CBC union to members: Take your breaks

Take a break: it’s time well spent

We know how hard it is for  many of you to find the time in your work day to take a break. That’s why Guild volunteers are organizing events at CBC locations across the country during the week of May 6 to encourage us all to take – and enjoy – our work breaks.

Our collective agreement provides for a 30- to 60-minute unpaid meal break and two paid 15-minute “coffee” breaks during a regular work day (see Article 59 of the agreement). Take time every day away from your desk or equipment – yes, even your smartphone! – to eat, chat with friends or colleagues, take a walk, make yourself some tea. It’s good for your health, your stress level, your creativity and even your work productivity.

Friday May 10 is “Make a date for lunch” day. We urge all members to make arrangements with a colleague or two to share a meal together. If you happen to be working a late shift, make a date for dinner!

We have also set up a Facebook Group to house a photo contest, which will run from today until May 20. The photographers of the top three photos in each category (according to FB likes) will receive a gift card for a local restaurant. The categories are: Most tantalizing meal; Best group shot; Best meal break locale.

Enjoy all of the activities!

 

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Postmedia management shuffle

In March of this year, we announced a new structure for three of our functional operating areas: Marketing, Manufacturing and Reader Sales & Service. We are taking the next steps and announcing a new structure for the rest of our functional areas.

This represents the most significant changes we have made toward redesigning our company. We have come to these decisions based on our audiences’ behaviours and meaningful discussions with our advertisers. Our employee survey results reflect your concerns that the incomplete transition of our company, and associated uncertainty, has had an effect on the engagement of our teams.

This company evolved from many different companies for different readers and advertisers using different tools and different technologies to produce different products. We stayed somewhat resistant to change for a long time because things were so good for so long. This industry felt unshakable – until it wasn’t.

Some may wonder what has taken us so long. But this much change takes careful consideration, planning and timing. In spite of that it may feel we’ve gone too far and too fast. The leadership of our company believes these changes are the right changes to strengthen the operations of our business and allow for the acceleration of our strategy.

The functional reporting changes we are announcing today include the following:

All content development and editorial functions across the organization will now report directly into Lou Clancy, Senior Vice President, Content. This will allow us to accelerate our efforts to centralize our non-local content production and allows the editors in our newspapers to focus resources on the exceptional hyper-local content that our audiences expect from their favourite newspaper brands.

We are creating one integrated sales organization and centralizing the reporting of all of our sales operations – PIA, Local Sales, Digital and 3i and creating a senior group of sales leaders led by Brandon Grosvenor, Senior Vice President, Advertising Sales. This integrated sales leadership team is comprised of Yuri Machado, Kim Campbell and Stephane Le Gal.

All digital functions will report into Wendy Desmarteaux, Senior Vice President, Transformation & Digital. This will allow us to accelerate product development, foster greater collaboration and allocate resources to projects from all our digital experts, across the organization.

All Human Resources functions will report into Michelle Hall, Executive Vice President, Human Resources. This will allow for greater consistency in employee programming, performance management and hiring practices.

All finance functions will report into Doug Lamb, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. This will allow for more standardized reporting, budgeting and make all of our financial processes, from accounts payable to internal forecasting, easier and more aligned.

We have appointed Gerry Nott to the role of Senior Vice President, Eastern Region with responsibility for transformation initiatives at The Gazette, the Ottawa Citizen, The Windsor Star and National Post.

Alan Allnutt has been appointed Senior Vice President, Prairie Region with responsibility for transformation initiatives at The StarPhoenix, the Leader-Post, the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald.

Earlier this year we appointed Gordon Fisher, President, Pacific Newspaper Group and Gord continues in this role focused on the unique challenges faced in our Vancouver operations.

These changes transform the way we run our newspaper operations. What we have created is a functional reporting structure where specialized areas each report into one senior leader rather than duplicating so many efforts at each of our ten newspapers.

What this also means is that some roles have been eliminated. We will no longer have publishers at our newspapers. Our three regional leaders: Gord Fisher, Gerry Nott and Alan Allnutt will focus on facilitating the transition from local silos to the new functional reporting structure and build local collaboration infrastructure within each of our three regions.

