Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Saving journalism with specialization

As newspapers suffer at the hands of free online news, charging for specialized, in-depth content online is the latest model in the race to save the papers. And some experts are saying it just might work.

"Expertise in a field other than journalism will go a long way," said University of Toronto media studies professor Karen McCrindle. She added that specialization in a subject like science or business gives emerging journalists a competitive edge when basic news is accessed for free. According to her, special-interest stories, news analyses and columns will likely become the kind of news consumers will have to pay for.

Last week, the New York Times announced that it will launch a pay wall for regular, high-volume online readers in 2011, allowing free access only to occasional readers. Media expert and Internet specialist Clay Shirky is skeptical about whether current online pay models can work for newspapers. He argues that saving journalism itself, not newspapers, should be the focus.

"I wouldn't call it a crisis, it's more of an opportunity," said McCrindle of the present state of print journalism. "I see it more as a revolution of sorts," she added.

Indeed, the Internet is a revolutionary and disruptive technology, and just as with the printing press and the telegraph, it will take journalists time to adjust. But it's not all bad. "We're delivering more information now than ever, and consumers are much more involved and interactive than ever before," said McCrindle.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Incarceration on the rise in Canada

Though crime rates in Canada have been dropping steadily, incarceration rates have been on the rise since 2004. According to Statistics Canada’s 2008/2009 report, 117 of every 100, 000 Canadians were in custody.

With the cost of living for an inmate reaching anywhere from $160 to $255 per day, long-term sentences cost the country lots of money. Money that Toronto Star journalist Jim Rankin thinks would be better spent in youth programs for at-risk communities. Rankin created a website that documents the history of crime in Canada and the social state of high-crime neighbourhoods.

Prime Minister Harper’s “tough-on-crime” stance favours severe sentences, which lead to higher incarceration rates, and an economy that is increasingly reliant on the prison system. Places like Michigan are already experiencing the downfall of prison economies, yet Canada continues to head in that direction.

The Canadian government is ignoring the fact that locking up petty criminals does not serve as a deterrent for crime. Social studies show that the best way to prevent crime is through educational and social programs for young people in high-crime communities - programs with sustainable funding that is not being diverted to the jail system.

Monday, January 11, 2010

How To Look Good Naked...or not

Looking good naked is getting too easy.
The hit show How To Look Good Naked has finally made its way from the UK to Canada with its debut last week on the W Network. The show features women ranging from overweight to obese, who have lost body and self-confidence. An overly-encouraging and sympathetic male host, in Canada's case, former eTALK reporter Zain Meghji, coaches the women into looking and feeling their best. The show ends with a nude photoshoot that a teary-eyed contestant once thought she could never do.

Now, I'm all for self-esteem, but it's a wonder to me what the confidence to bare it all means when heart disease and type two diabetes loom just around the corner. It seems that where a healthy diet and some exercise could transform these women's lives for the better, How To Look Good Naked offers up a lacy bra and control-top underwear. If that’s all a girl needs to look good in the buff, then making a show about it is pretty pointless. Hopefully contestants can take their new-found confidence and use it to motivate themselves into a healthier lifestyle. One that may or may not include racy undergarments.

Harper pauses Parliament

Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper has decided to prorogue Parliament in order to deal with the Winter Olympics and economic woes. An article in last week's Economist criticizes the prime minister for putting winter sports ahead of a transparent democracy. Harper has suspended Parliament until March 3. As it stands, the prime minister has 36 government bills waiting for him in Parliament, all of which will have to start from scratch when Parliament reconvenes. The Economist accuses Harper of dodging the important issues facing him in Parliament, a move which he pulled last winter as well.