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Kory Teneycke is back!

According to a report in the Globe & Mail, Kory Teneycke has returned to Sun TV. This, following a period of self-imposed exile.

A few months ago, when Teneycke announced he was voluntarily leaving the venture, I wrote that is was a shame that he was no longer involved. Why? Because Teneycke brings a distinct element to the table that is often absent in Canadian news coverage - Passion.

Yes, sometimes Teneycke's passion is extreme and he blurts out outlandish things, but so what. We need that. We need to take the passion they we (Canadians) have for beer, hockey, and the maple leaf and extend it to other things.

I wouldn't bet the farm on the success of Sun TV News, but I think Teneycke's involvement will better its chances for success.

Canadian media outlets often deliver the news in dull and uninteresting ways. Our journalists are trained to follow ritualistic formulas to deliver an A,B,C news brand. And when Canadian journalists are forced away from the formula, the news they deliver is a sad replica of American journalism, British journalism, or (worst of all) internet blog journalism. There's no originality there because being passionate and entertaining while covering the news is a foreign (almost forbidden) concept to the Canadian journalist.

We need passionate and unorthodox people like Teneycke to take a stab at it because our media outlets need to have a bit of the gong show about them. And I think Teneycke can bring that gong show element to an otherwise tired and dull medium. 

The traditional (and often dully delivered) news will always be there - including on Sun TV News. But there will be some punch there, as well, to wake us up.

Canadian journalism is changing. The writing is on the wall (and in the newspapers of the conglomerates). The one element that is missing in these attempts at change is heart. Teneycke brings that. Hopefully, he doesn't become a dull, stuffed suit any time soon. There are too many of them making decisions right now as it is.         

I like the idea of Sun TV News because it's an irrational concept. It's off-the-wall. It's driven by something other than the accountant's guidebook on making safe money.

And, as long as there are Teneyckes involved, it just might be something that pays off.

Corporate Media Conglomerate Failure?

The dust has settled on the bankruptcy saga of CanWest Media Works. The company was split and each division is under new ownership. The new owners have had time to settle into their positions and have begun to implement their visions. 

The same old problems exist at Canada's media conglomerates. The broken model is apparently still the model to follow with a few twists (digital first strategies and proposed new TV stations). These twists won't amount to much when the traditional methods of doing things remain. 

Salesmen continue to be appointed to the top spots, while others working in the field are ignored. Balanced leadership is not a concern.

I have no problem with managers/executives having a sales background. Bean counters and money makers are a necessity in business because the ultimate object of any business is to make money. The problem I have with the current management/executive pool at Canada's media conglomerates is that a disproportionate amount of managers/executives come from sales.

Where's the balance?

Balanced leadership is required to ensure long term success. Experienced widget makers, who understand how the widgets are made, are needed in leadership roles to guide these companies forward and to implement strategies. And experience widget sellers are needed in leadership roles to sell the widgets. In order for the widget sellers to make money for their companies, however, they need to have a quality product to sell.

Canadian media conglomerates need to renew their focus on quality and put the leaders in place who can ensure that the quality is there. They need to focus on producing a quality product, so they actually sell it.

Revenues are diminishing because advertisers and readers recognize a reduced value in the corporate newspapers' content. Gimmicks won't change the value of that contact, but hard work and experienced leadership will. 

At my local daily, a number of veterans have retired or moved into different fields and been replaced by fresh-out-of-college reporters. The enthusiasm of these rookies is there but the skills are lacking. Also lacking is the leadership they require to perform well at their jobs. Most likely, these young guns work at reduced rates and the sales manager cum publisher is happy over the money he is saving using these inexperienced youngsters. As for the attempts to implement a digital-first strategy? They are laughable and sadly desperate. The content is directionless and scattered and the newspaper is a blend of traditional journalists copy, college newspaper copy, and internet punch.

I have a solution to these problems. It's pretty simple really. Balanced leadership.  


The Useful Idiots

The term "useful idiot" - once attributed to Lenin - is now used in a broad manner. In particular, it is used in the business world. 

