Friday, March 31, 2017

Another Earth Hour Has Come And Gone... But Did Anyone Notice?

This past Saturday night, many participated in Earth Hour. For one hour a year, so called "progressives" turn back the clock 200 years and turn off their lights for an hour in name of fighting climate change. I love pointing out on twitter every year that it's ALWAYS Earth Hour in North Korea

Is it me or does this event become more of a non-event every year? Earth Hour started in Sydney Australia in 2007 and went international the following year. As I recall, in the days leading up the the big day, there was quite a bit of media coverage in those first few years but as each year passed, the coverage seemed to dwindle. This past Saturday I didn't even know about it until it was mentioned on my local newscast Saturday morning.

Not that I participate in Earth Hour or anything. Quite frankly, it's a huge waste of time. Just another example of what I call "SLACKtivism". Those people who think changing a Facebook picture after a terrorist attack or putting some inspirational quote in their e-mail signature somehow changes the world. Of course, nothing really gets achieved. Forget the fact that burning a candle is far worse for the planet than burning a light bulb.

As each year passes, statistics on how much power was reduced seems to be harder to come by. The only province where stats are readily reported on is British Columbia. Reports from Toronto suggest this year's earth hour may have been the worst ever. A newspaper in the Niagara area suggested people participated this year however they failed to compare it to previous years. Last year, media in my city were all too eager to hype up earth hour ahead of time but failed to report on how we did after the fact. So I decided to tweet my local power company on numbers locally here in Kitchener and they got back to me about 12 hours later. What? No one in the local media could have bothered to do that? I'm not a reporter... I'm a nobody and they easily got me the answer I wanted. The reality is, the media rarely report on anything unless someone bothers to send them a press release. You know earth hour is getting really bad when even the media doesn't seem to care anymore.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Canada's Alert Ready System Needs Improvement

This past weekend in Ontario, we had an Amber Alert issued. And although the child was found safe and sound, there are some things that need major improvements.

Last year, Canada's "Alert Ready" system was rolled out, this is similar to the "Emergency Broadcast System" that has been in the United States for many decades now. This system uses traditional radio and television signals to inform people of important events such as severe weather, terrorist threats and Amber Alerts just to name a few.

Now, the Amber Alert system has been in place for quite a while now and the new alert ready system is another way to get the message out there. Prior to now, it would be up to the individual radio and TV stations to broadcast this information. This new alert ready system is an attempt to get information out faster and more efficiently by having important information broadcast on all media outlets at the exact same time. These alerts will interrupt the broadcast that you are watching or listening to. Some people have complained about this. That's not what this article is about. This article is about getting information out EFFECTIVELY.

On Sunday night, we had an Amber Alert issued for a missing child here in Ontario. Here is what the alert looked like on news websites and other social media:

Police: Toronto Police Service

Child : 3 month old baby boy, short dark hair,

Abductor: Male white, 20-25 years old. Short blond hair, 5 foot 11 inches, medium build

Vehicle: Tan colored 4 Door 1997 Toyota Camry, Ontario # BWRC 161

Location last observed: Northbound Highway #27 at Albion Road

If observed call 911
Looks pretty good right? Yes it does. Unfortunately, trying to get this information out via Broadcasts was a complete disaster. Here is the audio version as this alert sounded if you heard it on TV or radio:

So many things wrong here. What did the guy say? Of course it wasn't a real guy, it was obviously some text to speech system. And as you can hear, the numbers weren't translated correctly. The 1997 model year was transcribed to "one thousand, nine hundred ninety seven". And the best part, if you see this vehicle, call "September 1st, 2001". On top of that, this alert aired only ONCE. Imagine driving in your car and hearing this on the radio. Before you can really grasp what is going on, the alert is over and is never repeated. I have other beefs with the way this was all handled, I covered it this week on my podcast.

This system was in development for a few years before it rolled out. I have a hard time believing that somewhere along the way, someone didn't think to put some test text into the system to hear how it sounded.

I really hope improvements can be made to this system. Even though this was mandated by the government, it's still good to have as many venues as possible to get vital information out there. Perhaps the private sector could have pulled this off more efficiently.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Politicians Missing a Huge Opportunity To Reach Young Voters

By now you may have heard about this news story over the weekend where a VICE news reporter was denied an opportunity to ask Stephen Harper a question during a campaign stop in eastern Ontario. If you haven't heard, take a look... it's a good read. And this coming from someone who doesn't always read an entire news article before he gets bored.

Here's a brief synopsis:

We all know about Stephen Harper's policy of only taking 5 questions from the media during his election campaign stops. Well, during a campaign stop in Ontario this weekend, VICE news reporter Justin Ling noticed there were only 4 other reporters present. Justin asked Harper's media people to inquire if he could have that 5th question. Long story short... Harper only took 4 questions. As it turns out, the 5 questions aren't just random pickings. 1 question is reserved for local media (who are only permitted to ask a local question) and the other 4 questions go to established traditional media outlets. So if you're an independent reporter or work for a smaller news organization like VICE... you're out of luck. But here's the kicker... those established media outlets have paid to be on the Harper bus.. $3,000 a day (or about $78,000 for the whole campaign). So in other words... reporters have PAID to be there. Justin only wanted to ask a question about foreign policy. Instead, he was passed over in favour of the established reporters who only seem to ask about the Mike Duffy trial these days.

Money talks I guess. I hope I'm not the only one deeply concerned here. Furthermore, what does it say about our established media that it took a smaller media outlet for this dirty secret to come out? Clearly, this has been going on for quite some time and the mainstream news outlets have gladly and quietly ponied up the cash. Apparently, only the Conservatives require a cover charge to gain elite access to their campaign bus. But just as bothersome, is the fact that smaller news outlets and bloggers are being shut out completely. A huge opportunity is being missed here, many young people get their news exclusively from online news sources like VICE. If politicians and their political parties want to reach younger voters their attitude has to change.

But, there's a little epilogue to this tail. NDP leader Tom Mulcair has been criticized this campaign for often taking NO questions at all. Mulcair was campaigning in Kitchener yesterday and stoped by a local radio talk show. He was asked about Harper's lack of transparency and being closed off to the media. As expected, Mulcair ripped into Harper, despite the fact that he failed to take any listener questions during his scheduled 25 minute interview. I say 'scheduled' because the NDP leader showed up late! And then proceeded to leave early, leaving the talk show host an extra 3 minutes to fill until the commercial break. I find it hilarious that Tom Mulcair had the nerve to attack Harper calling him "Arrogant" yet he himself showed up late... left early... and didn't take any phone calls from the public.

Now, I'm not defending Harper. The way he's treating the media during this campaign is disgusting. But really, this seems to be an indication that all these guys are exactly the same. Politicians will NEVER put your interests ahead of their own. All of this talk about voting for 'change' is really just a smoke an mirrors show. For small c Conservatives like myself, there really is no mainstream option for smaller government anymore... assuming there actually was to begin with.