Part of what makes this type of change so hard is saying goodbye to colleagues and friends. Marty Klyne, publisher of the Leader-Post and The StarPhoenix, Guy Huntingford, publisher of the Calgary Herald and John Connolly, publisher of the Edmonton Journal will be leaving the organization. Bill Neill, who was instrumental in our national sales efforts, will be leaving the organization as well. Each have made great contributions and we wish them the very best in their future endeavours.

Marty Beneteau continues as Editor-in-Chief at The Windsor Star.

We know that this represents a lot of information and change. In the coming days and weeks you can expect to see our functional leaders at your operations as we work to make this as smooth and effective of a transformation as possible.

I believe, and our senior leaders believe, that this company is uniquely positioned to benefit from our size and regional diversity. With a redesigned structure, that puts focus on where we need to go as an organization and a roadmap for how we can get there, we will be even stronger and better poised for success.

Paul

 

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Star outsourcing memo

Office of the Publisher
Date: April 30, 2013

To: All Staff

From: John Cruickshank

Last month, the Star announced a proposal to outsource most page production and print design work currently performed in the Star’s newsroom. The Guild collective agreement outlines the union’s opportunity to present an alternative to company plans to outsource work, and the Guild has spent the last month developing such an alternative, which they presented to Star management last Friday. To support this effort, the Company provided paid time off, equipment, information additional to what was in the company’s business case, and confidential meeting space, to three newsroom staff, to assist them in preparing such an alternative.

This team of Star staffers, chosen by the Guild is to be congratulated for their hard work and diligence… They have grasped the challenges facing our company and our industry, and they identified a number of opportunities to make the Star’s newsroom more efficient and effective in serving the Star’s discerning readers. They are to be applauded for their work. Over the last few days, newsroom management and the union’s team have engaged in detailed and robust dialogue about the alternative put forward by the union. Both parties are to be commended for their efforts.

With all that said, the company is faced with a difficult decision. The state of our industry necessitates continued cost reductions, and we believe that it is better to find these efficiencies in the print production process rather than in our core work of news gathering and reporting. I must report that, despite the best efforts of the Guild’s team, we have made the decision to proceed with outsourcing of most page production and print design work for the Star to Pagemasters North America.

From both a short-term and long-term perspective, outsourcing of this work provides the best solution for the Star. We have reached this conclusion following considerable deliberation and only after carefully exploring other possibilities, including in particular the alternative that the Guild has put forward. Outsourcing provides the most cost effective and flexible financial basis for the production and design work associated with the Star’s print publication, now and in the future. It frees the Star’s newsroom from this work, thereby enabling newsroom resources to be focused on leading-edge news gathering and reporting across multiple platforms, and digital publishing. It is consistent with the approach taken by leading newspapers around the world. The union’s proposed plan does not match the savings that we will achieve from outsourcing of print page production work, nor does it provide the cost flexibility that will be necessary to respond to future market realities.

We recognize that this decision will result in the departure of some of our valued newsroom colleagues from the Star. We will continue to support these individuals in the transition that lies ahead. This is a difficult, but necessary, step that enables the Star’s newsroom to focus its resources on continuing to produce great journalism that makes a real difference in the lives of Canadians.

On behalf of our senior management team, I want to express our appreciation to the newsroom staff who prepared the alternative presented by the Guild last week. Their presentation demonstrated great insights about the challenges and opportunities facing our company and our industry, and their work is greatly appreciated. The ideas and insights provided by this team will undoubtedly prove beneficial as we move forward.

Michael Cooke will be providing further details on this decision, and next steps, to newsroom staff.

John Cruickshank
Publisher

 

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Star union comes back with offer

Newsroom plan presented I Guild team gives publisher, company way to save money and avoid contracting out of page desk Plan would avoid most layoffs and save company 50% more than contracting out Guild leaders and editorial team of deskers today presented our plan to dramatically evolve newsroom production, retooling the newsroom as a true multi-platform production machine. The efficiencies gained are dramatic — $1.46 million in annual savings.

This is a minimum $362,000 improvement over the company’s estimated annual cost savings from its plan to contract out page production to PageMasters.

Publisher John Cruickshank, Editor Michael Cooke and Managing Editor Jane Davenport were among the company executives who received the multimedia presentation Friday morning.
Much discussion followed, which will continue into next week.
There is no deadline for a final company decision on whether to continue with layoffs or negotiate a new plan based in part on today’s guild proposals.

