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news

Kicking Themselves in the Astral

052208astral_goldsbie.jpg
Remember last week, when Marc Lostracco took a look at Astral’s final street furniture prototypes and promised that “Torontoist’s Jonathan Goldsbie will have a more in-depth analysis of the new street furniture next week”?
Well, there’s been a slight problem. On Wednesday night, Astral Media invited BIAs (Business Improvement Areas) to a sneak preview of the new furniture. Goldsbie—Street Furniture Campaign Coordinator of the Toronto Public Space Committee, and an open critic of Astral in the past—was invited to the preview by Maggie O’Connor, founder and chair of the Old Cabbagetown BIA’s public space committee. Goldsbie was to serve as a representative of the BIA, the preview an opportunity to let him give the furniture a look in person before passing judgement. He wouldn’t get a chance to: though he arrived with O’Connor and two other executives of the Old Cabbagetown BIA (Chair Paul Dineen and Coordinator Doug Fisher), upon giving his full name, Goldsbie was promptly barred from entering by Astral Outdoor’s Vice-President of Development & Operations, Luc Beaulieu.
Goldsbie’s frustrating story is over on Eye‘s (brand new) blog, Toronto Notes. But here’s the kicker: Astral not only made a potentially disastrous public relations move by blocking Goldsbie, they didn’t even do it successfully. Goldsbie got photos and details of the street furniture from O’Connor, who made it inside, and who, by the way, has decided that Astral’s street furniture won’t work for Old Cabbagetown—she “couldn’t find any value” in them. Whoops.
Washroom prototype image courtesy of Astral Media.

CORRECTION: MAY 21, 2008
This article originally named Maggie O’Connor as the “founder and chair of the Old Cabbagetown BIA”—in fact, she is the founder and chair of the Old Cabbagetown BIA’s public space committee. Torontoist apologizes for the error.
CORRECTION: MAY 26, 2008
This article originally said that Astral Media Outdoor President Luc Sabbatini barred Goldsbie from entering. It was, in fact, Luc Beaulieu, Astral Media Outdoor’s Vice-President of Development & Operations, who did so; Goldsbie accidentally named the wrong Luc to us, and we reported that mistake. Torontoist apologizes for the error.

Comments

  • andrew

    Funny!
    But what does Astral care? Haven’t they already won the bid? Why would this prove disastrous? How would it prove disastrous?

  • Kevin Bracken

    Agreed, even bad press is press!
    What a bunch of jackasses.

  • TokyoTuds

    A companies fear of facing their critics shows how weak they are, not how strong.
    We need alternate views in order to better understand an issue. In the context of ciivic duty, this street furniture topic is important and I for one would like to have heard Goldsbie’s full report. Now I have my back up against Astral on principle.
    Cheers,
    Tuds

  • Svend

    My first thought is that “Amigo” sounds a bit too intimate and chummy for a public washroom.
    Then maybe it’s pronounced “ahhhh, me go”, like the sound of relief after holding it in too long.
    Also, did they pick the Monopoly game font on purpose?

  • x_the_x

    This is silly. He was at the meeting to gather information to attack the company. His attacks on the company are voluminous (and tedious, but I digress). Whatever name was on his badge, he was there as a member of his activist group and for that purpose. His activism affects their economic interests. I wouldn’t have let him stay either.
    To put it another way, if he had RSVP’d under his own name, he knows he would not have been admitted. Why should he be admitted because he tried to sneak in under a different banner?
    This is activism 101, as old as Roger and Me. Try and get in to some place you know you are not welcome and then report the story of how you were denied entry, which not coincidentally seeks to depict the other guy as arbitrary and evil, so the rest of the anti-corporate movement can congratulate themselves for their views. At least Roger and Me was funny.
    I also find it funny when the anti-corporate brigade takes steps to scold a corporate party for its bad public relations. One would think it would be a celebration.
    I hope that now he is street furniture columnist or some other irrelevancy for the eye blog we can be spared some of that work here.

  • David Topping

    A correction to the article: Maggie O’Connor is the founder and chair of the Old Cabbagetown BIA’s public space committee, not the whole BIA. I’ve made the change and will append a formal correction to the article the moment I can.

  • Miles Storey

    I agree that bad press probably won’t matter a damn to them, since they have the contract, but how utterly pointless and desperately petty and futile, childish even.
    Everyone has critics, especially a company in this business, but this was a community consultation event, shutting them out is only guaranteed to raise their ire. If they’d let Goldsbie in his report could have been better informed, couldn’t have been more critical, the president of the company wouldn’t have revealed as an ass, and we might actually be talking about the furniture itself.

