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  • Toli Galanis
  • Alexis Krase
  • Akshay Jain
  • Andre Henry
  • Emily McFarlan
  • Kaitlin Jessing-Butz
  • Kat Ocampo
  • Lauren Dzura
  • Patrick Akhidenor
  • Trisha Chang
  • Sami Osman
  • Sara Williams
  • Vanessa Fica
  • Will McLean
  • Renee Alfuso
  • Briana Mowrey
  • Apostolia Pentogenis
  • K. Paul Mallasch
  • Michael W. Andersen
  • Jay Rosen


(CAUTION: This isn’t the formal studio portrait of The Blogging Canadian Newspaper. It’s a snapshot. Taken out the window of a moving car. Expect oversights, overstatements, missing information and personal bias.)

The short version

Gazing out over the Canadian newspaper blogosphere:

• There are some blogging stars from the world of print, such as Andrew Coyne, the National Post columnist who was an early and eager blogger and whose posts are regularly cited by Canadian political bloggers (337 sites link to Coyne as of Feb. 14, according to Technorati.) A number of others, current or former columnists, have similar impact, including Colby Cosh, Paul Well at Macleans magazine, and George Jonas.

• Most major Canadian newspapers have sporadically used blogs as part of major event coverage. During the last two federal elections, there were “reporter’s notebook” style blogs at most major newspapers. But I just took a look around, and couldn’t find anyone blogging from the Turin Olympics.

• With a couple of exceptions, big Canadian dailies haven’t jumped on blogging to extend their storytelling, or to bring voice to their web sites. None that I can find have tapped into their local blogosphere to increase their coverage or spread the local conversation.

A little background

The Canadian daily newspaper website model: slightly-enhanced shovelware and pay walls. Exceptions are rare (see next couple of sections). There are no equivalents to the multimedia-rich, information-heavy and outward-linking Washington Post, nor to the blogging- community-engaged Greensboro News-Record or Spokane Spokesman-Review. We lag.

Exception One: The Toronto Star

Columnist Antonia Zerbisias, who ranks just outside Technorati’s top 4,500 blogs, is one of eight Toronto Star writers who blog, the largest collection of in-house blogging I could find among Canadian newspapers. (The Toronto Star web site also, uniquely, offers podcasts.)

In an email, I asked Antonia why she blogs and what she gets from it. Her answer:

“The lack of walls. That’s big. Huge actually. It is very frustrating to be confined to two-three 750 words columns per week.

“Which leads to inputs. I am already reading the papers, watching TV, checking out websites etc. So much stuff to filter out for lack of space. With blogging, I can leave in more news and commentary. It doesn’t take that much more time to write posts up for the blog, especially since, with the column, I often spend just as much time editing it down as I do writing it.

“Also, I am left to myself. I do what I want when I want. Kind of like an entrepreneur.

“I am freer with the language, with the assumption being that the blog isn’t landing on a family kitchen table.

“I love the ability to link to stuff and show readers what’s out there.

“Finally, the interaction and feedback. I can’t understand why all of us don’t want that.”

And I asked why more Canadian newspapers haven’t taken to blogging.

“As for your second question, I don’t know. Probably a combo of reasons:

“Journalists don’t want or need more deadlines and workload. Union
issues might be one reason.

“Security and firewalls were what prevented me from starting up sooner. I wanted to do this three years ago but the Star’s web architecture could not handle it.

“Libel insurance.

“Costs of adding more people to edit to avoid libel issues.”

Exception Two: the Edmonton Journal

Edmonton is the north plains capital of the province of Alberta. The Journal is part of the CanWest chain of newspapers, whose web presence is part of and whose prevailing internet model is the shovelware-paywall paradigm. The Journal is busting that up and, by Canadian newspaper web standards, blazing trails. It’s a small market daily making big moves. Larry Johnsrude explained it to me in an email:

“The Journal made a conscious decision in September to start running breaking local news on our web page. As a result, I was appointed website reporter/editor responsible for putting local content on the site.

“We are trying this on a one-year pilot project basis in the hopes of increasing the newspaper’s profile and driving web readers to our newspaper pages and newspaper readers to our web page. During the course of an eight-hour day, I will usually post between six and eight local stories on the site. Most of the time, these are breaking stories, such as crime and disasters, court stories, government announcements and other events that are not exclusive to the Journal. But there are also stories that we carry exclusively on our website to give readers a sense of value-added.

“The message we try to impress on Journal readers is that news doesn’t end when the paper arrives at their doorstep. We aim our on-line effort at office workers who are on computers during the day, anyway, and we’re trying to hook them on logging onto the Journal to check for updates and other features throughout the day. Along with news stories, photo galleries and softer news features and backgrounders, we have interactive forums called Sound Offs as well as blogs.

