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#21 AnonAnnie2

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 07:41 AM

It would be interesting to know if the Westcoaster has done any serious investigative work; at the very least, of the 20 stories on its front page today, 12 have been lifted directly from Black Press papers or the Canadian Press wire. (I wonder: reprinted with their permission, or not?) Neither is a shining example of online news that is both courageous AND financially successful.

Far as Black Press itself is concerned, I strongly suspect it's putting material online for free mainly because everyone else is. It too may eventually decide that the pitiful revenue from online ads hardly justifies the expense of hosting and webmastering: looking at vicnews.com right now, there is only one ad on the entire page that isn't for a Black Press-related website.

Believe me, I have plenty of gripes with the current ownership and management of many newspapers. I want online news to succeed. But I fear that we will have to endure a dark age of largely unreliable drivel online before real news organizations establish themselves.


1. Investigative reporting - Westcoaster.ca reports on West Coast issues and issues that affect the West Coast.

When Tofino ran out of water, Westcoaster.ca broke the story and dug in deep on that one. Search it yourself and see.
When Port Alberni was struck by a storm event that saw news outlets not able to reach the town and get the news out...guess who was in the eye-of the storm feeding the rest of the world? Westcoaster.ca. Not the local CanWest paper...they had no power! (Neither did Westcoaster however technology is a great thing!).
There are many more examples.
Westcoaster.ca is a bookmark on many reporters computers all over the world.

Assumptions....watch what you say!
2. Articles from Black Press and CP wire -
Westcoaster.ca has a sharing agreement with Black Press you will often find Westcoaster.ca articles in Black Press product. Note: Black Press News, the print product is free to read, their online is simply an extension of that. Now, I have my thoughts about simply taking for print articles and putting them on the net..but I will keep those thoughts to myself.

AS for CP wire - same thing - Westcoaster.ca feeds the wire and the wire feeds Westcoaster.ca - an agreement is in place. Then there is the syndication...yes Westcoaster.ca syndicates too.

Like it or not, it works for the readers, the publisher, the contributors, the advertisers.

I'm a little defensive of Westcoaster.ca, you brought the Momma-Bear out in me...
I am one of the original founders.

You note ......Courageous AND financially successful, it is both.

Totally independant, no grants, no government money, no labor unions, no subsidies - flying solo and on the dollar of the advertiser only.

Show me another news outlet doing that today and I'll tell you they are courageous!

This little Westcoaster.ca is not the downfall of the newspaper print giants, not even close, however this little westcoaster.ca is providing a service that is in demand and widely read. Watch for news via videographer/reporter....coming soon!
:)

#22 Jacques Cadé

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 01:45 PM

Susan, I'm sorry for casting aspersions on the Westcoaster. I'm glad to hear that it's breaking news, and successful. I'm impressed by the variety of ads it has on its site, and wonder why larger entities haven't been able to do the same. Could it be because the offices are in Tofino, and are able to develop closer relationships with local advertisers than the reps down the road in Port Alberni? Perhaps you and the other founders could hold a seminar sometime on how the model could work for those of us thinking of starting similar projects in our own communities.

Mat and Ms. B, I take your points about the free-news genie being out of the bottle, but I'm not sure that's the right analogy for this situation. Uncorking a genie is a one-time event that cannot be repeated; in this case, the newspapers are doling out free news repeatedly, day after day. My argument is that they could simply stop.

Let's apply another analogy used by the Globe, namely addiction. Newspapers have the bulk of the raw material – they're effectively the owners of the largest coca-leaf plantations in the world. The one-time, can't-go-back event would be the knowledge of how to format news stories in HTML and post them online – or, in my analogy, how to process coca leaf into cocaine. What really matters in business is what happens on a daily basis to the actual product (information or cocaine), and who pays for it.

For several years now, the plantation owners have been turning their leaf into coke and giving it away for free, because that's what addicts want, and the plantations are terrified of losing market share. They live in fear that if they don't give it away, someone else will start growing coca, making cocaine, and take over the business.

