Jul 292014

By Robert Washburn, Innovation Editor, J-Source.ca

As news organizations move more towards a mobile-first strategy, the introduction of wearable technology is presenting a new challenge despite a less than enthusiastic embrace from consumers.

This past week, Apple announced its plans to market the iWatch, a computer inside a wristwatch, according to a recent article in Buzzfeed. An anticipated 330 million smartwatches will be sold worldwide by 2018, a research firm estimated according to the article. Read more

Jul 212014

northumberlandBy Robert Washburn

The Art Gallery of Northumberland is in very deep trouble, needing huge support from municipalities, businesses and the public, if it hopes to survive.

Sadly, it is caught up in a complex set of circumstances that must play out before its final fate will be determined. This involves some very unpleasant, possibly controversial steps.

The first must be the resignation of the entire board, without exception.

The gallery needs to be turned over to Cobourg or another municipal body to be run until all matters are settled. There are no federal, provincial or municipal policies or laws allowing Cobourg council to intervene since the art gallery is an independent body sitting at arm’s length. The town’s only involvement is financial, with its $75,000 per year grant, along with a seat on the gallery board, currently filled by Councillor Donna Todd.

While it may appear drastic, even dramatic, it is a vital step. Continue reading »

Jul 212014

By Robert Washburn

LouRinaldiThe appointment of Northumberland MPP Lou Rinaldi as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is more than a little disappointing, reflecting poorly on Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal was given the agriculture portfolio in addition to his existing job as Minister for Rural Affairs. While he may be competent, there was no need to place additional responsibilities on his shoulders, especially after Rinaldi’s victory. He is one of the few Liberals representing a rural riding.

There was speculation prior to the announcement Rinaldi would receive the agricultural ministry since Wynne had kept it as one of her portfolios in the last cabinet.

Rinaldi was first elected in 2003, serving as parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal. Later, in 2006, he was parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Then, in 2009, he was parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing under several different ministers.

Certainly, he has the experience.

But politics is fickle. Continue reading »

Jul 132014

27robBy Robert Washburn

It is incredibly important to keep active in journalism both as an educator and as a professional journalist. It is great  having a bi-weekly column. Still, grabbing a notepad, dialling a phone, doing interviews and so forth, it is vital to remain relevant and credible in front of students.

It is truly amazing the number of times there is pause for thought on the way newsrooms are changing. It is not nostalgia causing the hesitation, but a sense of how journalism practice, ethics, management, and community are transforming. Besides, it provides a whole new raft of examples and experiences to call on during lectures and exchanges with students.

Before presenting this year’s list of stories, it is important to note my role this year. I was asked to try and get some features in Port Hope. Also, there was no one to really replace this year. Both regular reporters were in the newsroom, not on vacation. It was critical not to step on anyone’s toes. Hence, there are a raft of advancers, previews and community stories, not a lot of politics. There is even a sports story waiting to be published.

So here they are:

Pow wow this weekend: ALDERVILLE FIRST NATION - Alderville First Nation will celebrate the 20 anniversary of its pow wow this weekend with dance and music, along with its new permanent elders facility on the grounds…

Family Fishing Derby Friday: PORT HOPE - Kids and cops are hoping to catch some good times along the shores of the Ganaraska River in Port Hope Friday during the Family Fishing Derby…. Continue reading »

Jul 062014

By Robert Washburn

green_farming_ontarioAs the provincial party leaders rally support and slam each other over their respective records leading up to the June 12 election, it is essential for voters in Northumberland County to listen carefully.

Like hucksters at a carnival, Tory leader Tim Hudak, Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne and NDP leader Andrea Horwath will slide through the riding looking to sell their snake oil and make off.

We will be told the important issues are jobs, the economy and whatever flavour of the moment they have picked. Meanwhile, little attention will be paid to the realities of rural life and the struggles faced by residents.

Rural Ontario is in crisis. Northumberland is a microcosm of many of the ills. Loss of local manufacturing, a strained retail and service sector, underfunded municipalities, reduced health care services and a litany of other woes.