  • Mark Ostler

    X: The post clearly states that Goldsbie was *invited* by O’Connor. And if he were truly trying to sneak in, why would he give his own name? Why wouldn’t he make up a fake name, something some journalists have been known to do to get good stories?
    Anyone who had knowledge of the event knew that he wouldn’t be allowed in because he was not part of a BIA (unless invited, as he was), just as I would not have been allowed in, despite having never publicly criticized Astral or its furniture. The post doesn’t say he forced himself to get invited.
    And if Astral invited members of Toronto’s BIAs, they shouldn’t bar a member of a BIA (who’s been invited) just because they don’t like their opinions. If that was their plan, why didn’t they screen everyone at the door to see how they felt about Astral or the furniture?

  • Marc Lostracco

    As in the way they threatened to sue IllegalSigns.ca for tattling on them, Astral is treating this whole thing like a private procedure between agency and client. That’s all fine and good, but what they aren’t seeing on a PR basis is that this is a public project and controlling and shutting out criticism in this case just reinforces all the negative stereotypes that they already enjoy. If people already see you as opportunistic, monopolistic douchebags (which I don’t, BTW), then don’t act even more douchebaggy by broadcasting your contempt for the public as if they’re some pesky fly that keeps buzzing around your exorbitant feast.
    Nobody wins more in this 20-year exclusive deal than poor, put-upon Astral Media, so suck it up, Sabbatini and crew. Stop acting like thin-skinned brats and wield your power like the rich corporate behemoth that you are.

  • Ryan L

    I agree with X the X. No matter what, Johnathan was going to make critical remarks. If they let him in, he’d criticize the furniture, the company and the whole event. Does anyone really think if he was let in that he’d say “Oh…well, the bike stands aren’t that bad”? Hell, read his response to the incident, he bashes the bike stands via the paraphrased comments of his Cabbagetown friend despite there being nothing at all wrong with them.
    I appreciate people who try to bring issues to the public eye, but Johnathan is up there with Rami for letting their bias completely skew their articles.
    If Astral constructed their street furniture entirely out of wheat paste and spit out money, I’m sure he’d still find a way to criticize it.
    If I were Astral, I’d rather have my image as party hosters be tarnished rather then let someone freely find as many things wrong as possible with their furniture, even if some of those ‘wrong’ things have to be fabricated.

  • james a

    ^ agreed as well. (@ number 10)
    Judging by past articles, I don’t think there’s any doubt that Goldsbie’s only reason for wanting to go was to look for reasons to criticize. When he writes on this subject, it doesn’t take the form of objective reporting, it just takes the form of scathing and biting criticism, every time.
    If I was Astral, I would have done the same thing.

  • rek

    The point of the night was to give BIAs a preview of the furniture, not to give a preview to BIAs who support Astral unconditionally. If they didn’t want critics to show, they should have only invited select people by name and barred all others.
    And what were they thinking anyway? They already have the contract, these things will be on the streets, so what does it matter if Jonathon slams them now or after they launch? Astral has nothing to lose.

  • torontothegreat

    ^^^
    The point of people’s comments is that Jonathan is NOT involved with BIA, he was INVITED by a BIA Member.
    The party was for BIA’s, not BIA’s and all their friends :P Even as an ‘acting representative’ — what a load of BS that is. His name wasn’t on the list and like most places with a guest list (even a bar) it doesn’t matter WHO you are with, get lost, your name is NOT on the list. He was NOT invited.
    It’s clear why Maggie invited him, and I guess Astral is just much smarter than that.
    Does Jonathan even live in Cabbagetown?

  • torontothegreat

    > And if Astral invited members of Toronto’s BIAs, they shouldn’t bar a member of a BIA (who’s been invited) just because they don’t like their opinions.
    They didn’t bar the person that was invited (maggie whats her face), they barred a person that invited a person what wasn’t invited.
    Pretty big difference.

  • andrew

    If Jonathan was a consultant on Public Space issues from Deloitte, or KPMG, or another high-profile consulting agency, this would not have been a problem. Keep in mind, too, that BIA’s spend taxpayer dollars on some public projects. The street furniture program is going to be paid for by tax dollars. I think it would be good to have scrutiny.
    Also, who ratted Jonathan out? Surely the prez doesn’t know TPSC’ers by face!

