Reviews

New Hamilton Spectator Format

I'm used to getting something with substance on the front page. Now, just when a story seems to be getting somewhere , it ends with no insight or further depth.

By Jason Leach
Published October 20, 2006

Well, it's been a couple weeks now since the latest Hamilton Spectator format was launched, and I've got to be honest: I do not like this new paper.

I'll start with the positives. Nice to see that the short clips in the business section including a new focus on Hamilton's Port. I've long held the belief that we need to be proud to be a port city and embrace the fabulous industry that is there.

I like the new weather page and I certainly like having more colour pictures.

Now for changes I don't like...

I'm used to getting something with substance on the front page. Now, just when a story seems to be getting somewhere I look at the bottom expecting to see the "continued on page ##" and instead the article is finished. It just ends with no insight or further depth.

I can get small, news hits on CHML and CH TV. I want longer, in-depth reads in the paper. I remember back when we had the Magazine section and even prior to that I would regularly have to pick up the paper later in the day to finish reading it.

Now my wife can't figure out why I still get it delivered, because every day it takes about ten minutes to go through and I end up mumbling about what a waste of money this thing is.

I hate the crime blotter thing. It's unnecessary and only adds to this over-hyped fear of crime in Hamilton.

Overall, I find myself leaning towards ending my subscription sooner than later. I haven't up until now because there is no other paper in town. But with new online magazines and news sites in the city I find that I end up reading all the same stories of importance somewhere else other than the Spec anyhow.

I wish this weren't the case, though.

The Toronto Star is a fabulous paper and I hope the Spec will learn from it in both length, local content, forum pages, in depth coverage and excellent writing.

The Spec has some great writers who could easily match the quality in the Star, but it seems we won't allow them to as we become more of a tabloid.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By A Robot (anonymous) | Posted October 20, 2006 at 20:18:03

Slow news day, or more Burlington envy from the spec eds? That's the only explanation for today's (20 OCT) front page detailing someone's overpriced domicile.

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By Joe (registered) | Posted October 20, 2006 at 21:48:43

Thanks for expressing what I was feeling. I was also extremely disappointed with the latest changes to the Spectator. The front page is, well, plain. So much for promoting Hamilton symbols (e.g. skyway bridge).

You are also correct about the negative impact of the crime blotter--it gives people a false belief that crime rates are getting worse when in fact they have been dropping steadily since the early 1990s.

The short story format seems to move the Spec into the 'Metro' world (free newspaper with short news stories for people who commute to work). If people are too busy to get the whole story, they can stop reading after the first few paragraphs and get all the info they need. The rest of us actually want the whole story.

What makes The Spec unique is its focus on local news stories--I am definitely happier to see more news at this end.

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted October 21, 2006 at 09:49:32

I haven't read the Spec in a while but these changes seem disappointing. I'm surprised at the short story format, it's as if they're 'dumbing it down' - presumably because they feel the readership has neither the time not inclination (nor intelligence?) to read comprehensive coverage...?

I read the Toronto Star now and I have to say this is a MUCH better read that the Spec. Having an articulate thought provoking paper in your town really does make a huge difference. Even with Rosie DiManno - whose opinions are as distant from mine as Drescels - the paper has a good balance (Chris Hume, Joe Fiorito etc) and a fair amount of depth and variety to it's coverage.

It's nice to read a paper that both informs you and makes you think.

Cheers

Ben

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 21, 2006 at 13:22:40

The Star and the Spec are in completely different leagues now.

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By Dundas1 (anonymous) | Posted October 21, 2006 at 20:33:07

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Less Pageantry, More Policy
The issues so far have been lame ducks. Let's hear a mayoral candidate talk about what it is a city leader and municipal government can do to make Hamilton great again.
By Trevor Shaw
Oct. 20, 2006



The mayoral election platforms are starting to take form between Larry Di Ianni and Fred Eisenberger. Di Ianni has come out of the gates championing poverty and economic development in the form of 1,000 jobs a year. Eisenberger has chosen sprawl as well as the economy for his issues.

