A very, very interesting concept from Pittsburgh sports writer Dejan Kovacevic

21 Jul

Dejan Kovacevic, one of Pittsburgh’s most trusted names in sports journalism, is taking his personal brand in a new direction: he’s detaching himself from the Steel City’s legacy news outlets and starting up his own site.

As reported by the Pittsburgh Business Times, Kovacevic, who’s accumulated 55,000 Twitter followers, is convinced that the following he’s built over the years, writing for both the Post-Gazette and the Tribune Review, will go with him to his new site.

“I believe in the readership that I have,” said Kovacevic. “They’d followed me once from the PG over to the Trib. And I believe that there’s enough of a connection there that the more diehard Pittsburgh sports fan will follow again to this platform.”

The key here is that he’s going to charge a subscription rate, running between $1.50 and $4 a month, depending on how long a subscriber signs on for. He’s taking a huge gamble, hoping that the people who’ve come to know his work – many of whom were likely getting his work for free – will now be willing to fork over a small sum to keep it going.  (He’s also going to sell ads, but there’s still so little money in those that his subscriptions will have to pay the bills in the short term.)

But like many, he’s going with the metered paywall model, allowing readers to access up to 10 articles per month. Depending how much he files, that could be as much as a third of his monthly output. Most beat reporters these days write 1 or 2 stories per day, five days a week, so Kovacevic’s plan to write 3 or 4 columns per week plus bits and pieces seems a little light but he’s clearly putting his money where his mouth his, believing that what he has to say is much more important than how often he says it.d

Speaking from a web-traffic point of view, he’s got a chance. Given how many page views he’s suggested (in the millions, which seems accurate), he’s not unlike several of my colleagues here at the Province, who we’ve learned drive traffic as much by their name as they do by their stories. There are a couple easy traffic-driving tick-boxes for us: one is name, the other is team. A Canucks story will always do best. Lions and Whitecaps are well beneath the hockey team, even in the dead of summer, while everything else lies far beneath. Every once in a while a compelling story with a good headline grabs our readers’ attention, but it’s the authors, on the whole, who drive traffic.

This is a project worth watching.

A quick thought on this “Day of Honour”

9 May

Reading the Globe and Mail this morning – yes I still get it delivered – I found myself contemplated a full-page ad for Lockheed Martin.

LM, in case you missed it, is one of the world’s biggest arms manufacturers.

“Today we join all Canadians in the recognition of the strength and courage of our Canadian Armed Forces and the families of the fallen who sacrificed so much in the pursuit of peace and stability in Afghansitan,” the message reads.

Is that what the campaign was about, in the end? At some point it was about regime change. Then it had something to do with eliminating the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Then it was about securing Kandahar in general.

It was in “pursuit” – which is a fine way to say, “well, that didn’t really work.”

Hardly as noble as the purpose of the Second World War; or for the muddled peacekeeping period.

There was a notion for a time of nation building, that at the end of all of NATO’s efforts in Afghanistan, a new, thriving nation would exist. It’s fair to say that’s not the case. Afghanistan is a mess. For much of its history its been a mess. There was something of a golden age in the 60s and 70s, before the Soviet intervention began a 30-plus year period of chaos, full of foreign meddling, but even that was far from a dream period.

We are left asking – what was the point? Was the Taliban removed from power? Yes. That’s a good thing. Was Al-Qaeda fundamentally altered in its behaviour? Sort of. Its power structure was radically altered but extremists of their ilk continue to exist the world over. They’ve mostly been displaced.

Are Afghans better off now than they were in 2001? Sort of. As it stands, women aren’t faced with draonian laws. But there are plenty of examples where women’s rights are a joke.

So why did 158 Canadians lose their lives? We live in a world where working for what’s right is never easy. Canada’s motivation was mostly virtuous. The execution of that virtue is debatable, but the spirit was there.


Back to that original statement, the “peace and stability in Afghanistan” angle. I’ve not been there, I’m only going off reports, but is Afghanistan more peaceful than it was before Operation Enduring Freedom? It doesn’t sound like. Is it more stable? Well, there’s a national government but there are still plenty of ethnic divisions. There’s certainly more infrastructure than there was – but how long will it stay in good repair? How long until corruption destroys all the good work?

You can’t assess decisions by their results – you can only assess them by their process. The original move to join the US-lead invasion by the Chretien government was the right one. I agreed with it at the time. I agree with it now. It’s what came after that I always questioned. It’s awfully hard to argue that guns could deliver peace – and make no mistake about it, that was the approach here.

Maybe there was no choice. Security had to be established. The only way to do that was to use the finest fighting forces available; that wasn’t really a choice, given all the weapons the Taliban and Al-Qaeda were hoarding. It was either the repression of everyone by extremists or having those same extremists take pot shots at NATO soldiers.

What an ugly choice.


Is the nation further along? Again, look at that pairing. I suppose it is. But the cost was heavy. Maybe we should talking about how hard this all is, and remember our dead for that.

Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto denies any involvement with Bitcoin

17 Mar

According to a letter his lawyer sent to Reuters’ Felix Salmon, anyway…

The plot thickens…

(In case you missed it, Newsweek made a bit splash almost two weeks ago when they featured Mr. Nakamoto in their cover story, alleging he was the creator of the original source code for the online crypto-currency Bitcoin.)

Yup, I was on CBC Radio’s On the Coast

14 Mar

Yup, that’s my pal Dimitri Filipovic from Canucks Army and I talking about the Canucks debacle…

Listen here on CBC On The Coast’s website

When silence is good: my year

31 Dec

What a year, friends. I’ve not written in this space not because I’ve been uninspired, but because, as so many of you know, I’ve been so damn busy!

That’s what happens when you land the job of your dreams. I’m six months in – with six months to go on the current contract – and I’m happy where I’ve landed.

I’ve got fantastic colleagues. We have struggles with our equipment, struggles with corporate issues, but through it all, the people are amazing. Every day we come to work, and every day we pump story after story after story out. Some are mundane but many are not. Seeing us operate the magnifying glass and revealing society to itself has to be the most fascinating thing I’ve ever witnessed.

I like being a teacher. I love being a journalist.

So, a few moments of thanks, looking back at a year which started with frustration but ended with plenty of joy.

Thanks to everyone who believed in me as the year opened – my friends and family who knew what I could be and encouraged me to keep fighting forward, even as the struggle seemed too high a mountain. I took a crazy path to my current job, but I got there and it’s the belief others showed in me that powered me there.

Thanks to everyone who read my stories, be they hockey fans, rugby fans, politicos and otherwise. The feedback tells me that people care. That’s why I do it. Because you all care, because you all want to know.

Thanks to everyone who pushed me to be better, who knew that I was capable of so much more, that each step mattered and that I shouldn’t fear taking those steps.

Thanks to all the people I’ve interviewed in the past year – most of you don’t know who I am, but some do – you are all fascinating and each of you has taught me something about my practice. I’m still learning how to be a journalist (will I ever stop? I doubt it…) and each question, each answer, shows me something new.

Thanks to all of you who engage with my chatter, whether it’s legitimate or not. I love to spar with words and I love to hear what other people have to say. It helps me sort out all the wild ideas that race through my mind at all hours of the day.

Thanks to the players who showed up to my practices. I love coaching and I love seeing young athletes succeed. Ask a a coach why they do it – it’s always because of the players.

Thanks to the random students I’ve encountered. I’ve learned so much from you, about what growing up is like, about how our society works, about what questions people ask, about why people are how they are as adults.

Thanks to everyone I love and to everyone who loves me back. It’s way more fun striving to make the world a better place, no matter how risky that might be, than it is to cover ourselves up and hide. Fear sucks; love doesn’t.

Have a great 2014 everyone.

BC Election aftermath: the things that scare me

14 May

Beyond the ‘who won, who lost’ aspect – three things that scare the crap out of me in the wake of the election – these go beyond party lines.

48 per cent voter turnout

That’s shocking. Voters have been so turned off by government that most of them stayed home. They don’t feel the impact of politics, they don’t like the rhetoric, whatever it is, our system is broken. People don’t care. Maybe that’s not really an issue, that our modern age is so straightforward that it doesn’t matter, but there are so many things around the edges. Those things around the edges are what end having huge impacts on our lives.

You can do all the math you want on how many British Columbians *actually* voted for Christy Clark, but the problem is deeper than that.

*Update (1:50 p.m.) – since the first numbers were reported last night, Elections BC has upped their turnout estimate to about 52 percent, a touch above 2009′s turnout. That’s still worst in the country.

Climate change.

Other than the Greens, no party truly talked about it. Both the NDP and the BC Liberals paid lip service to the environment, effectively seeking to frame it under short-sighted ‘business as usual’ rhetoric. Not once did oil itself enter into the discussion. There was no question that it will continue to flow and that our energy needs will continue to be powered by the black stuff. It was all made more ugly given our passing the global 400 ppm barrier last week.

‘Resources! Resources! Resources!’ has been the cry, to varying degrees, meanwhile the world is already burning up and Richmond will be under water before we know it. Sticking our heads in the sand won’t cut it anymore. Life needs to change; it’s going to change one way or another.


Clark’s victory speech mentioned hospitals, schools and roads.

A significant portion of the Lower Mainland travels in other ways and many of those people are BC Liberal voters. I live in a community that is already overwhelmed by traffic. There are clear transit needs – not just ‘solutions’ – right in front of me and that’s not going to happen. (Also, see item 2.)

I hope I’m wrong about this stuff and that our premier does what she says she’ll do – lead. That means taking the bull by the horn and getting the right thing done. In her campaign, she spent a lot of time talking about what British Columbians care about; I hope she’s really been listening.

The amazing impact of a false tweet about Barack Obama

23 Apr


That’s a momentary drop of 100 points in the Dow average, all because of a tweet from the main Associated Press twitter account that said there’d been two explosions at the White House and that the President was injured.

