Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dumping Deadheads

Everyone has an expiry date for their effectiveness and usefulness. Blackberry whiz kids Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis had passed their dates, and finally were removed last week. Whether their replacement by a new operating team comes too late to save the once revolutionary company is an open question.
Another leader past the expiry date for his effectiveness is Dalton McGuinty, the premier of Ontario. The latest example of why he needs to go is the scandal at ORNGE, the provincial air ambulance service. The ORNGE board of directors was fired earlier this month after revelations of questionable financial practices. The forensic accountants now are at the books.

This is latest in a series of scandals involving the McGuinty government. Remember E-health where $1 billion of taxapeyers’ money went into the wallets of consultants? And, the Ontario Lottery Corp. scandal that revealed the rip-offs of thieving retailers?

If I stretch and crane my neck I can look down the lake to see the lights blazing at the former Leslie Frost Centre, which McGuinty shut several years back, purely for political reasons. The Ministry of Natural Resources complex sits there empty, lighted, heated, maintained  and protected by security. It was being managed by the mysterious Ontario Realty Corp., which was shut down last year under a cloud of suspicions.

Time to Say Goodbye

None of the many McGuinty scandals smell of old-fashioned corruption. Just sloppy governance. McGuinty himself is a quiet, respectable guy. Family oriented and all that. However, he has done an abysmal job as a political CEO responsible for ensuring that taxpayer money is spent carefully.

The honourable thing is for McGuinty to fall on his sword and let someone else direct his minority government. Ontario doesn’t need another election. It needs a fresh, dynamic and effective leader who will provide tight financial governance. Few leaders fall on swords anymore. So it’s up to the Liberal caucus to get the Dump Dalton movement going.

Good luck with that, but maybe someone can get it started before the flood of misspent tax dollars washes the province away.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Changing Without Moving to India?

You can get depressed watching the downward spiral of the newspaper industry in Canada. Fewer people read newspapers, job cuts in the industry are constant, news coverage of how we live our lives continues to shrink, and is more callow and shallow.

An industry caught in the headlights
The latest sad news is that Thomson Reuters, the global information and news service, is moving its online news service from Toronto to Bangalore, India. Only five of 23 jobs will remain in Toronto.

Thomson is a Canadian company built by legendary newspaper csar Roy Thomson who operated newspapers across the country and abroad. It sold its newspapers, got into international information sales, then acquired Reuters, the British news service.

The move of the online service says much about something we’ve known for a long time: News is simply an another commodity for making money and news executives now spend more time with balance sheets than they do building a good news report.

Thomson’s move out of actual newspapers in the 1990s was brilliant. It moved into the profitable business of providing data and information to professionals. It left behind a newspaper industry struggling to figure out how to become relevant in a rapidly-changing world.

The important thing to remember about Thomson is that it did something to change. The majority of newspaper companies in North America remain like deer frozen in oncoming headlights. They don’t know what to do, where to go, or what to become. Many are becoming roadside kill.
However, another Canadian is out there making bold moves to get the news business moving again. John Paton, the copy boy who became a major player in Sun Media Ltd., now controls a couple of major print and digital news chains in the U.S. While most newspaper executives continue talk about how to get into online news and make money, Paton has jumped in with both feet.

Paton is changing an industry that has fought change for decades.

The Los Angeles Times recently ran a piece revealing how he deals with people who won’t accept change in the business. At a meeting, a veteran columnist in one of Paton’s news operations told him that the fast moves to online were ruining journalism.

Paton replied: “I read your column. You are ruining journalism.”

Here’s hoping Paton continues to push ahead, changing journalism and the attitudes of the industry’s Neanderthals. And, maybe he can do it without moving it to India.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Dropping the Ball

We all hope a new year will dawn with much brightness, hope and promise of change. Good luck with that this year.

Bishop Lahey
First, Bishop Raymond Lahey, Roman Catholic leader and purveyor of child porn, was freed from jail this week after serving eight months of a 15-month sentence. He was guilty of bringing into the country tens of thousands of pornographic images. Hundreds showed boys forced into sex acts and torture.

A judge sentenced him, then set him free, giving him “double credit” for the eight months served while awaiting trial. The judge bemoaned how onerous it is for judges to balance the crime against the “personal circumstances” of the offender. I thought he would have bemoaned the horrors of the children whose lives have been ruined by pornographic merchants such as Bishop Lahey.

Lahey’s case has further strengthened the feeling on the streets that the powerful and the privileged are easily forgiven for their offences. The underprivileged and the dispossessed are the people who get the real serious punishments.

Also, it has strengthened the feeling, among supporters and non-supporters alike, that the Catholic Church truly is adrift. It recently spent 10 years and huge resources updating its Roman Missal prayer book to become more archaic, more sexist and more elitist than it has been in recent times. Meanwhile, the Vatican has been silent on the Lahey outrages.
Chatty Kathy

The church, and the Canadian justice system, missed an opportunity here to send messages helpful to our anything-goes society. Sentencing Lahey to a few years labour in an isolated convent operated by nuns devoted to the dispossessed would have telegraphed the message that the Catholic Church is urgently working on things that matter. The message from the Canadian justice system would have been that punishment does not need to be either soft or hard. It should be thoughtful, intelligent, innovative, and of course devoid of self-serving references to how onerous sentencing is for our well-paid, privileged judges.

I had a feeling the New Year was off bad start when the ball began to drop at New York’s Times Square. On CNN, hosts Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin were engaged in one of most awkward and silly TV performances ever (and that’s saying something). Then Kathy decided to be really entertaining; she stripped to her bra and panties.

Watching the undressing of a desperate entertainer, who is as attractive as a can of smashed Spaghetti-Os, didn’t fill me with brightness and hope for the New Year.