While poverty is an important issue in Hamilton, there’s hardly anything a municipality can do about it. It sounds good, however, when a politician talks about helping children living in poverty. It has everything except 'kissing the baby'.

Poverty is a fundamental problem that is out of reach of the local political scope of authority. We aren’t a city-state, so other then sending the issue upstairs to the corner office at Queen’s Park there isn’t much a mayor can do.

It's an issue for the Province or Ottawa, with their mandates of tax structure, minimum-wage, employment opportunity, and education. They are the ones holding the bag on poverty. The roundtable discussions are good for getting the issue in the open, but you don’t become a mayor of a city to end poverty.

Di Ianni has left many things unfinished from his first term. I would prefer he focused on what he started: downtown safety, the halfway house, downtown development, and Lister Block. I’ve heard nothing about downtown this time. Does anybody remember we have a big problem with a Halfway House neighbouring a high-school?

As for 1,000 jobs a year, where are these jobs going to be? In the big box developments at Clappison's Corners, Meadowlands East, Mud Street, and Centre Mall? He's caving to requests for zoning changes from employment lands to residential, unless the plan is for retail minimum-wage jobs.

What about our roads? Drivers in Hamilton think they’re in the Wild West, and can you blame them? The roads are practically lawless. If you only drive 10 km over the speed limit be prepared for some good old road-rage for driving too slow. We have had 21 traffic fatalities so far this year and that’s with many people afraid even to walk anywhere.

Cyclists and pedestrians are putting their lives in danger by doing something that should be totally safe and acceptable in a city. Di Ianni’s fifty new police officers won’t have any impact on public safety unless they are out of their cars and walking the beat downtown. Rudolph Giuliani cleaned up New York by stationing cops on every corner in New York and it worked.

Eisenberger has positioned himself as an agent of anti-sprawl – a good issue indeed. However, the Ontario Greenbelt legislature should have already put us past this. Unfortunately, Hamilton has been sprawl as usual, despite the Greenbelt and Places To Grow Act. Sprawl should be a done deal, except many developers still want to profit from farmland they speculated on 20 years ago.

Maybe Eisenberger’s anti-sprawl platform would be better served if it were communicated as pro-density and educated Hamilton citizens that their real estate would have real, sustainable value, not artificially inflated, because there’s real value in a dense urban city with transit options and real employment within the city limits.

Eisenburger will have a difficult job selling this. Density is a four letter word in Hamilton, in part because the housing developers’ marketing and public relations have convinced Hamiltonians that neighbourhoods, walking, cycling, public transit and even townhouses are undesirable. Heaven forbid someone who likes to take a bus, walk, cycle, socialize with neighbours and wants to live in a semi-detached house.

At least Eisenberger is talking about downtown and public safety. Without a thriving downtown and urban neighbourhoods, we will become a faceless city, a Buffalo that is dominated by its suburbs, strip-malls, fry-pits, box-stores, and McHouses. It should be the number one issue in every municipal election until it is fixed. If we need two police officers stationed on every downtown corner to rid the perception of crime (real or otherwise) and make people and businesses safe, then do it.

The issues so far have been lame ducks. Let’s hear a mayoral candidate talk about what it is a city leader and municipal government can do to make Hamilton great again. No city is defined by its suburbs and box stores. A city is defined by its downtown; it’s called the ‘heart’ of the city for a reason.

It pumps out prosperity or it pumps out decay to the entire region. Yes, even Ancaster will benefit from a healthy downtown Hamilton. I ask that the candidates stop acting like a Miss Universe contestant and telling people what they want to hear and show us doable vision and a game plan for greater Hamilton.

Trevor lives with his family in Hamilton and works as a graphic designer. He has been a driving force in creating this website, and he brings professionalism and an artistic flair to the group.