Good, full-time jobs with benefits are as scarce as hen’s teeth as many must commute outside the community to find decent work. Often those jobs are found in urban centres.

Most jobs within the county are part-time without benefits or temporary work on contract. And, while candidates will boast of plans to bolster the rural economy and jobs, it will be essential to dig under the promises to find out what kinds of jobs are being proffered and how much help rural residents can expect. Continue reading »

Jul 052014

By Robert Washburn

who_wont_get_fooled_againNorthumberland voters will not be easily fooled.

As Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne, Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak and NDP leader Andrea Horvath criss-cross the province making their promises and outlining their policies, the electorate in the county just shake their heads.

Unlike any other recent election, there are very clear choices. The party platforms are very distinct, aimed at each party’s core voters. The stark differences should make the choice very easy come June 12.

But Northumberland voters will be listening with special care, similar to many rural ridings across Ontario. When each of the politician starts talking about cutbacks, or tax breaks, or balancing the budget by whatever date, it plays out in very real terms in rural Ontario. It means loss of services.

In rural Ontario, after decades of service cuts dating back to Premier Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution in the 1990s, rural residents have watched hospitals close (Port Hope), amalgamated services (Children’s Aid Society, boards of education, municipal governments, etc.), and an ever-shrinking local economy (lost manufacturing jobs, part-time replacing full-time jobs), as the list goes on.

This past winter, the service cuts hit home. Local politicians were outraged over poor highway maintenance and snow removal on Highway 401 as a string of crashes caused traffic havoc, uncalculated costs to individuals and companies, along with personal injuries. Continue reading »

Jul 042014

By Robert Washburn

image026As Port Hope High School students Mac Evans and Kaitlin Calbery lay a wreath at the Canadian Military Cemetery Beny-sur-Mer as part of the official ceremonies taking place later this week marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, it is a good time to reflect on the contribution local men and women made during this historic battle.

In an effort to end four years of German occupation, Allied forces invaded Western Europe on June 6, 1944. Nearly 150,000 troops landed on an 80-kilometre stretch of beach along the coast of Normandy, 14,000 were Canadians. Facing a barrage of artillery, machine guns, mines and booby-traps, the invasion was a success, turning the tide of the war.

But, it was not just the troops on the beaches playing a role. The Royal Canadian Navy had 110 ships and 10,000 sailors who provided support during the landing. The Royal Canadian Air Force helped by bombing inland targets.

Canadian troops suffered 1,074 casualties, including 359 people killed. Continue reading »

Jul 022014

By Robert Washburn

BriktthIEAAA3TnAs this is being written, the union representing Globe and Mail reporters and editors is heading back to the negotiating table to try and reach a deal after more than 90 per cent of its membership voted for a strike.

One critical issue is a demand by management to get journalists to write advertorial content, meaning promotional material in the guise of a news-style story. The term used today is Brand Journalism. It is very popular in the marketing world and generates a lot of revenue for some publishers. It is unethical for journalists to write this content because it undermines journalistic independence and misrepresents what a journalist is suppose to do – tell the truth in a balanced, fair and unbiased manner. It hurts a journalist’s credibility and undermines public trust.

This is another in a series of recent blows to news professionals. The CBC announced numerous cutbacks to its news division, along with massive job losses. A public backlash followed, too.

So, watching the outcry on social media as the news about the Globe and Mail broke tonight, there is a no doubt people understand how vital it is the union does not fail, not only for the reporters and editors at the Globe and Mail, but for all journalists. It is heartening to see the public reaction against management.

But, there are other reporters who are going to be affected by the outcome of these negotiations. These journalists do not work within mainstream media in large urban centres. There do not get national coverage when they face the same issues. And, there is no public outcry about their workplace conditions.

For decades community journalists have faced the demands the mainstream urban media have only recently confronted. These journalists working in small cities, towns, and villages get minuscule wage increases, barely meeting the rate of inflation. Unpaid overtime is expected. A threat of strike could mean closure of a newsroom. Any increase in salary is generally followed by staff cuts. For them, there is a constant demand for sufficient copy to fill the slots, as well as producing advertorial material for promotional magazines or special publications or broadcasts. All this in the face of minimum staff and barely any resources.