“We launched our blogs in November. I simply sent out e-mails to columnists and speciality writers in the newsroom and took the first who responded. Fortunately, I got a good cross-section of entertainment, feature, lifestyles, political and sports writers. We’re planning to launch more blogs later this year. By and large, they are staff driven. No one gets paid extra so I don’t make any demands our bloggers, although I do encourage them to write often.

“My own blog is aimed at informing readers about what we’re doing and whywe’re doing it. (There’s a full explanation in my first entry. Go here and find the material archived in November.)

“But I have also used it to create discourse on issues of public interest, such as the examination of the blogging phenomenon during the recent federal election campaign. I blogged live from [former Liberal MP] Anne McLellan’s campaign headquarters on election night.

“So far, our results have been encouraging. Hits to our local updates and our blogs have been growing steadily. We’re experimenting with other interactive tools as well. I’m currently working on a special page marking the first anniversary of the killing of the four Mounties at Mayerthorp.

“As far as the use of e-mail instead of direct comments for response, that’s a result of restrictive software. Our blogs simply aren’t set up as well as we would like. Unlike some bloggers, we cannot run photos or video and audio clips on ours. We’ve asked for better software but those decision are made by CanWest Interactive in Toronto.

“As far as I know, we’re the only newspaper in the CanWest chain making an effort to localize our website with local news and blogs. Other newspapers haven’t seen the value in it. But we are becoming increasingly convinced it is the future of our business.We usually get 35,000 to 40,000 hits to ourweb page during a weekday. On Jan. 24, the day after the federal election, we got 49,000 hits to our website. The same day, we sold 130,000 papers. I can see the day our web traffic overtakes our circulation. I think it’s inevitable.

“About myself: I have worked at The Journal for 10 years, as political writer, feature writer, editorial writer, legislature bureau chief and on special projects. Before that, I was with Canadian Press for 10 years in Edmonton and on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.”

Extra! Hidden blogs discovered at Canada’s flagship newspaper.

The Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s two national newspapers and the consensus pick as the country’s quality daily, was rumoured to have blogs. So I went to look. Nothing on the home page. Searching the site for “blogs” and “weblogs” brought up only a list of print edition articles. (One of those, on corporate blogging, included this quote from Michael O’Connor Clarke, VP Business Development for Marqui Inc. of Vancouver: “The blogosphere is still considered pioneer territory for most people.” Indeed.)

But then on March 4, there was a front page link to Matthew Ingram’s tech blog. Digging deeper into inside pages I found five others: Dan Cook on politics, three hockey blogs, and Jack Kapica, also on tech. Readers can comment (after registration and moderation). Links to individual bloggers from the front page of the site don’t appear every day and, unless you hit the section fronts, you’ll miss them.

A few more details

This list isn’t exhaustive but it covers major publications.

The National Post, Canada’s other national title, has blogs although readers can’t leave comments, or even directly email the writers. Among the bloggers: Jonathan Chevreau writes The Wealthy Boomer. Lorne Gunter has As I Please. Both read more like columns than conversational blog posts. The Post had an odd group blog that flourished briefly last year, where the newspaper’s editorial writers basically wrote posts to each other. There was no opportunity for reader comments and it fizzled rather quickly.

The Ottawa Citizen, in our nation’s capital, has five bloggers. Sort of. From the index, you get to the blogger of your choice and find a series of headlines that link to individual posts, which read more like mini-columns than conversation. There’s no ability to comment and while you can email a copy of any post to anyone you want, there’s no email link to the blogger.

Macleans, a weekly newsmagazine, has blogs linked from its front page. But as of Monday, Feb. 6, the blog All Business hadn’t been updated since Oct. 23, 2005. There were five blogs left over from our late-January federal election, only one of which has been updated since then. Of the nine blogs linked from the front page, only two had posts from that day.

I couldn’t find blogs at any of the other daily newspapers published in major Canadian cities. And I couldn’t find a Canadian newspaper that has taken up, aggregated and enhanced the community blogosphere that exists outside the newspaper tent the way the Spokane Spokesman-Review and others have.

My questions about the slow uptake

In an effort to understand this slow uptake of blogs, I emailed Kirk LaPointe, managing editor of the Vancouver Sun, and Edward Greenspon, editor of The Globe & Mail. The full text of the email:

“Hi. My name’s Mark Hamilton. I’m a former journalist, journalism instructor and blogger ( I’m working on a piece for a Jay Rosen project that’s taking a look at newspapers and blogs. My part of the project focusses on ‘the state of the industry in Canada.

“I was wondering if I could get your response, for internet publication, on some or all of the following observations/thoughts. I don’t mean any of these ideas to be belittling. Provocative perhaps.

“I also realize that your newspaper has experimented with blogs on an occasional basis.