There are few remaining "useful idiots" in Canadian corporate management, most having been replaced by "useless idiots." 

Seeing as I deal mostly with management types in Canadian media conglomerates, the bulk of what I am saying in today's post applies to them.

Before I begin, I should state that many of the managers/executives I have met are not idiots. Far from it, nearly all possess cunning, if not intelligence. That's how they've survived. Just because someone is cunning or intelligent, however, does not mean he/she is useful. In fact, some cunning/intelligent people are extremely useless.  

With the dwindling of resources at most Canadian media conglomerates, the cunning/intelligent managers have started to increasingly rely on useful idiots. These useful idiots offer a variety of services, free-of-charge. From intelligence gathering, to "partnerships", to revenue streams, the useful idiots comply. 

The easiest way to avoid being a useful idiot is to ask for payment for your services. If someone wants information, ask for a consultant's fee. If someone wants to form a partnership, enter into it only if it benefits you. If they ask for your advertising, do you homework and make sure that you are getting a true bang for your buck. The true useful idiot will continue to work for free - for some promised future payment that will never come.

The only fortunate thing about this corporate reliance on the useful idiot is that the useful idiot is, in the end, simply an idiot. And idiots always make mistakes, sometimes huge ones. One way or another, he who relies on the idiot will pay for the inevitable mistakes made by the idiot.  


No news here! Move along!

I haven't posted here in a while because there is little going on in the Canadian newspaper world. A few of the conglomerates have executed their strategies. By few, I mean one of them has.

The Globe & Mail delivered on its promise to launch a bold new look and format. I, for one, am impressed. The new Globe has set the bar extremely high and I doubt whether competing newspapers, supported by companies with multiple agendas and no easy money, can make the leap over that high hurdle. The Globe is in a class of its own and it's too high class for its competitors. Unfortunately, it might be too high class for many regular readers as well. Nonetheless, I salute the management team at the Globe for its vision, verve, and ability to deliver.

Having touched on the Globe, I will now touch on the others:

Torstar - has noted a slight increase in profits and announced its plans to heavily invest in its digital properties. Thanks to the Globe for giving us that story. Here's the Toronto Star's take on the same news item.        

Quebecor - is still waiting to launch its Sun TV network. Thanks to the Globe, for giving us that story.

Postmedia Network Inc. - is talking about money.

And that's the lack of news in the news business.

Media Convergence

Convergence is the current word being used by the heads of Canada's media conglomerates. A piece by Quebecor's CEO/President Pierre Karl Peladeau focuses on his company's attempt at convergence. Here's a  supporting video in which PKP talks about this  (part one and part two).

Peladeau talks about the necessary stripping down of his business to, one guesses, build it back up. The stripping down process meant mass layoffs - to the tune of around 1000 bodies (it was late when I watched to video so I'm not a hundred percent certain that number). That's significant, seeing as that was about 1/6th of Quebecor's entire work force.

In the video Peladeau says that the tearing down process is over and now it's time for investment. The bulk of that investment will go into Sun TV News. Sun TV News is an important piece of Quebecor's convergence puzzle. Peladeau mentions the names of some of the talent that his company is bringing in for his news channel. I've heard one or two of the names, but I don't know much about these drawing cards. That's a problem in Canada; news media folk are, at best, pseudo celebrities in the eyes of Joe and Jane Six-Pack.

If Peladeau wants to appeal to the "every man" in Canada, then he'd do better bringing in Red Green, Rick Mercer and Don Cherry to cover the news. Few people get excited about Mr. Bland Newsman, regardless of how witty their columns are. 

And this signals the alarm bells. Quebecor is putting a lot of eggs into the Sun TV News basket. And right now it doesn't sound any more appealing than CNN or Fox News or any other American news network that Peladeau says one-third of English speaking Canadians watch. What would make one of these watchers switch from Larry King to Lesser Known Canadian Media Guy? Nothing, except maybe if Lesser Known Canadian Media Guy was in a gorilla suit. 