This is nothing new for them.

Yet, some produce incredible journalism, even facing these conditions. They rise up and create journalism that matters for the audience they serve. And, while many like to look down their noses at community journalists, these dedicated professionals toil with the same passion and commitment. They do not have the benefit of a press gallery or the protection of a huge scrum or the name and reputation of a major urban news organization to back them. Often they are alone, shored up by their own courage and tenacity to get the story. Some are lucky enough to win awards, while others are rarely acknowledged.

The reporters and editors at the Globe and Mail need to make a much larger statement than just settling this contract and pushing management back. They need to do this for all journalists stretching from the largest news organizations in big cities right down to the smallest weeklies in rural Canada.

And, the public needs to get behind them and every other journalist in Canada, too. It is not just about the struggle at the Globe and Mail or the cutbacks facing the CBC. It is about the respect for journalism and journalists.

So, rather than forgetting their brothers and sisters who toil away outside the mainstream, they should be united with all journalists taking this same fight to every newsroom with the equal zeal and passion. And, the public should recognize the true value of every person who works as a journalist no matter where it is across this country. That is what this fight is really about.

Jun 302014

By Robert Washburn

Kathleen WynneConservative commentators, pundits and politicians are saying Ontarians were unable to face the honesty and tough love message delivered by leader Tim Hudak during the provincial election.

It would be just as valid to read goat entrails when discerning the results of last Thursday’s election where Premier-elect Kathleen Wynne won a majority with 59 seats over the 27 won by the Progressive Conservatives and 21 garnered by the NDP.

No doubt, the Progressive Conservatives are looking for some form of rhetoric to soothe the painful loss, so blaming the voters who did not support them fits in with the rest of the twisted logic that failed to deliver them to power. What would be more scrumptious would be sitting in Monday’s PC caucus meeting as the blame game unfolded. It would be a bloodletting worthy of any abattoir.

Politics is a blood sport. Forget all the forced smiles, rehearsed gestures, catchy phrases, and measured sound bites, kissing babies and staged press events. Politics is about winning. And, most politicians and political organizers will say point blank they will do whatever it takes to achieve this goal, including fudging the truth, attack ads, dirty tricks and the like. Continue reading »

May 212014
Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak with local MPP Rob Milligan and Horizons Plastics President Peter Garvey at the plant in Cobourg. Thanks to Northumberland View for the photo

Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak with local MPP Rob Milligan and Horizons Plastics President Peter Garvey at the plant in Cobourg. Thanks to Northumberland View for the photo

By Robert Washburn

[Update: The irony keeps dripping. It turns out Horizons Plastics received a $2 million provincial grant from the Liberals in 2011 for new technology and jobs. If that is not enough, I found out from a reliable source up to 30 people were laid off from the plant yesterday. Not able to confirm]

It was so very nice of Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak to drop by Cobourg Wednesday to support local candidate Rob Milligan with a photo op at Horizons Plastics.

To see Hudak and Milligan standing on the shop floor with the Million Jobs sign behind them was visually pleasing. And, the choice of backdrops could not have been more telling.

Horizons Plastics faced a strike last November as the company wanted to gut employees’ job security and benefits to the tune of about $1,000 per person.

Even more ironic is the longtime Cobourg company, which produces custom plastic parts, set up a satellite plant in a Mexican tax-free zone in March 2013. President Peter Garvey said the new plant offered the chance to go after new sales opportunities. Garvey said the idea was to grow both plants at the same time.

However, employees were very concerned, saying the Mexican plant meant the company could shut its Cobourg operation down at any time. Garvey complained his American competitors were only paying $13 to $15 an hour, compared to the higher wages being offered in Cobourg.

Finally, in January 2014, the company locked out its unionized workers. After three weeks of negotiation, a deal was reached. A four-year contract was signed with restrictions on temporary agency workers, unionized flexible work employees and restricted when those employees can be used. The employees got lump sums in the first three years and a 1.5 per cent increase in the fourth year. Continue reading »