Among the highlights:

Creation of one Multimedia Production Desk based on breaking departmental silos and creating a true cross-trained pool of paginators and editors for both pages and the web.

We identified dramatic efficiencies that would allow the company to save a minimum of $1.46 million annually. The company estimates maximum savings of $1.2 million through its contracting out plan. Night differential would be eliminated for all staffers.

Conversion of four full-time page editors (or designers) to permanent part-time positions. Downsizing of 11 positions through VSP and layoff instead of the planned 26 production layoffs. Expanded use of weekly “flex hours” to all page editors

By far the biggest change would be the evolutionary move from separate page, copy and web editing silos to one efficient production desk.
Follow your union on Twitter: twitter.com/torontostarunit


 

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Star’s public editor on controversial sex assault column

Earlier this week, Star columnist Rosie DiManno wrote a piece about an alleged sexual assault of a man by four women, and some people got upset. Several wrote to the Star’s public editor Kathy English, or at least enough of them to compel her to draw up a letter she sent to each of them to address their concerns in more than 140 characters (the paper plans to run some letters on the weekend, too, I’m told).

Here it is.

I am writing in response to your concern about Rosie DiManno’s April 9 column on the alleged sexual assault on a young man by four women.

DiManno is an opinion columnist for the Toronto Star. Her column falls within her role as a popular columnist who expresses strong, often controversial, opinions that sometimes offend. Columnists at the Star are given wide latitude to express their opinions. But columnists always speak for themselves, not for the Toronto Star. Only editorials, which are published on the editorial page, express the views of the Star as an organization.

The Star believes in the widest possible expression of free speech, in line with Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Star’s policy manual states that: “Columnists and Op-Ed writers have wide latitude to express their own views in the Star, including views directly contrary to the Star’s editorial views, as long as they fall within the boundaries of good taste and the laws of libel.”

As public editor of the Star, it is outside the scope of my role to weigh in on whether the views of any opinion columnist are “fair” “appropriate” or “in good taste” While I as an individual, and the Star as institution, do not agree with every opinion expressed by columnists in the Star and sometimes vehemently disagree with some columnist’s views on some subjects, I will always defend any opinion columnist’s freedom to express views some readers might find offensive or even repugnant.

Taste is always a subjective matter and a judgment call for newsroom editors seeking to balance questions of sensitivity of subject matter with the imperative for free expression for opinion writers and the desire not to demand conformity from columnists. Certainly the best columnists often do enrage and offend. In doing so they can provoke public discussion of important issues – as this column certainly has. On that regard, I expect the Star will publish a selection of the opinions of readers who disagree with DiManno’s opinion and the manner in which she expressed her views.

I have now had opportunity to discuss your concerns with senior newsroom editors. They tell me they gave careful consideration to this column prior to its publication and believe that the column is fairly done and falls within the bounds of fair comment and the Star’s policies for columnists.

While I personally appreciate and understand your points about sexual assault and gender, I agree the column is in line with the Star’s policies and is indeed fair comment.

Best Regards,

Kathy English

 

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Memo: Star union tries to save radio room

When the Star announced layoffs a few weeks ago, one of the causalities appeared to be the radio room. Here’s an update.

Journalists across Canada were stunned earlier this month to learn that the Star planned to kill its famed radio room program. The other layoff news — in advertising, the library, the editorial assistants, the page desk, the designers — was terrible enough. But for many in the industry, management’s plan to kill the newsroom’s radio room in particular made no economic or journalistic sense.

Your union has a special fondness for the radio room, because it was entirely the Guild’s idea to staff it with cheaper students, back in the late ‘90s. Your union said let’s give journalism students in town the chance to work as part-time temps in our radio room — the 24-hour, 7-day task of listening in to police, ambulance and fire department dispatchers, plus monitoring radio and TV newcasts. Experienced full-time journalists, meanwhile, would be freed to get out there and chase the bigger news — including the epic car crashes, murders and other big-city events flagged by the students in the radio room. It was win-win — efficiency for the paper, a first toe in the industry for the students.

We nicknamed it “Kids in the Box,” after the comedy troupe, Kids in the Hall. We created in bargaining a special editorial trainee wage category and pay rate. This was also used to launch our other big Guild student idea, the much larger editorial intern program, which allows the paper to hire a dozen rookie journalists for one year. Both radio room and intern programs were industry firsts and remain industry leaders. They are a critical element of our newsroom today. They also credit a creative, non-traditional union that thinks way outside the normal, if we say so ourselves.

