We’d love to be flies on the walls of newspaper boardrooms these days. The democratization of information on the internet threw the media companies for a loop, resulting in years of failed attempts to protect that information from the non-paying public. Sites like CNN wanted web readers to pony-up to see video clips, while the Hamilton Spectator previously made their website only accessible to subscribers. Like The New York Times, the Globe and Mail charges for archival articles and what they deem as “premium” content, though the Globe is more restrictive and expensive. As more readers turned to the web for their dose of news and commentary, newspapers were left sitting on rapidly shifting sands.
And then: the blog juggernaut (the bloggernaut?). Though most blogs continue to be narcissistic diaries filled with pictures of people’s cats, there are those like Wonkette, Gawker and The Huffington Post which became immensely influential not only for linking to and commenting on alternative news, but because they allowed reader interaction. It was only relatively recently that the mainstream news sources, late to the party, scrambled to emulate the format and rein back-in their hemorrhaging young (and lucrative) demographic. Slapping the word “blog” on a series of short, repurposed web stories usually comes with mixed results when a media empire is behind it, and they don’t do themselves any favours with uncreative and unwieldy monikers (like Starsportsblog, for example).
Which brings us to Posted Toronto; the brand-new city blog from the National Post.
A local version of the Post‘s recently launched national news blog Posted, corporate parent CanWest is placing Posted Toronto squarely in Torontoist territory, reporting on the tidbits of miscellany around Toronto that would normally fall outside of the mainstream news coverage. Not that we mind—we’re up for some friendly rivalry (and after all, the Post is an advertiser of ours and some Torontoist staffers have worked there. We even think the paper version is quite good and gets a bad rap, mainly as a result of its former leadership by Lord Vader Black).
Whereas the Star‘s blogs seem like hobbled afterthoughts, Posted Toronto comes closer to understanding what a city blog is all about—a simultaneous mix of serious and frivolous observations with a focus on reader involvement. Granted, they likely aren’t able to source photos and writers from the general public (as Torontoist does) lest they run afoul of the Newspaper Guild, but this is to their detriment. The images on Posted Toronto are small, bland and rarely striking, and are often of the file/stock photo variety. Great imagery like the destruction of the Lakeview Generating Station, has to compete with low-res snoozefest images of the Governor General, or more often, with repeating, oversized column nameplate icons that are barely distinguishable from each other. Unfortunately for Posted Toronto, it reinforces the staid image of its origin within the bowels of the Post mothership, along with its Canada.com/National Post redirected URL and page titles.
That’s too bad, since the content is usually pretty good and appropriate enough for a blog format. In fact, some of the posts (and stories in the paper’s The City section) are so good that they appeared a day or two before in Torontoist! To all you folks sitting in your Post cubicle reading this right now—we keed, we keed! And get back to work.
It’s interesting to compare Sketch or Posted Toronto to scrappy little indies like Torontoist and BlogTO. The latter sites, where staff practically work for free, often have their ears closer to the ground and are sometimes able to post the stories before they appear in the mainstream media (the first photos of the ROM or the mobilization behind the Sam’s sign, for example). And though we try to be accurate and fair, blogs like Torontoist also aren’t hard-bound to a set of journalistic principles, which is why we can call Councillor Rob Ford a histrionic poopyhead who smells like rotting asparagus without having to call in the ombudsperson (in the interest of fairness, we have no idea if Rob Ford smells bad at all, despite his undeniable poopyheadedness).
Posted Toronto could also improve with a little more attitude, because you’re nobody until your readers start sending you hate mail, or polarize into a mini-Middle East crisis in the article’s comment section. Just ask us! Or Antonia Zerbisias. We’d have enjoyed some more explicit questions about waxing one’s naughty bits, for example, and there’s so much more douchebaggery that could have been pulled out of Jie’s broke hairstylist ass.
Where the newspaper’s blog excels, however, is in the harder news. Obviously. Their staffers at City Hall can get a nice, quick comment out of the Mayor or City Council, whereas we actually got our Nathan Phillips Square Redesign press kit given to—wait for it—the National Post reporter, who wanted an extra one (which is okay, ’cause who’s coverage was better, suckas?). What ad agency do we have to employ to get some respect over at 100 Queen West, anyway?
Still, we relish the competition, and anything that gets Torontonians off their asses and motivated to care about our city is a good thing. Posted Toronto is a surprisingly solid initial effort. On their own “Toronto Index of Cool,” we give them a +3.