So to maintain their hold on the market, they go steadily bankrupt. Worse yet, street gangs (Google News, blogs) come along, take the plantations' free cocaine, and process it into crack – which the gangs sell for a tidy profit.

The plantations look doomed. They curse the ingratitude of the addicts and hold numerous meetings about new business models, hoping for micropayments on coke that will somehow trickle back to them, or the creation of a non-profit Cocaine Institute that will fund the plantations.

But then a few plantation owners realize something: growing really good coca leaf and processing it into top-notch cocaine is actually very difficult. It requires substantial capitalization, labour, equipment, experience, and teams of defence lawyers. Startup amateurs have tried to grow some coca on their own, but their end product is often weak and unreliable. And in many markets (i.e. one-newspaper towns), a single plantation is already the biggest supplier around.

So the plantations suddenly decide to value their product, and stop giving their cocaine away. They erect a pay wall. What happens? Some addicts quit. Others refuse to pay, and patronize the amateurs instead – who peddle their own mediocre coke for a while, and then either go bankrupt themselves by giving it away for free, or start charging for it to improve the quality, replicating the same process the big plantations went through a few years earlier.

And other addicts say, well, it was great when the big guys gave it away, but those days are over. Their product is still the best, and it's not too expensive, so I guess I'll pay for it.

What I'm saying is that I don't think the pay-wall model is dead. The New Yorker has started using it. The New York Times and The Globe and Mail screwed it up by putting only comment sections behind it, when there's no shortage of comment on the internet. Instead, if they locked off the stuff that's unique to their papers (in-depth features, arts coverage, book reviews) – or in the Times Colonist's case, local news – they might find that people will pay something to access it, if they don't already have a subscription.

Sure, if the TC went subscriber-only, there would still be free local news on Black Press sites and the CFAX newswire. Some people would be satisfied with that. But I know I wouldn't.

#23 AnonAnnie2

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 02:27 PM

Susan, I'm sorry for casting aspersions on the Westcoaster. I'm glad to hear that it's breaking news, and successful. I'm impressed by the variety of ads it has on its site, and wonder why larger entities haven't been able to do the same. Could it be because the offices are in Tofino, and are able to develop closer relationships with local advertisers than the reps down the road in Port Alberni? Perhaps you and the other founders could hold a seminar sometime on how the model could work for those of us thinking of starting similar projects in our own communities.

Mat and Ms. B, I take your points about the free-news genie being out of the bottle, but I'm not sure that's the right analogy for this situation. Uncorking a genie is a one-time event that cannot be repeated; in this case, the newspapers are doling out free news repeatedly, day after day. My argument is that they could simply stop.

Let's apply another analogy used by the Globe, namely addiction. Newspapers have the bulk of the raw material – they're effectively the owners of the largest coca-leaf plantations in the world. The one-time, can't-go-back event would be the knowledge of how to format news stories in HTML and post them online – or, in my analogy, how to process coca leaf into cocaine. What really matters in business is what happens on a daily basis to the actual product (information or cocaine), and who pays for it.

For several years now, the plantation owners have been turning their leaf into coke and giving it away for free, because that's what addicts want, and the plantations are terrified of losing market share. They live in fear that if they don't give it away, someone else will start growing coca, making cocaine, and take over the business.

So to maintain their hold on the market, they go steadily bankrupt. Worse yet, street gangs (Google News, blogs) come along, take the plantations' free cocaine, and process it into crack – which the gangs sell for a tidy profit.

The plantations look doomed. They curse the ingratitude of the addicts and hold numerous meetings about new business models, hoping for micropayments on coke that will somehow trickle back to them, or the creation of a non-profit Cocaine Institute that will fund the plantations.

But then a few plantation owners realize something: growing really good coca leaf and processing it into top-notch cocaine is actually very difficult. It requires substantial capitalization, labour, equipment, experience, and teams of defence lawyers. Startup amateurs have tried to grow some coca on their own, but their end product is often weak and unreliable. And in many markets (i.e. one-newspaper towns), the plantation is already the biggest supplier around.

