By Dean Tudor
Wow!! What can I say? No sooner did my last column on "convergence"
appear than the news hit the fan about significant Canadian convergers
(yes, I've invented a new word -- I have not yet seen it anywhere
else -- "converger", meaning the merger of communications
companies seeking convergence)... Suddenly I was in demand to comment
on broadcast and in print: what does it all mean? I was asked. So
I cranked up the ol' regrind and put forth the message of the previous
Sources. I repurposed myself! Talk about being in
the right place at the right time! Now if I could only convert my
expertise into a Web site operation at the consultant level, I might
be able to make a few million bucks out of it all...Consider what's
happened since summer of 2000:
* CanWest Global Communications Corp. has bought more than 200
Canadian publications from Hollinger Inc. (136 small newspapers,
85 trade publications, and 14 urban dailies -- including a half-interest
in the National Post) plus a few Web sites. Previous to this,
Hollinger had been in the process of shedding most of its US and
* BCE Inc., which now owns CTV and its related operations, is next
joining Thomson's Globe and Mail to form a new media company
comprising online, television, and newspaper services. The print
editor-in-chief of Hamilton Spectator has been appointed
senior vice-president of CTV Inc.'s news division. Previous to this,
Thomson had been in the process of shedding its US and Canadian
* Quebecor Inc. has bought Groupe Videotron Ltee. by selling 45%
of itself to the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, and renaming
itself Quebecor Media. It will now have interests in cable, broadcasting,
newspaper, magazine, and Internet properties (e.g., Canoe.ca).
* The EU turned down the proposed AOL-Time Warner converger with
EMI, citing too much control of the recording industry. With that
converger gone, the EU gave thumbs up to the more senior (and long
pending) AOL and Time Warner converger in Europe.
What next? CanWest could use some cable companies (Shaw? Rogers?)...
BCE could use more print (one newspaper is not going to cut the
mustard: maybe the Toronto Star?)...To compete against BCE
and CanWest, maybe Rogers and TorStar will be allies... Every merger
and converger brings with it a series of benefits and drawbacks.
And that's what the regulatory bodies are looking for.
In the US, the Federal Communications Commission has questioned
the public's benefit derived from a AOL-Time Warner converger. But
there has been no definitive word yet. To meet Canadian government
policy on competition, several moves will have to occur. Because
the BCE-CTV converger owns both TSN and SportsNet, it will have
to shed one or the other, and SportsNet is up for the high jump
since it is the weaker of the two. Maybe Rogers will pick it up...
Because the Quebecor-Groupe converger now owns broadcaster TVA,
it will sell its weaker Quebec network TQS... All of this stifles
accusations of operating a monopoly.
The Canadian Competition Bureau and the CRTC must be sated. These
convergers are not done deals. The players are tied up by regulations
and the very effective license renewal procedures. Hearings will
be in order for the converger to proceed, and license renewal hearings
also allow for expressions of opinions. As Mme. Bertrand, head of
the CRTC has said: "Are the vitality of competition and the
vitality of the creative journalistic voices in the market threatened?"
I think so, and I also think that no government body can do anything
about it -- even if they call for different corporate structurings.
"It" has a name: repurposing. The media are on a course
to cut back on expenses, and one way is to refashion or repurpose
stories that were originally written in and for one medium (say,
newspapers) to be transferred to another (say, broadcasting) or
to a third (say, Web site). There is nothing that prohibits the
transfer of intellectual property from one company to another, even
if the companies are separately owned. This is all reworked content,
and writers/producers are never paid equally and twice for the same
thing. Along with repurposing (why not call it cross-writing?) there
is also cross-promotion (content in one form of media can be noted
on another form of media) and cross-selling (same ad in each media).
Still, there is *NO* policy on convergers in either of the US or
Canada, unlike the more progressive EU...
BUT -- convergence is not just happening to the shareholders and
officers of the media. It is also happening to reporters and editors.
For some time -- in the fashion of typical "economic"
reductions -- there have been two- way reporters (reporters who
are also photographers), and that has been extended to now include
"videographers" and "videojournalists". Where
once a squad was sent to cover the news for broadcast (producer,
sound, camera, reporter), now there is more likelihood of just one
person showing up at an event or on the scene. This is a 300% staff
One of the latest economic reductions is the creation of the "news
researcher-reporter", blurring the distinction between a researcher
and a reporter. Previously, a reporter could rely on libraries and
news librarians to do some basic spade work. No more. The typing
pool disappeared when CEOs had to learn wordprocessing on their
PCs; the library pool disappeared when the reporters had to do their
own document and Internet searches.