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By Dundas1
Posted 10/21/2006 8:31:44 PM

I used to subscribe to the Spectator but I stopped last year. I only buy the weekend editions now. I remember getting the paper delivered to me faithfully to my doorstep. However, I also remember being regularly dissapointed by the content. The stories were either too short and/or very superficial. There was little insight around civic issues I cared about such as mass transit, city planning, and having more community events downtown. I remember buying the Star a couple of weeks ago for Hume's article. It was smart, insightful, and relevant to me.

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By peter (anonymous) | Posted October 21, 2006 at 23:15:12

i cancelled my subscription to the spec over a year ago and miss only 2 things about it: the hockey stats on tuesday and the daily crossword/sudoku. it's a right-wing rag that offers no incite about the city and has next to no redeeming qualities whatsoever. it's not going to change without a serious internal reeming starting at the top and working its way down. the same can be said of our only tv station...a total embarrassment. i can no longer tolerate its dumbed-down version of the news and its pirated american 'news' stories. i find that i can lead a very well-informed existence without those two media outlets. as far as its format is concerned, they ought to just make it a tabloid style paper and get it over with.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 22, 2006 at 09:23:17

Normally, when a big media entity buys up a local paper, fears abound that the new owner will impose its values on its new acquisition. When Torstar bought the Spec from Sun Media in 1999, I actually hoped this would happen. Alas, it looks like Torstar has been pretty hands-off in letting the Spec manage its affairs locally.

Unfortunately, the Spec's busines model is literally to appeal to affluent suburban women, since most of its revenue comes from the suburban homebuilding industry, new cars, furniture and large consumer durables, and consumer electronics. The people who pay for the paper - the advertisers - get what they want - access to their most likely customers.

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By architect critic (anonymous) | Posted October 23, 2006 at 09:44:54

That giant house (Riemer) on the front page proved one thing. Even with unlimited money, builder connections and a desire to build a 'mansion' people still can't build a decent looking mansion that compares anywhere to the castles in Durand.

The shlocky, fake green window shutters and cheezy unbroken brick made that house look like any middle class house but just big. The keystoning is the same proportions of any regular 2000 sq ft house. It is so ugly, the dinky bell tower is not proportioned well, the odd angles give the impression of an unplanned house. A 'design your own dissaster' house. I don't know what's with the strange 'cyclops' eyeball tri-window over the main entrance, the cheap drainspouts running from the roof, and the stupid arched brick entrance. I don't know who designed that, but that house is pathetic, an embarassment to today's millionaires and builders. It seems like they really can build things like they used to.

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By Helen Highwater (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2006 at 14:57:58

I agree whole-heartedly with all your comments. I too am getting very close to cancelling my subscription. I would only add that my particular peeve is the 'Top of the World' page 4 photospread where human tragedies are given equal billing with cutesy human interest stories. Hmmm. What's more important, Darfur or puppies? I don't know! I can't decide! It's all just wallpaper!

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By peter (anonymous) | Posted November 02, 2006 at 20:51:04

darfur vs puppies

i dunno. do i really have to make a decision? i'll take puppies, please.

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By ratsroT (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2009 at 10:18:05

Torstar has brought the fools from the Spec into their world, resulting in the Star becoming an embarresment. Well done, Zavarise! Now female employees at the Star will have to fight for basic rights like equal pay for equal work, like they did at the good ol' Spec. What year is it in this guy's world?

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By Cablekid (anonymous) | Posted May 05, 2009 at 11:35:54

I like the new Spectator profile. My husband and I read the local stories together, and it makes Hamilton a little more important to our daily lives-builds bridges; encouraging more community participation. I also like the Police Blotter. It makes the public aware of particular crimes in the city and how to avoid becoming a victim.(including which areas to avoid where serious crimes are happening.) I get my information from diverse sources-tv, newspaper, the internet. I seek global news on the net,and television, local news and stories, classifieds, and home and family oriented material in the paper. I really like the Spec online and when it becomes necessary will subscribe.
from Cablekid in the Hammer

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