“Canadian newspapers have been relatively slow to adopt blogging as a journalistic or communication form because of:

  • “a lack of time
  • “a lack of money
  • “the absence of public editors (or editors who feel compelled to maintain a continuing relationship with the broad readership)
  • “the need to focus on the print production cycle at the expense of the ‘always-on’ internet deadline
  • “lack of reader interest
  • “reporter lock-in to traditional writing structures and unwillingness to explore other storytelling possibilities
  • “restrictive libel laws that make comments problematic
  • “the generally cautious attitude toward change that most media companies have
  • “the slower Canadian media adoption of the internet as a media platform

“That’s some of what I’m thinking (which may be totally off-base). Any reaction, or thoughts of your own, would be most welcome.”

The suggestions I made as reasons for not blogging seemed reasonable and I thought they might provide a hint of an answer to the question — where are the Canadian newspaper blogs? — if not singularly, at least in a variety of combinations.

I sent the email on Feb. 6. If I get an answer from either, I’ll let you know. Meanwhile at Blue Plate Special comments are enabled and anyone with a knowledge of the Canadian press who wants to answer my questions, or add to my

Notes and Links

Mark Hamilton learned journalism on the job during a 26-year career and now teaches in a print-based program at Kwantlen University College in Richmond, BC, a suburb of Vancouver. He blogs at Notes from a Teacher as part of his continuing struggle to understand journalism, where it is and where it may be going.

Antonio Zerbisias, who is featured in this post, writes about it at her weblog:

The thing is, there is still much resistance to e-journalism in these here parts. Too many journos feel we're giving away content for free and jeopardizing our longterm viability in the process. There's a sense that it's hurting our single copy/newsstand sales. Others see it differently: that our websites are a brand extension, that our readers expect to come to us for value added, that news should be 24/7.

David Akin--Canadian journalist, broadcaster, blogger--wrote a response to this post at Mark Hamilton's blog. "Blogging — be it in the U.S. or Canada — is not the highest form of evolution for journalists employed by newspapers. It may be for certain types of journalists but it probably isn’t for most..." Also see Bill Doskoch's reply to Akin.

Comments (14)

Good analysis of the Canadian situation. Monopolies don’t innovate very well. As noted with the exception of the Toronto Star, the rest feel no need to explore either new communication methods or business models. It is still ‘their news’ Read More

Great summary of the blog backwater that is Canadian established media, Mark. It should be noted that despite (or in spite) of this, the Canadian blogosphere particularly in Vancouver is very strong and vibrant.

I worked for the Edmonton Journal website in 1997-98. Back then, we few, proud webheads were excited by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s web treatment of Black Hawk Down.

“But why would you do it?” asked then-editor-in-chief Murdoch Davis. He thought any such resources should go into making the newspaper better.

Legend had it that Davis (who left there years ago) once told a local j-school class that if the website got too successful, he’d shut it down. He denied making such a statement.

It’s heartening to hear that times have changed, and that in September 2005, the Journal has decided to “experiment” with breaking news (ooh!) on its website and now with blogs (ahh!).

No personal offence to Mr. Johnsrude, who is a fine journalist, but that’s pathetic.

Why are newspapers still talking about this stuff as an “experiment?”

I work cheap too.
Rushing off the email the Montreal Gazette yet again…

Thanks for the feedback, folks.

Antonia Zerbisias has a post today on this piece that fills in some more blanks and points to some things I missed the first time around. One of the sites Antonia points to is Marc Weisblott’s blog, where he’s doing blog aggregation on behalf of the Toronto Star. There are hopeful signs out there.

“I write; I publish. And that used to be the end of it. Now, I write, I publish and a community of people who have special knowledge or who are deeply interested in the topic amplify, correct, modify, or extend the reportage. For a beat reporter, this is fabulous, because I now have more knowledge about my beat …”
This is something I wrote back in 2005 in response to a question from Jay. Jay hadn’t asked me specifically about Canadian newspapers and their blogging ways (he was interested in how blogging was affecting the output of mainline journalists) but, as I’m a Canadian, who, after spending a decade as a print reporter, now reports for nightly network news, I thought I’d respond to this post by relying on that reply to Jay …

One suggested corrective to what seem to be many of the assumptions here: Blogging — be it in the U.S. or Canada — is not the highest form of evolution for journalists employed by newspapers. It may be for certain types of journalists but it probably isn’t for most. Many commentators — academics often but bloggers mostly — believe that because mainstream news organizations do not blog, then that must mean they are the failures; that they are the dinosaurs headed for extinction. Not true. Mainstream newspapers trying to avoid distinction might want to take a cue from the very print-oriented changes at the Globe and Mail . For all The Toronto Star’s well-earned accolades as a new media and blogging leader, those accolades have done little to increase readership, bring in new advertisers, and improve the bottom line. (Those are not important metrics to most amateur bloggers but they are very important to any employee of a newspaper organization.)
The Star’s operating revenue, its operating profit, its EBITDA and its EBITDA margin all dropped in 2005 compared to 2004. (Its profit margin was up slightly in 2005 at 7.5 per cent compared to 7.4 per cent in 2004.)