"Researching subjects or using the Internet to find information
is like using the telephone or your feet to walk down to the library.
It's no longer exotic. Everyone has to do it." (Duff Wilson,
investigative reporter, quoted in Super Searchers in the News,
published by Information Today). In the same book, Nora Paul, now
Director of the Institute for New Media Studies at the University
of Minnesota, said: "A good researcher is a good reporter and
a good reporter is a good researcher". Researchers for newspapers,
magazines, and broadcasters may also work for their Web site and
webcasting, doing double duty often for the same pay. Researchers
are also part of the editorial project team, joining with a computer
person, copyeditor, and layout/graphics specialist.
This leads me to Robin Rowland, crackerjack news researcher-reporter,
and author of the newly published The Creative Guide to Research;
how to find what you want online or offline, from Career Press (in
Canada, through Ten Speed Press, $24.95 CDN at better bookstores).
He is currently Web producer for CBC's The National, and
was previously at CBC Newsworld Online, CTV, and a host of other
places. He also teaches Computer-Assisted Reporting and Investigative
Techniques at Ryerson Polytechnic University in Toronto. Disclaimer:
he's a colleague of mine, and that makes him "my good friend"
(as John Fraser would say), even if he quoted me only twice in his
book. This is his fourth book -- an earlier one dealt with "Researching
on the Internet". This one covers more ground, including libraries
and archives along with the Internet.
Robin's book is written for writers who do research both online
and offline (offline appears to be the new word for "libraries"
and "archives"). But it doesn't matter whether you are
online or offline: the research process, as he correctly notes,
remains the same as before:
* focus your needs,
* organize your search (5 Ws and How),
* nail down your facts,
* evaluate/verify your findings,
* be prepared for serendipity.
He says "Good research gives you more choices". But people
cannot handle more choices. He should simply have said "Good
research gives you good choices", for the upshot of good research
is clean, verifiable, quality (and hence) good choices -- not just
"more", just "better". Unfortunately, today
most young people believe that everything is on the Web, and --
worse yet -- it must all be true (or why would it be there?). Some
even think that it is all free, but there are many proprietary sites
that charge and that do not admit Web spider searches.
Robin deals with all of the problems of the Internet:
* lack of evaluation/verification,
* the bulk of data,
* keeping up with changes,
* lack of pre-1995 material,
He presents strategies on how to handle them. As well he goes on
to give good advice on objectivity and spiralling in on data. He
covers publications, Web sites, search engine sites, E-mail, lookups,
pictures, libraries, archives and documents -- plus a whole chunk
on interviewing techniques, especially using email. There are plenty
of examples of everything, plus stories from seasoned researchers.
Other worthwhile topics include: meta-searches, searching mail lists,
searching newsgroups, people searches, and online dictionaries and
encyclopedias. Each topic has plenty of strategy notes and stories
from other researchers who have been there before you.
The book is very well-written, in an engaging style. Books like
these, dealing with research, can be easy to write but really hard
to keep a reader awake from page to page. Robin succeeds well in
jolting, and I encourage every reporter to read and learn from it.
He still needs to work in some more details on chasing down and
using public and legal documents, such as land titles, wills, divorces,
bankruptcies, vital certificates, assessment rolls, balance sheets,
and the like, with more examples of these. Many of these documents
are "one-of-a- kind" and are unlikely to end up on the
Internet due to concerns about personal privacy (another issue to
cover: Victoria once put up its assessment rolls to a Web site,
and then hastily took it down after complaints).
Check out his Web sites for more examples and more stories:
And while you are out there browsing, do look at the thousands
of links on my *ADFREE* universal gateway/portal master index MegaSources
site, which has all the search engines, lookups, breaking news,
library sites, journalism sites, et al, part of a news researcher-reporter
toolkit. As well, pick up a free copy of my research book Finding
Answers; it's a self-extracting file as noted in the URL on my Web
Dean Tudor is Professor Emeritus, School of Journalism, Ryerson
Published in Sources,
Number 47, Winter 2001.
Sources, 489 College
Street, Suite 201, Toronto, ON M6G 1L9.
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