  • Marc Lostracco

    torontothegreat: But they let in other people who weren’t invited who tagged along with others.
    As for the BIA’s association with Jonathan, I think having a public space/anti-ad activist advise you is a good idea if you’re a BIA, just as it is to have urban planners, design experts, etc. advise you. They don’t have to take his advice, and most people know very little about the process, so it’s good to question things and get educated, especially when there’s a 20-year commitment involved.
    Astral doesn’t like him because he points out things that they don’t want people to notice, whether they’re worth getting worked up about or not.

  • torontothegreat

    >torontothegreat: But they let in other people who weren’t invited who tagged along with others.
    My bad, I didn’t realize that. The article sounded like they didn’t invite him cause he wasn’t invited. If you say others were let in well I guess that’s not fair, although I do understand why they wouldn’t.
    >As for the BIA’s association with Jonathan, I think having a public space/anti-ad activist advise you is a good idea if you’re a BIA
    Doesn’t the article say that Maggie O’Connor is involved with The Public Space Committee? The president of Cabbagetown BIA at that? So why would she need to be ‘advised’ on ‘public space issues’?
    I seem to think it’s pretty clear what his intentions were of being there. Clearly not to ‘advise’ someone that obviuosly has much knowledge on the subject already (enough to reject the furniture).

  • David Topping

    Maggie O’Connor is the founder and chair of a public space committee associated with the Old Cabbagetown BIA. The article says that, but not that she is a “president” of anything, or is an executive at the Toronto Public Space Committee proper.
    I think you’ve misunderstood a great deal of the article. I suggest you read Jonathan’s entire article over at Eye, because if I didn’t make it clear that he was absolutely there was an advisor, he does.

  • torontothegreat

    >Maggie O’Connor is the founder and chair of a public space committee associated with the Old Cabbagetown BIA
    Without splitting hairs on my mis-interpretation of the her being ‘president’…
    If she is the founder of “a public space committee associated with the Old Cabbagetown BIA” Why would she need ‘advisement’ on a ‘public space’ issue?
    Furthermore, if she does need advisement, why did she reject the furniture w/o her ‘advisor’ being present?
    Either way, it makes no sense. It still adds up to Jonathan being present to be a shit disturber rather than trying to paint himself as an ‘advisor’

  • andrew

    Hi! I’m going to start a technology company – but that’s right, because I’m starting a technology company, I don’t need no pesky IT staff. And even if I did have some, unless they are in the room with me, I can’t reject any products I’m offered.
    See how this works, torontothegreat?

  • panko

    Goldsbie’s trials and tribulations aside, just how ugly is that washroom?! Looks like a garden shed with a fancy roof.
    And then: the article concludes by reporting that Maggie couldn’t find any value in having the street furniture in Cabbagetown – does this mean BIA’s >can

  • panko

    (sorry, my comment above got truncated )
    (…) the article concludes by reporting that Maggie couldn’t find any value in having the street furniture in Cabbagetown – does this mean BIA’s CAN reject this stuff and if so, what does this mean to Astral’s contract? (Imagine all BIAs saying NO)

  • torontothegreat

    >Hi! I’m going to start a technology company – but that’s right, because I’m starting a technology company, I don’t need no pesky IT staff. And even if I did have some, unless they are in the room with me, I can’t reject any products I’m offered.
    You completely missed the point :P

  • rek

    torontothegreat has an axe to grind, that much is obvious. Now it’s spilled over to second-guessing everything Maggie did, from inviting Jonathon to forming an opinion on the furniture. Do you work for Astral or the City in some way?

  • Mathew Kumar

    I have a couple of questions:
    Were other press allowed access?
    Did other press write about this event?
    I’ve had my fair amount of difficulties getting in places here and there, as any journalist will, so I reserve judgement on this till I hear so.

  • andrew

    torontothegreat – Is this is an accurate summary of your position, then?
    - A BIA Committee requires no advice on the subject matter it considers and reports to the Board
    - A BIA Committee, or its Chair, cannot make a decision without the presence of an advisor
    I worked for a BIA. I’ve served as the Chair of a Board of Directors. You, however, are an idiot.

  • David Topping

    Another correction to the article: this article originally said that Astral Outdoor President Luc Sabbatini barred Goldsbie from entering. It was, in fact, Luc Beaulieu, AMO’s Vice-President of Development & Operations, who did so. I’ve appended another correction to the article.