So those plantations suddenly decide to value their product, and stop giving their cocaine away. They erect a pay wall. What happens? Some addicts quit. Others refuse to pay, and patronize the amateurs instead – who peddle their own mediocre coke for a while, and then either go bankrupt themselves by giving it away for free, or start charging for it to improve the quality, replicating the same process the big plantations went through a few years earlier.

And other addicts say, well, it was great when the big guys gave it away, but those days are over. Their product is still the best, and it's not too expensive, so I guess I'll pay for it.

What I'm saying is that I don't think the pay-wall model is dead. The New Yorker has started using it. The New York Times and The Globe and Mail screwed it up by putting only comment sections behind it, when there's no shortage of comment on the internet. Instead, if they locked off the stuff that's unique to their papers (in-depth features, arts coverage, book reviews) – or in the Times Colonist's case, local news – they might find that people will pay something to access it, if they don't already have a subscription.

Sure, there would still be free local news on Black Press sites and the CFAX newswire. Some people would be satisfied with that. But I know I wouldn't.


No worries Jacques!
Those folks wishing to vacation in the area visit/read westcoaster.ca, the stats back up that statement. Therefor anyone hoping to reach the 'tourist' benefits from advertsing in this publication. Selling the ads is as much 'educating' the advertiser about this medium as it is providing proof the ads work.

However, those ads would not 'work' were it not for the breaking news, the excellent writing and editorial integrity.

I am no longer directly involved with Westcoaster however I am fortunate to remain close friends with the publisher and we chat often.
The recent developments around television news, cuts etc. is causing a fair bit of thinking to be sure.

I'd be more than happy to help anyone who wanted to emulate the Westcoaster model.
I have been told I am an engaging, animated and even entertaining speaker. I am free of charge to small community minded entities.
For large conglomorates who answer to sharholders I only charge one arm and a two legs. :D

#24 mat

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 04:33 PM

This post could easily be placed in the 'online' media thread, but as Jaques has been so eloquent in his thoughts on newspapers/subscriptions it is best here for now.

The subscription model is not dead, and despite the failures of NYT, Globe & Mail, and many others, to attempt to gain revenue for online content there are plenty of examples where this does work.

WSJ and a number of financial news groups have subscription models, certainly magazines (as J pointed out The New Yorker) have all, or part of their content behind a paid screen. When it comes to specialized journalism, or opinion, then the paid model can work.

One of the reasons the NYT dropped its online subscription system (despite the fact it was utterly stupid to pay for the likes of Maureen Dowd, love her dearly but not worth the monthly fee), was the cost of actually running the system - it didn't make enough revenue to cover the admin costs.

Another reason many hybrid news websites dropped paid content...

When the New York Times publishes unique, high-quality content, and when that content is free and open, it typically gets many links from blogs and other sites that refer traffic via those links. So, being free, that content reaches beyond the more limited TimesSelect audience, not only to regular readers of the Times who weren’t TimesSelect subscribers, but also to a broader audiences that reads the Times “opportunistically,” i.e. only when referred.
Which gets to the other key benefit, which overshadows these traffic referrals in the short-term — search.
When Times content is free and open and LINKED, it gets A LOT of search traffic. But not just in the short-term — search is FOREVER — or rather as long as that content continues to rank for keywords with any search volume, which in many cases is a gift that keeps on giving.
Newspapers — and all original content producers — need to think about the “lifetime value” of their content when monetized through fees vs. when monetized through advertising. Only a finite number of paid subscribers will ever realize the value of content at the time it is published and in the archive. But through search, the potential audience for that content, to be monetized through advertising, is many (MANY) times greater.


Printed Newspapers cannot, by their very nature, compete with web and mobile media which combines text, video, and viewer interactivity - which is what consumers demand.

