Duffy. "That school doesn't exist anymore. Kids who go to King's, or the other schools across the country, are taught from two main texts." He said the major problem was the mixture of focusing on Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky and books on critical thinking (which, technically, are not two texts but one text and one variety of texts).

"When you put critical thinking together with Noam Chomsky, what you've got is a group of people who are taught from the ages of 18, 19 and 20 that what we stand for, private enterprise, a system that has generated more wealth for more people because people take risks and build businesses, is bad."

I won't belabour the fact that Duffy seems to lament that teaching journalism students how to think critically seems a little weird, nor the implication that doing so would generate young minds acerbic to the open market. What I will question, though, is the ridiculous claim that Duffy came from anything that can be called a "school of hard knocks." Unless he spent an undisclosed part of his childhood living in Red Hook, or UPEI offers an unadvertised course in shiv-handling.

Posted on March 18, 2010

Today, I'm off to Cuba. Not for the sun or sea or rum, but to investigate an issue very close to the hearts and minds of the Cuban people: baseball. However, reporting on such a nationalistic issue in a country where press freedoms, according to Reporters Without Borders, is ""disastrous,"" will be a challenge. Without official foreign press credentials, my colleague and I intend to bring a camera, a video recorder and notebooks into the country because they are all items that can be justified for tourists. Yet we are hesitant to bring our big Marantz recorder into the communist state. How could we explain such an item?

Media in Cuba is tightly controlled; insulting government officials alone can carry a three year jail sentence. Moreover, private ownership of electronic media is prohibited by the constitution. Although I am looking forward to walking the streets in a city where people make eye contact instead of being absorbed into their BlackBerry screens, it will certainly be an odd sensation. I guess the real test will be the openness of the people we encounter on the street. How willing will they be to offer their true opinions of Cuban society?

Stay tuned for updates.

Posted on March 18, 2010

Just about the most clever, and inspirational, video I've seen on the future of publishing:


The mirror here revealing the disconnect between publishers and their readers hits too close to the bone when I think of the relationship between journalists and their audience. It seems that, in striving to reach out to the lowest common denominator among our followers and include the widest possible demographic, we've forgotten how to challenge our readers. The news and information we present to them should be clean and simple, but it should also leave room for growth. Otherwise, what's the point?

Says the reader to the publisher, "You should never think I don't care. I read a lot and I like learning. And it's just not true that my attention span is too small for big ideas." Neither should it be true for us.

Posted on March 17, 2010

Down in Washington, the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism has released its annual report on "The State of the News Media." For those really interested in digesting the 180,000-word report, it's probably best just to visit it here. Otherwise, here's a brief breakdown.

Surprising News The authors found that over 80 percent of links on "new" media blogs and social networking sites were directing users to "old" media sources. Meaning, basically, that most "new" media is just repackaging the old stuff as debate and discussion. Nothing wrong with that, of course—in fact, it's exactly what's great about the web. But traditional reporting is still providing the grist for the web's mill, and the revenue to support it is scarcer than ever.

Unsurprising News Opinions rule. Newsmagazines are getting more opinionated, newspapers are getting more opinionated, and as mentioned above, the web is almost 100 percent opinion. Which leads to the:

Depressing News Print media are in decline. Local TV is in decline. Network TV is in decline. Only digital and cable news enjoyed audience growth last year, and FOX News garnered most of that. For those who like their opinions to be 100 percent fact-free.

Posted on March 16, 2010

Roy MacGregor of The Globe and Mail published an excellent article in today's paper. "It is time to rethink Journalism 101," the article begins. "When newspapers start confusing 'hits' with 'circulation,' there is an undeniable danger to journalism."

Journalism today, saturated with tweets and blogs and hastily construed online stories, is no longer governed by the content that it's perpetuating but by the reaction it yields from its audience. In other words, journalistic success is becoming measured by the amount of eyes it draws rather than the nature and quality of the information itself.

This, to me at least, is troubling. In our celebrity obsessed, material driven society, which is largely ignorant and uninterested in anything that doesn't involve sex or beauty or the Kardashian sisters, it's scary to think that media organizations will allow their consumers to define the news they produce. This hasn't happened yet, but MacGregor's is a warning we should all be paying attention to.

Posted on March 15, 2010

More than two dozen readers cancelled their subscriptions when The Washington Post published a photo of two men kissing on its front page last week alongside a story of the D.C. Superior Court beginning to accept license applications for same-sex marriages. Andrew Alexander, the Post's ombudsman, received a slew of complaints from readers. One ranted about the Post "promoting a faggot lifestyle." A 65-year-old reader, who cancelled a subscription she had held since the 1960s, had the more reasonable suggestion of running the photo inside the paper.

"I realize that the world is changing rapidly—much more rapidly than I would like it to," she wrote. "While I realize that the Post must report on these changes—even the ones with which I do not agree—I feel that the picture on Thursday morning was an affront to the majority of your readership. It is not something that I want coming into my home. I believe that even your editors know that it would have been better placed in the Metro section and that it would have mitigated its impact to do so."

Alexander's reply was admirable. "There was a time, after court-ordered integration, when readers complained about front-page photos of blacks mixing with whites," he wrote. "Today, photo images of same-sex couples capture the same reality of societal change."

Though readers enjoy an increasing amount of editorial influence through crowd-sourced and participatory journalism, I appreciate the Post's backbone. But would an online news community have reacted differently? Probably not.