  • Jonathan Goldsbie

    Mathew:
    The invitations, as far as I know, were sent to BIA email addresses only. So (unless you count myself), no press made any attempt at entry, as they were not aware of the event. (I had spoken casually to a number of municipal affairs reporters earlier that afternoon, and none had heard about it.)
    Considering the enthusiasm with which they let in my friend who is a constituency assistant for a councillor, despite her both not being invited and not being with a BIA, I think it unlikely that they would have denied entrance to curious journalists, but I of course don’t know for sure. (I really can’t imagine them blocking Christopher Hume from entry, can you?)
    In any case, I considered my writing about the event secondary to my TPSC role as an expert whose presence was requested. Astral did not say anything about press or media or writing about the event when coming up with stated justifications for prohibiting me from coming in.

  • Mathew Kumar

    I think from a personal standpoint, as a person who is a journalist first and foremost, I find your situation rather interesting.
    You see, when you state “Considering the enthusiasm with which they let in my friend who is a constituency assistant for a councillor, despite her both not being invited and not being with a BIA, I think it unlikely that they would have denied entrance to curious journalists”
    I actually think it’s perfectly likely. These kind of companies tend to have an obvious (and firm) line between what is for journalists and not, and in that way I don’t think the Christopher Hume remark is particularly helpful — they very well could have. They could obviously have blocked anyone, as as far as I can see this wasn’t a press event.*
    I don’t really think it matters if you “considered my writing about the event secondary to my TPSC role as an expert whose presence was requested.” or even that “Astral did not say anything about press or media or writing about the event when coming up with stated justifications for prohibiting me from coming in.”
    I wonder, at the door, did you declare you were a journalist, and that it was secondary to your reason to be there – but you were going to write an article about it? If you did and they didn’t consider that reason to bar you, then that’s very interesting indeed!
    You state in the comments of the Eye blog: “I made it known to your colleague that I was intending to write about the event” in reply to Doug Fisher, who said “I wasn’t told that he is a journalist” so I’m not sure you did make who you were completely clear to everyone involved. It’s very important that people know EXACTLY who you are I think, otherwise people throw around accusations that you were trying to sneak in.
    I can’t help but feel that as a result, unavoidably, there seems to be a conflict of interest when you’re invited to an event that isn’t for press and you are press planning on writing about it, EVEN IF you’re going there as an advisor; especially if the people who are putting on the event don’t know that you’re coming in the first place.
    It seems it would be common courtesy to go to an event that isn’t for press and to not write about it and stick to an advisory role, making sure everyone knew who you were to begin with. Accuse me of being to willing to “play the game” if you must.
    I think, in the end, looking at both sides, I don’t see what your problem is with being barred. If I had acted as these two articles make it seem you have, I’d have put up with it.
    *Now, there is an entirely seperate discussion to be had about how larger companies conspire to control their public image, but that is neither here nor there in this discussion, I think.

  • torontothegreat

    @tyrannosaurus_rek
    Why are so many people on this site so paranoid and accusatory of people with a ‘different opinion’?
    No, I don’t work for Astral or the city. I also have no axe to grind. It’s okay for me to have a difference of opinion and politics then say yourself or Jonathan Goldsbie. Or is it? Debating an issue that I’m JUST as passionate about as the autor makes me have ‘an axe to grind’ or be some ‘corporate troll’?
    >- A BIA Committee requires no advice on the >subject matter it considers and reports to the >Board
    >A BIA Committee, or its Chair, cannot make a >decision without the presence of an advisor
    That is not at all what my position is. If someone needs an advisor to make decisions, great! If that same person brings an ‘advisor’ and yet doesn’t actually need to be ‘advised’ on anything, What’s the point of the advisor? In this case, it seems pretty clear to me that the advisor is not actually there to ‘advise’ on anything.
    The intentions are what I’m questioning, not the protocol.

  • torontothegreat

    >In any case, I considered my writing about the event secondary to my TPSC role as an expert whose presence was requested. Astral did not say anything about press or media or writing about the event when coming up with stated justifications for prohibiting me from coming in.
    See this to me is what Astral did wrong. The line is obviously blurred to them as to what is your public work is versus your journalistic work.
    In any case, if they only wanted ‘certain people’ to be there, they really should have made that clear in the invite. They didn’t and therefore had no right to give you the boot.
    I do understand why they would kick you (in particular) out. However, I don’t feel it’s right as they weren’t specific.