Subscription vs free - the CBC, BBC (Europe is a good example) are tax payer funded news organizations, and although they are primarily radio/TV the online service is really no different to a national newspaper. France, Germany, Holland and Belgium all directly subsidize newspapers through tax payer media funds - and then there are the likes of PBS and NPR, funded through donations and foundation grants.

Locally it is a different matter - a regular TC subscription, delivered to your door, barely covered the cost of delivery. That revenue did little to pay for the infrastructure and salaries of qualified journalists and editors. It is/was the print advertising that made the profits.

Many lament that online ads cannot generate enough revenue, the cost advertisers are willing to pay for an online ad is far below print. That is somewhat due to an historical preference, but - screen sizes (especially mobile) do not allow large format. Users also complain bitterly when 'flash' pop ups, over screens, and intrusive auto-play videos interrupt the article - there is also a new generation coming into adult hood now who consider ads 'wallpaper', and completely ignore them.

Which is where imagination, not only in advertising, but in the whole model of revenue for news is required - the old is dead, the coroner just hasn't signed the certificate yet.

#25 Holden West

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 06:36 PM

In traditional print, a full-page ad is a lucrative money-maker as well as something that has the potential to be funny, thought-provoking or just plain weird. On the Internet, big ads are just a bothersome eyesore.
"Beaver, ahoy!""The bridge is like a magnet, attracting both pedestrians and over 30,000 vehicles daily who enjoy the views of Victoria's harbour. The skyline may change, but "Big Blue" as some call it, will always be there."
-City of Victoria website, 2009

#26 mat

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 07:12 PM

Interesting that just as we are discussing new models in newspaper revenues a host of articles has appeared this afternoon out of a conference debating just this topic.

Newspaper crisis spurs debate on free online news
Sun Mar 15, 2009 8:33pm EDT Email | Print | Share | Reprints | Single Page [-] Text [+]
By Robert MacMillan - Analysis

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Anyone following the debate about whether newspapers should make people pay for the news they read online could be forgiven for thinking they woke up in 1999.

The argument, which most newspapers discarded a decade ago or more, is now gaining new currency because the financial condition of publishers in the United States and, increasingly, other parts of the world, is weak and getting weaker.

A new report to be released on Monday by the Project for Excellence in Journalism says the "free versus paid" debate may focus on the wrong remedies while other ideas go unexplored.

It suggests exploring a cable television model, in which a fee to newspapers and other news outlets is part of the monthly Internet access fees that consumers pay. The 800-page report is the sixth in the PEJ's annual State of the News Media series.

"The public discussion is focused on micropayments. We think other models might be much more promising," said Tom Rosenstiel, the Washington, D.C.-based group's director.


As it was suggested on this and other threads - there will be no 'one' revenue stream that will keep newspapers running as they traditionally have done.

The model has worked for a small number of newspapers, most notably News Corp's Wall Street Journal, but it is unlikely that others could step in after years of free content and make it a success.

But for a paid subscription to be successful, experts say, it would need cooperation from many publishers, something that has been difficult in the past. Such a partnership, called the New Century Network, was formed in the late 1990s but fell apart after the parties could agree on almost nothing.

The industry also might have to seek approval from Congress or the Justice Department to avoid price-fixing accusations.

AMAZON MODEL

EW Scripps Chief Executive Rich Boehne said newspapers must find ways to get economic value out of the news that they provide, beyond advertising sales.

"There's a lot of revenue available," Boehne said. "You just have to adjust the business model. Are you going to go out of business just because you can't find a way to accommodate the cost side?"

There are other options that newspaper publishers should consider, the PEJ report said.

Among them is aping the Amazon.com model. Rather than bludgeoning readers with intrusive ads that few people read or click on, newspapers could build online malls on their sites and provide local search networks for small businesses.

Another would be to offer niche reports for professionals. "They are deep, detailed, up-to-the-minute online resources aimed at professional interests, and they are a proven and highly profitable growth area in journalism," the PEJ said.