While Convergence is viewed as the magic word of power that will save the industry, I don't think anyone has come up with a solid convergence plan. While using all forms of media to get your info/entertainment message out there is a part of the occasion, that by itself does not equal full convergence. For from it. It just means you have lots of news properties. True convergence will only occur when all the parts of your media machine are working together. And that requires some thinking. 

Convergence right now is a word and a concept and nothing more. It's the magic bean that is supposed to somehow grow into a beanstalk. Before the beanstalk can grow, someone has to figure out how to plant the magic bean.   

Shooting from the hip

Today, I think I am going to shoot straight from the hip.

In the past I have tempered my frustration with the newspaper industry. I have glossed over things in the hope that the people pulling the strings know what they are doing. Not so today. Today, I give the conglomerates and the owners/industry leaders a well deserved kick in the nuts. Today, I tell it like it is - in my opinion.

To the CEO/President of [insert Canadian media conglomerate here]:

Stop firing your core staff! Yes, some of them are pathetic, lazy turds but do you have to throw your babies out with the bath water? Can't you do some real employee evaluation, instead of relying on managers who are apt to retain lazy, pin-head ass kissers.

You need people to do the work in your word factories. I am sick and tired of the crappy generic copy that you have to use to fill the white space in those glorified flyer carriers you call newspapers. The only reason you continue to make money on those cat crap collectors is because you enjoy operating in monopoly markets.
People are starting to challenge you in these markets. And they are winning. They see weakness, and they are exploiting that weakness.

Re-vamp your websites. With few exceptions, they are blah and the info on them is just a rehash of what is in your print products. Also cellphone videos are rubbish and print reporters aren't video hosts. Bring in some talent to make your sites appealing. If you are misinformed and think digital is the way to go, then prove it. You can't just translate your newspapers onto the web. Print and web are two entirely different formats requiring two entirely different approaches. And, Mr./Ms./Miss Digital you make pennies on the dollar on the internet. I know, I am in the electronic publishing business. You know what my e-customers ask for? Print Product of the electronic product I produce. It's one of the challenges that people in the e-publishing industry face - getting print copies into the hands of our customers. Do your homework.

Stop being one trick ponies. You know you can come up with and implement multiple solutions to your number one problem - making cash to keep share holders and senior executives happy.

Learn to communicate. You are in the communication business so communicating with your managers and your employees. Keep them in the loop. Why do I know stuff before your employees and managers do? Train your staff to communicate effectively as well.  If you don't know how to communicate with your employees, get the hell out. Go into the tire manufacturing business or something.

Clean up your mess before you go and create another one. In other words, get your house in order. Carry your plans through and take the time to make sure that your plan is carried out properly.

Check your ego. Very few people know who you are. You aren't a celebrity. Don't be afraid to hire people who challenge you when you try to implement silly ideas. Yes men are good for the ego, but crap for business. If you want to surround yourself with yes-men go and buy yourself some $5 bobble-heads. The bobble-heads will be more productive. Hearing no once in a while is a good thing.

New Look - New Era?

The Globe and Mail (arguably Canada's most notable daily) unveils its new look today. Here's another article on it.

It's more than that, however. The Globe's new look comes with a new approach to the newspaper business. There's a whole new philosophy being used here. I think it will succeed and I hope it does, because the Globe's new approach/philosophy kind of jives with own. 

It will be interesting to see how the Globe's competitors react, if they react at all. I suppose if it's a smashing success, we'll see the conglomerates take notice and attempt to follow suit. Unfortunately, in some cases, that would require a massive (if not impossible) effort. The trend has been to cut staff, centralize departments, and use watered-down generic copy to fill the white space that surrounds advertisements. The conglomerates have dug deep holes in the past few years and I'd be surprised if they have the resources to climb out of them. 

Alright! I'm off to pick up a copy of the new Globe.      

Doh! Doh! Doh!

I enjoy reading Chris Selley's Full Comment. I can't say I agree with all his opinions, but it's enjoyable stuff all the same.

I recently read this Full Comment (published on Sept. 17, 2010):


It's ironic stuff in light of what is going on, especially this line:

"So leave the shenanigans to Mr. Levant. He's good at it."