This month’s company plan is to save money by killing the student radio room. It would contract out the work to its partly owned subsidiary at Canadian Press, PageMasters, to monitor all those news radios, etc. For the first time in Star history, nobody would be in the newsroom overnight. We’d be relying on some outside agency to perform the critical service of identifying and even covering breaking local news — our proverbial bread ‘n’ butter, the core of our Toronto Star brand. All to save some portion of the radio room’s annual $250,000 cost.

We have a better idea, and have today formally proposed it to the company. We propose to create, in bargaining, a new student radio room rate, much cheaper than the existing trainee rate used to pay both radio roomers and interns. It would see the radio roomers, who are all full-time journalism students, continue to earn roughly $20 an hour to work temp shifts. The company will get significant savings but the newsroom’s critical needs will be protected.

We are encouraged at the company’s early positive response to this proposal. We’re confident the radio room will be saved. We think this is a very good thing for the paper, our newsroom, and the ability of the Star to maintain its critical brand in Toronto. And we hope the company’s most senior officials will see similar bottom-line benefits in our other emerging ideas to save other critical jobs at our paper, including continued ownership of its own page production.

— Stuart Laidlaw, Star unit chair, and your Guild stewards and bargaining committee

 

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Why I use Evernote: A reporter’s confession

Reporters are pretty terrible at keeping records – I know it’s not just me. Go ahead and ask one to hand over the report they wrote a story about last June. I’ll wait here for a while as they frantically check sent folders and try to remember where on their hard drive they may have placed the thing.

So I’ve started using Evernote, which is a computer program (and corresponding app) that lets you save things on remote servers and access from whichever device you are using. I know that sounds like the most boring thing about journalism ever, but it’s actually made a huge difference in my job and I’ve only been using it for a week.

So here are six reasons why I’m using the program, in what might be the world’s most boring journalism-related blog post of all time.

Many computers

So on any given day I may work on my basement desktop, laptop, work desktop, iPhone and/or iPad. Any files I create end up on those hard drives and it can be a pain to find them. I try to keep on top of it by creating story folders in Dropbox and saving things to them, but it’s laborious and easy to forget. Evernote looks the same on every computer I use and the apps are synched, so it’s a mindless way to put files in one place.

E-mail

I find e-mail the biggest pain in the ass of all. Especially attachments. Do you keep them? Save them in a folder on a hard drive? I never figured it out. Evernote gives each account a unique e-mail so you can just fling things into folders from your client (it even adds a button in Outlook to save you the trouble of actually forwarding).

Text files

Here’s where it’s different than DropBox – it has a good text editor. So now, I’m taking notes as I do interviews right inside of Evernote. I create a folder for a story and then type away. I’m not creating Word files and then saving them in the cloud, I’m actually working on them in the cloud. I know this is boring, and maybe obvious, but starting in Evernote means I’ll remember to save there too.

Multimedia

While Dropbox lets me dump everything somewhere, Evernote actually shows me what I have in a folder. So if I save a story-related PDF into a folder, it shows up as a PDF. Pictures are pictures. And you can play audio files from within the program.. This saves the open-close-open-close searching that I sometimes have to do to find information in a bunch of documents that all have similar names.

Browsing

Bookmarking stuff on the Internet is fine and all and I know you can make them fairly portable, but by clicking one button in Chrome I can save stuff directly into Evernote folders. This is a surprisingly handy way to get screen shots, save recipes and other content heavy stuff you might want when you’re out shopping or whatever, and having records of important things you’ve found online that may never ever be useful again (but just might be worth saving anyway).

Searchability

But that’s nothing – the most important feature (and this is part of the $50 premium package) is that you can search documents. So all I need to do is type in a keyword and every document that contains that word is listed. Anyone with a pile of Word docs and a stack of PDFs should drool at the prospect of a fully-indexed archive of materials.
 

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Indigo: Gift cards vs. cash

Because I’m a loser, I read Indigo’s Q3 earnings and got all excited about their outstanding gift card balance that was somewhere around $63-million. Turns out if you add up all the different categories accountants use, it’s actually closer to $77-million on the balance sheet. 