"Several new revenue streams most likely are needed," the report said. "The closest thing to a consensus right now is that no one source is a likely magic bullet."



#27 yodsaker

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 07:15 PM

Quite interesting but its long so I'll just post the link.

http://www.shirky.co...he-unthinkable/

#28 mat

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 07:32 PM

Quite interesting but its long so I'll just post the link.

http://www.shirky.co...he-unthinkable/



Great article - loved this part as it coincides with my opinion exactly

Round and round this goes, with the people committed to saving newspapers demanding to know “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” To which the answer is: Nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the internet just broke.

With the old economics destroyed, organizational forms perfected for industrial production have to be replaced with structures optimized for digital data. It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem.



#29 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 08:47 PM

Quite interesting but its long so I'll just post the link.

http://www.shirky.co...he-unthinkable/


I was going to post this one, too! :-) Good article. Tim O'Reilly blogged about it and included a bunch of other relevant links. See his post here.
When you buy a game, you buy the rules. Play happens in the space between the rules.

#30 VicHockeyFan

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 09:11 PM

the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem.


...that says it right there.

#31 Jacques Cadé

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 09:28 PM

Yep, Shirky's right: this is a revolution. New models are needed. But it's going to be pretty difficult for businesses that are hemorraging jobs and millions of dollars to undertake the experimenting he hopes to see.

Newspapers could try to lobby for a cut of telco revenue, but Telus and Shaw will fight it to the death, and the CRTC won't have the goolies to impose it anyway. So the daily papers are doomed. And as things get darker, it will be tempting to resurrect the pay wall.

"So what?" you say. "They're dinosaurs. Let them die, and be replaced with more nimble, evolved creatures."

I would agree, except for one problem. Daily papers are big institutions that swing a lot of weight. They reach a mass audience – and if they do investigative work that pisses off someone rich and powerful, they've got the cash and the legal muscle to back it up in court.

The situation will be very different if all we've got locally is a bunch of little three-man micronews websites. Their fragmented audiences will be tiny, and if one does happen to annoy someone powerful who sues, it'll fold like a cheap tent. And most people won't even notice that it's gone ....

I'd say the CBC and The Tyee are the best models in BC right now. Perhaps someone will create a similarly sexy, foundation-backed news organization in the capital region that's committed to local investigative journalism. But the Times Colonist may have to die first.

#32 Holden West

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 10:09 PM

That huge TC investigative series mentioned earlier on the problem of First Nations housing is another good example of reporting that will be at risk.

And let's face it--most of us are news junkies so we'll be reading The Tyee and other news sites. But the reality is that some newspaper readers aren't necessarily news junkies. They read the paper for sports, horoscope, comics, advice and medical columns and the news is something they might skim or even delve into since they're reading already.

An important but difficult story about Darfur, for example, attracts more eyeballs in a newspaper when it's arranged with a splashy layout, large compelling photographs and several explanatory pull quotes and/or graphs and maps breaking up the text. When that same story is merely another short headline in a long list of headlines it makes it easier to ignore.
My worry is that a lot of casual newspaper readers will not be interested in seeking out news stories and instead will stick to the gossip and lite infotainment portals.
"Beaver, ahoy!""The bridge is like a magnet, attracting both pedestrians and over 30,000 vehicles daily who enjoy the views of Victoria's harbour. The skyline may change, but "Big Blue" as some call it, will always be there."
-City of Victoria website, 2009

#33 Holden West

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 10:15 PM

Here's something I've not seen mentioned. What about students taking journalism in college? This is an expensive proposition and traditionally most students have depended on getting a reasonably well-paying job in the media--perhaps even a union position with good benefits. If the career prospects for journalists in the short term appear to be equal to part-time glorified bloggers, will students avoid school? What will this mean for the quality of reporting? Who will teach the fundamentals, rights and responsibilties of journalism?
"Beaver, ahoy!""The bridge is like a magnet, attracting both pedestrians and over 30,000 vehicles daily who enjoy the views of Victoria's harbour. The skyline may change, but "Big Blue" as some call it, will always be there."
-City of Victoria website, 2009

#34 mat

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 11:07 PM

Yep, Shirky's right: this is a revolution. New models are needed. But it's going to be pretty difficult for businesses that are hemorraging jobs and millions of dollars to undertake the experimenting he hopes to see.