Mr. Levant is now in hot water over a comment piece he wrote, attacking billionaire George Soros. The piece has disappeared from Sun Media websites. There was, however, a letter of apology published in the Toronto Sun. Here are two excerpts from that letter:

"On September 5, 2010, a column by Ezra Levant contained false statements about George Soros and his conduct as a young teenager in Nazi-occupied Hungary."

"The management of Sun Media wishes to state that there is no basis for the statements in the column and they should not have been made."

- unattributed letter of apology in Toronto Sun to George Soros

Poor Chris Selley. Well, not really. I'm sure he knows the risks he takes in his line of work. At least once in a journalist's career, one writes something one wishes one hadn't. There's always that one statement that comes back to  bite you hard in the ass. I hope Chris can still sit after this one. 
I just finished reading several news items regarding Kory Teneycke's resignation from Quebecor. Here is a link to an article that offers his full resignation statement:


I think Teneycke's exodus is a shame as it is clear he is a passionate individual. Regardless of your views on Sun TV (the project that was under Teneycke's care at Quebecor), its proposed launch created a buzz in Canada's media circles.

The dialogue regarding Sun TV was passionate.

If there is anything that Canadian media organizations need today, it's passion - any passion. Canadian media news conglomerates have been running on auto-pilot for too long. The recent maneuvers in the Canadian media world, however, have stirred things up - Sun TV most of all. The skirmishes over a proposed Sun TV took the audiences attention away from the ever-flowing list of news blurbs announcing job losses and closures at Canadian news agencies. In the midst of these demoralizing announcements was an announcement one of Canada's major news players was striving to create something new.  

It took a guy like Pierre Karl Peladeau to hire Kory Teneycke. In many ways, my perception of them is they are very similar with respect to their passion for projects close to their hearts.

I'm sure Kory Teneyke will spring up again. He appears to be that kind of guy.

Love him or hate him, he is a star that is burning bright.
Errors do occur.

In the newspaper world when a mistake is made it is often glaring and apparent. 

Thankfully, this my LiveJournal, so I don't really mind the odd mistake here and there. This is my happy place.
When an error occurs in print, however, it drives me bonkers. By extension, when it occurs on a media (no longer newspaper) conglomerate's site it drives me to distraction.

Understandably, the corporate site in question is just a fluff site, puffing up how great its products are. The products being newspapers.


Here are a few of the boo-boos I found on the corporate site (specifically on the brands (i.e. newspapers) page (I use XYZ to protect the company's identity):

In the first paragraph, I found this nugget, " With hard-hitting commentary, the latest on the cultural and social scene in Arts & Life, more than just the scores with entertaining XYZ Sports coverage, and the best business reporting in Canada within the pages of XYZ, Canada’s Business Voice." This is an example of Microsoft Word's grammar checker giving you the Win when the sentence is Fail. This sentence is more than cumbersome. I don't even think it's a complete thought or sentence - just a cumbersome fragment.

Moving on, "Fact is… The XYZ is Canada’s highest read metropolitan newspaper in print and on-line. Now with breaking news alerts, web updates all day long and “net news at noon”, readers stay up-to-date all day long until the next edition arrives on your doorstep." Fact is, the only people who start a sentence with "Fact is" are people screwing around on their amateur blogging sites. I am also disturbed that the readers of the highest read metropolitan newspaper in Canada wait until the next edition arrives on my doorstep. I must be a sound sleeper because I never hear them reading the highest read metropolitan newspaper on my front lawn.

And for the golden star, we have this gem, "It began as a French-language paper in 1778, and ultimately changed to an English language papers in 1822." Please refresh your English (or, in your case, "Englishes".) This is the publication that won a[n] award[s] for "honouring excellence in Canadian journalism."

Now, it might sound like I am bitching, and I probably am. But when you are a large communications outfit you should do your best to communicate effectively. A second set of eyes never hurts. In the newspaper biz, it's the little things that hurt. Reading copy like the copy found on this site is like finding  a fly in my sundae.