The Globe, which competes editorially with the Star but competes on the advertising side only for national advertising programs, does not break out its operating performance to the same detail that The Star does but, the Wall Street Journal article suggests that The Globe is heading in the other direction from an operational standpoint even though The Globe’s blogs are, apparently, difficult to find. :)

I agree with The Star’s Antonia Zerbisias that the best thing about blogging is that it is writing without walls — but Antonia has a very specialized beat [the media] and I suspect most newspaper owners in North America give no space to a media columnist and the handful that do give what Zerb gets. So she’s in such a specialized beat that she probably shouldn’t expect to get much space in the paper which makes blogging all the more of a natural.

On the other hand, her Ottawa bureau political colleagues or her colleagues who report on Toronto and area politics get acres and acres of space. So why would they blog? Anything they want to write ends up in a newspaper read by half-a-million people. (I throw down this rhetorical guantlet in the hopes of creating some discussion on this topic, even though I’ve argued here and elsewhere that there are a couple of dozen perfectly good reasons why beat reporters ought to blog).

I use Zerb’s example to point out that, for some, blogs are a great way of breaking down the newspaper’s walls. For other types of reporters, blogs represent a diminishing rate of return, so to speak.

while canadian newspapers have been slow of the mark, many journalists have been active. i’m a technology reporter with the national post, and been writing my blog ( since march, 2004, while tyler hamilton, a tech writer at the toronto star, has been writing his ( for more than a year. as to why canadian newspapers aren’t more pro-active with blogs, i would argue they are still grapping with how to operate their web sites - whether to offer news for free or charge for it, etc.

Mark, I’m interested to know if you stumbled across any Canadian newspaper sites that allow readers to initiate new blogs in an attempt to create a community forum.

If there are any out there, how are they mitigating the legal risks of liability? Are they delaying the postings until they are reviewed by editorial staff?

I have found one US site … … that does allow live posts. I actually initiated a blog one week ago to gather reader feedback. Apparently, readers are behaving themselves.

I would appreciate any feedback.

Thanks for the mention, Mark. The Globe and Mail’s blogs will be getting a lot more “blog-like” soon, with trackbacks and permalinks and so on, which should help us become a bigger part of the conversation with our readers.

I also have a personal blog where I write about many of the same ideas and issues that I write about for the Globe. It’s at


Again, thanks for the comments and the holes in my piece that all of you are plugging. The number of Canadian reporters who are blogging (some of whom I was aware of, some not) is interesting, and its not the first time the newsroom has been ahead of the corner offices.

Michael: I didn’t find any major Canadian newspapers that allow readers to create blogs a la Bluffton. Even local aggregation of blogs is taking place outside the newsroom and most often without any connection to the newspaper (TO Star being the exception).

- mark

You missed a number of journalists that blog for French dailies in Quebec.

Légendes urbaines (by Patrick Lagacé) and Le goût de la planète (by Jasmine Legault) are both written by writers for Le Journal de Montréal.

La Presse also has a number of blogs found here.


You can find an opportunity for readers to create their own blogs over at Dose … but few took the bait when the paper was launched, and it quickly fizzled. But regardless of whether or not Dose has any readers interested in online interaction, the target audience for that publication was already hooked on the interaction at LiveJournal and/or MySpace.

Media companies who figure they’ll just plug in a few tools and the audience will generate all the compelling content for them will have to keep waiting. There needs to be some kind of personality serving as host. That doesn’t mean it needs to be a platform for columnist-style self-indulgence, though. (Because that can be a turn-off in its own way.) were the first to try out selling blogs to readers in mid-2002, not coincidentally at the point where the website was on the verge of shutting down altogether due to limited funds to pay writers. While the site survived, this particular ploy went nowhere.

I think you’ve missed the point at the Globe. The entire online presence has been turned into a blog, with visitor comments that often turn into conversations on all articles.

The idea is not to have a thing called a “blog” (as in, “hey look at me - I’m bloggin’, I’m bloggin’”), but rather to change the web presence from a billboard into an active, engaging, conversation. The Globe’s redesign has got it mostly right, I think, regardless of how many of their journos are actually talking at us.

The other aspect to consider is that the columnists already had a mechanism to amplify their voices. They were called “newspapers” and “magazines.” Prior to blogging, ordinary folks didn’t.

I had forgotten Cossins et gogosses du XXIe siècle, again at Le Journal de Montréal.