Posted on March 11, 2010

The Harper government dealt a low blow to Canada's queer publications when it announced revisions to the aid-to-publishers budgets, part of the Canadian Periodical Fund, on Jan. 19th.

Small publications must have a total 5,000-copy annual paid circulation to be eligible for financial assistance, and publications like Fab Magazine don't make the cut.

Queer mags were formerly exempt from minimum subscription requirements, but now only aboriginal, ethno-cultural and official language minority publications have a requirement of 2,500 paid copies.

Xtra reported on Jan. 26th that according to a Canadian Heritage spokesperson these titles are exempt because of their small size and business model obstacles: "On the other hand, GLBT titles serve a large group across Canada, and have demonstrated that they can reach large groups of readers."

Broad readership or not, magazines like Fab are largely distribute for free (they sell less than five percent of their copies), and cuts to funding will make it difficult to stay that way.

Brett Taylor, publishing editor of Canadian queer mag, Outlooks, which barely makes the 5,000-copy limit, finds it ironic that magazines that need the support don't have the revenue. And without that support, many queer magazines may not survive the purge.

Posted on March 10, 2010

It's been just over a week since Team Canada's heroic gold-medal victory against their U.S. counterparts in the men's hockey finals of the Olympics. That night all of Canada seemed to rejoice: horns honked until the wee hours of the morning and Canadian columnists draped their newspapers' front pages with emotional, patriotic outbursts of pride.

But it didn't take long for the internal squabbling to recommence. First it was the vacuous debate to amend a gender-biased line in our national anthem, and now we're back to dissecting Canada's role in the abuse of Afghan detainees. Within a week, the unity that was felt during the Olympics has already started to dissipate.

But wait. This Friday the Paralympics will begin and the parade of honks and cheers emanating from bars and households across the country will resume. Or will it? After 17 days of relentless Olympic media coverage does the country have the appetite for 10 more? According to Caley Denton, VANOC's vice-president of ticketing and consumer marketing, the success of the Olympics has helped generate real interest in this year's Paralympics games. All it will take now is another prorogue of parliament and a relentless Paralympics media blitz at the expense of all other news going on in the world.

Posted on March 08, 2010

A blog post on this site yesterday evening erroneously reported that Ken Whyte laid off five staff at Chatelaine magazine. Though six staff members have been laid off, there is no evidence explicitly pointing to Whyte's role in the situation. The blog post has been removed, and the Ryerson Review of Journalism regrets the error.

According to the Financial Post, those laid off include: Handling editor Rachel Giese, deputy editor Melanie Morassutti, assistant editor Danielle Groen, assistant editor Jacqueline Nunes, photo editor Myles McCutcheon and senior designer Sofia Barros.

Posted on March 05, 2010

At 5:13 p.m. today David Hayes sent out an email to the Toronto Freelance Editor and Writer's list with news that Ken Whyte has laid off five more at Chatelaine. Those laid off include Hayes's handling editor Rachel Giese, and deputy editor Melanie Morassutti, who is on maternity leave.

"The next (last?) stage in the purge of Chatelaine is complete," wrote Hayes.

Posted on March 04, 2010

Yesterday, BBC director general Mark Thompson declared to the globe the station's pursuit to produce "the best journalism in the world." This is in response to an uproar from critics after BBC announced the 600 million-pound ($932.8 million) restructure that would see the elimination of the network's sports programming and popular TV shows like Mad Men, The Office and The Wire.

Thompson went on to outline how BBC plans to heighten the quality of their journalistic coverage to replace the much-adored content: better special analysis, more in-depth examination of parliament, enhanced increased business, arts and culture and world coverage. It's a tricky bait-and-switch; as the network shifts away from their online model, sports and television entertainment, it boosts its journalistic integrity, which is admirable.

But, at a time when the rest of the world's newsrooms are decimated by layoffs from the outgoing recession, it feels like one of the wealthiest international news stations is rubbing salt in our wounds. In response to these sandbox antics, we at the Ryerson Review of Journalism accept Mr. Thompson's challenge, and pledge to be the bestest journalists in the whole wide world.

Posted on March 03, 2010

The New York Times doesn't want us to read anymore. With the 2010 Winter Olympics at a close, the highly regarded paper decided to lose the usual results bar graph and make an audio presentation for its website instead. You can hear how close the silver medalist came to taking home the gold, with each piano key-like sound representing the time the athletes crossed the finish line. It's an interesting approach to delivering the news, but does the Times really want to give people more reason not to pick up newsprint?

Posted on March 02, 2010

CBC Toronto's Metro Morning host Andy Barrie is officially off the airwaves. The revered radio man hosted his last show Thursday but came back this morning to be interviewed by Matt Galloway and serenaded by Moxy Fruvous.

Dedicated Toronto listeners are mourning his departure after a 45-year career, first in private radio, then at CBC. "Andy is like the Platonic model of what Canadian public broadcasting should be," wrote Rick Salutin in his Globe and Mail column. "This is despite the fact that he grew up in the United States, came here as a deserter in the Vietnam years and spent most of his career in private radio. Or maybe it's because of those things."

Salutin believes Andy was so loved because he showed listeners a respect forgotten by other broadcasters and reporters. Now that he's gone, Salutin wonders whether his show will retain that same quality. "I presume the Einsteins who dumbed down the rest of CBC plan to move in and relevant it to death."

Posted on March 01, 2010