I'd say the CBC and The Tyee are the best models in BC right now. Perhaps someone will create a similarly sexy, foundation-backed news organization in the capital region that's committed to local investigative journalism. But the Times Colonist may have to die first.


Jaques, not certain what camp (if any) you fall into but IMHO the TC should have folded long ago. You did rightly point out a few investigative journalistic series, like the travesty of 1st Nations housing, but no one really considers 'our beloved' paper an advocate for local news.

It is out of a vacuum that we will get the innovation, experience and investment to create a new local news system that will be truly 'local' - run with professional journalists and editors.

There are so many different models of operation available, and consumer choice is still not defined. I actually think we will continue to see subscription models based not on general news - but in specialized subjects, and a more editorial approach on aggregate news from blogs, small online rags (your 3 person team) and investigations sponsored by larger businesses (ethical questions aside - it's how Nat Geo has run for decades)

#35 Jacques Cadé

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 09:07 AM

Here's something I've not seen mentioned. What about students taking journalism in college?


Well-paid jobs in the media (outside of Toronto) have been very hard to get for a long, long time. Like universities, many newspapers expanded their staffs during the 1960s, and those hires stayed on and on and on. You only started to see jobs advertised for reporters at daily papers in the last five or six years, as the Boomer-era journos started to retire.

By far, the biggest employers of fresh graduates from J-schools have been community newspapers. Those jobs pay poorly: a reporter for the Vic News probably gets $30K a year. So there's never been much of a financial incentive to study journalism. Instead, kids study it because they 1) want to be writers, and there are even fewer advertised jobs for poets and novelists, and 2) their lives are so soaked in media that they want to know something about it from the inside, as creators.

(Here's what community chains like Black Press should worry about. They pay so lousy that one day, I predict, some brilliant J-students – or schools like UVic's writing department – will decide it's no great hardship to create rival community-media outlets of their own. And those new outlets won't have the expenses of printing presses, distribution, middle management, an Uplands mansion, or money-losing daily papers in the States.)

As long as there are media outlets, there will be no shortage of people wanting to teach journalism.

#36 Rob Randall

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 09:17 AM

True; if paycheques were the prime motivator there would be no art schools either.

#37 yodsaker

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 09:36 AM

A lot of people crammed into J-schools after Watergate which had created the reporter-as-rock-star model. (Replaced in the 90s by designer-as-rock-star - Georgio Armani started as a window dresser, no design school).
But many discovered the reality was much more mundane and not that well paid other than a few superstars.
I worked in media/media relations for 20 years up to 1991 and worked with maybe two J-school grads in all that time. The best J-schools were the CP night desk or community papers. The best profs were crusty, demanding editors who had been meeting deadlines for decades.

#38 Rob Randall

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 09:44 AM

I hope that the disintegration of newspapers doesn't happen before good electronic paper is perfected. I still believe in the benefits of curling up in a chair, in bed or a park bench with a newspaper, whether it's yesterday's wood pulp or tomorrow's satellite-fed electronic paper.

#39 groundlevel

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 10:00 AM

The indispensible part of the TC?

The obituaries.

Vancouver Sun, Globe and Mail, New York Times (newspaper junkie, me) don't do Victoria deaths.

Focus, Monday, Vic News, e-subscriptions like Tyee and new Metro -- other fish to fry.

I can't stand the TC -- I just read it cover-to-cover and harumph all the way through.

#40 yodsaker

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 10:22 AM

I read the T-C for columnists: Knox is great, Leyne is good and Ian Hunter provides a dish of curmudgeon with my coffee.
Other than big takeouts like the native housing stories the rest is pablum.

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