Is Doug MacLean done at Sportsnet?

9 Apr

File this under ‘stupidest things Doug MacLean has ever said’…

Not funny, Doug.

(Update at 11:41 am PT: it occurs to me that perhaps I should quickly fill in context…Who is Doug MacLean? He’s an ex-NHL GM who works as a studio analyst for Rogers Sportsnet. Who is Hazel Mae? Hazel is a veteran *female* broadcaster who has worked for Sportsnet in Canada and also for NESN in the USA. When did he say this? As part of the opening of today’s edition of Hockeycentral at Noon, a Sportsnet radio program produced in Toronto for The Fan 590 and simulcast across Canada on cable tv.)

At TBird Stadium for UBC v Cal Berkeley.

24 Mar

At TBird Stadium for UBC v Cal Berkeley. Lineups to follow…

First Nations to Kits Coast Guard to First Nations to…Connect the dots

24 Feb

Photo courtesy Native Village

A very interesting bit from Sam Cooper in the Sunday edition of The Province.

Cooper’s story adds to the already tangled tale of the highly-controversial closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Base last week. Vancouver city councillor Kerry Jang and BC Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair both have comments in the piece; Sinclair had revealed the internal federal government memo to Global News on Friday, but Jang added the First Nations element on Saturday.

Two items from Cooper’s story:

In separate interviews Saturday, both told The Province the memo appears to explain the puzzling politics behind the Kits base closure.

“The closure was all so sudden and dramatic,” Jang said.

“It seems like the federal government is pushing the closure of the base so that they can make a land deal, so they can get revenue and balance their books, at the expense of safety of Vancouver mariners.”


The federal memo to which Jang refers, also obtained by The Province, says federal agencies have “presented the First Nation equity proposal for the Jericho Beach, Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and RCMP site,” in a land negotiation that the government wants to wrap up by May or June 2013.

“This proposal unlocks the value of these properties for the economic benefit of all parties … [and the negotiation must establish] a joint-venture agreement between First Nations and Canada Lands Company which will capture the nature of the partnership,” says the memo, which does not identify the First Nations involved.

There are three nations that have laid past claims on the area; in 2002 the Skwxwúmesh won a court case ceding land underneath and adjacent to the Burrard Bridge, re-establishing what is known as Kitsilano Indian Reserve no. 6. It had taken twenty five years for the case to be resolved.

Image from UBC Indigenous Foundations

The yellow shaded area consists of land that was formerly used by the Canadian Pacific Railway as a right-of-way for rail traffic in and around False Creek, up until the late 1970s.

Since winning their case – which also featured counter-claims by the Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Nations – the Skwxwúmesh haven’t done much with the land, beyond installing a video advertising board on the north side of the bridge. The land is otherwise overgrown and gated off.

This is where things get tricky. If you look carefully at the map above, you can make out the rough outline of the largest extent of the reserve, as it existed in 1877. Beginning in 1899, that land began to be chipped away. In fact, in an odd twist, the east-west leg of the current claim is actually the first section of land expropriated from the original reserve, to build the original CPR line. There was a rail trestle that connected to the strip and was only demolished in 1982.

There was a native community on the land until, beginning in 1913, the residents began to be coerced from their land. The booming grounds of False Creek made for a growing sawmill industry and the southern end of the reserve was sold to a logging company. Residents were moved elsewhere in the Lower Mainland.

A number of those displaced residents moved to the Musqueam reserve on the south edge of Point Grey – this explains the more modern interest by the Musqueam nation in determining the status of the reserve.

In subsequent years, the land was used chiefly by the Department of National Defence. After the Second World War, the Department of Indian Affairs got the Skwxwúmesh council to surrender their rights to the land so that it could be sold off.

So, the Skwxwúmesh hold land adjacent to the coast guard base; the coast guard base sits on land that was formerly reserve land; current members of the Musqueam nation would seem to have ancestral connections to this same land, though they don’t currently have a legal status to it; and though the Tsleil-Waututh also made a counter-claim, logic points to the land deal alluded to in the email being with the Skwxwúmesh.

A story from Business in Vancouver from June 2012:

Squamish First Nation (SFN) plans for two multi-storey towers on eight acres of reserve land at the south end of Burrard Bridge are rai sing concerns because the band has thus far said little about the project.

“We don’t have anything for an interview,” the SFN spokeswoman Krisandra Jacobs told Business in Vancouver. “Our department of intergovernmental relations, natural resources and revenue [is] reviewing the project, so we don’t have an update.”

Some fear that construction on the project, which is expected to include one 35-storey and one 28-storey tower, is set to start next year and will affect area residents when hundreds of future residents use city services.

From that same story:

Because the SFN is one of a number of Canadian native bands covered by the First Nations Land Management Act, it doesn’t require civic approval for development on that land or its reserve land near the Burrard Bridge.

So what are we left with? The Feds have a land deal they apparently want to seal up, apparently with a First Nation and there’s already a First Nation with development plans in the area.

You figure it out.


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