And because I’m an even bigger loser, I imported some of the balance sheet into a spreadsheet to see what the trend was for gift card hoarding, versus how much cash the company is sitting on and the value of its inventory. 

But the important take away is this – there are an awful lot of Canadians who are sitting on gift cards. They should get reading – and if reading isn’t their thing, Indigo’s stores also sell pillows now. So they should get sleeping.  

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Internal memo: Star’s anti-plagiarism plan

As you know, the Star recently acknowledged to readers that parts of an article by one of our reporters contained unattributed material reported in the Globe and Mail. Later in the same week, we learned that Chris Spence had plagiarized portions of an op-ed piece in the Star. This note is to bring you up to date on what followed.

A review of the reporter’s work over the last year is now complete. Although it found some lapses, it shows an overall pattern of attention to attribution. The review has brought to light some institutional problems which we need to address, including inconsistent publishing of endnotes attached to stories by the reporter and potential gaps in our policy on attributing wire material.

During the review, we bought a program that helps identify material in stories that has appeared elsewhere. Information about the software is available at www.ithenticate.com.

The plan is to use it in two ways: the first, along with other tools, is to help conduct thorough checks when one of our reporters or contributors faces accusations of plagiarism. This software should never and will never be used as the sole determining factor in assessing anyone’s attribution practices. Any findings it produces will be thoroughly reviewed by editors in a process involving the person whose work is flagged.

The second is to identify through a random review of newsroom work further gaps in our policies on attribution and sourcing that are evident in common practice. This review will take place by May.

We need to determine how our standards have kept pace with the following challenges, which many of you have raised: appropriate use of wire credits in endnotes, bylines and in copy and which should be used when; attribution of established fact; fast rewriting in an accelerated news cycle in which no one is immune to error.

I know that every reporter in our newsroom is committed to honest attribution in their daily work. The aim of the review is to get a handle as a group on how we are dealing with these challenges and make sure our policies give reporters sufficient guidance to guard against substandard practice.

Below is our policy on attribution and plagiarism, which was recently updated. Going forward, a small working group will evaluate this policy again based on the outcome of the review.

In the meantime, we will be holding voluntary training sessions in late January and early February for reporters with questions or concerns about our current standards. I’m always available if you have suggestions or queries, and welcome a discussion.

Many thanks,

Jane

ATTRIBUTION AND PLAGIARISM

The Star does not present other media’s reporting as its own or publish unattributed material from other sources. Ideas, phrases or substantial passages that are not the writer’s, have not been reported on by the writer or are not common knowledge should be attributed in some way. Plagiarism — the unattributed use of material from another published source — is grounds for discipline or dismissal.

The Star attributes and credits material to its source, including reporting obtained exclusively by other media organizations — print, broadcast or online.

If a Star journalist has witnessed or verified an event, this is stated in the Star’s report.

Circumstances of interviews — telephone, email, webcast or news conference — should be made clear when relevant. Email interviews are permitted but journalists should strive to authenticate the source.

As with our own unnamed sources, as much information as possible on sources cited by other news organizations should be provided.

The continuous news cycle — breaking news alerts, live blogs, Twitter — puts a premium on speed but accuracy — both of information and in attribution — should not be a casualty. If in doubt, leave it out remains a golden rule. Any questions or concerns should be discussed with a senior editor.

For journalists, the Internet is a treasure trove and a minefield of information. Proceed with caution. The Star does not grab and publish material from the Internet. Any information from web sources such as Facebook, chat rooms, MySpace, Twitter feeds, personal websites or blogs must be verified to establish the bona fides of the sources.

Identities must be scrupulously checked as the possibilities for mistaken identity are vast. Journalists, identifying themselves as such, should make every effort to get in touch with the originator of the material, preferably through personal or telephone contact.

User-generated digital sources, including the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, are not stand-alone, authoritative sources of information and should never be used as sole sources. Facts gleaned from such sites must be verified elsewhere.

Material that has not been verified should rarely be published. In rare cases, such material may appear with the permission of a senior editor. In these cases, it should be made clear that the Star was unable to verify the information. The originating source of the information must be identified.

Jane Davenport
Managing Editor, Toronto Star
One Yonge St. Toronto, ON. M5E 1E6

 

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