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Friday, January 27, 2017

The Halifax student behind @Trump_Regrets

Why Dan Harmon, Chris Sacca and more are finding solace in Erica Baguma’s social anthropology experiment.

Posted By on Fri, Jan 27, 2017 at 4:00 AM

An assortment of disappointed voters. - VIA TWITTER
  • An assortment of disappointed voters.

“I heartily recommend taking a look at @Trump_Regrets,” writes billionaire tech investor Chris Sacca to his 1.7 million followers on Twitter. “It's cheaper than therapy.”

Countless hot takes have been ignited since November trying to understand how the hell Donald Trump became president of the United States of America. Halifax student Erica Baguma was curious about something else: How would Trump’s supporters feel after he became president and actually got to work?

“Sometimes it's depressing,” says Erica Baguma. “But, I don't know, I find it interesting.” - SUBMITTED
  • “Sometimes it's depressing,” says Erica Baguma. “But, I don't know, I find it interesting.”

That’s why the social anthropology major at the University of King’s College started her @Trump_Regrets account—personally searching the depths of Twitter and manually retweeting any remorseful voters who have changed their minds post-election.

“I was just curious to see how his supporters felt like he was doing,” says Baguma. “I found there was so many people that were already feeling totally disillusioned and betrayed by him. I just thought it was interesting to keep track of it.”

Here's a sample of that disillusionment: “@realDonaldTrump Everytime [sic] u speak I realize I made the BIGGEST mistake of my life voting for you! Get a brain! And a Thesaurus!!”

With only 1,100 tweets, the account has amassed over 72,000 followers. That’s double the amount it had two days ago, largely thanks to celebrity fans like Sacca and Community creator Dan Harmon, along with some media coverage down south.

The most common reason for former supporters feeling contrite? Baguma says up until about a month ago it was Hillary Clinton not being indicted. More recently it’s Trump's tweeting. 

“They thought he’d become more professional, more presidential,” she says.

No such luck.

Instead, the 70-year-old president has spent his first week in office battling with the media and spitting out tirades against protestors, celebrities, immigrants and foreign governments.

Which is why Baguma is really impressed by the people she sees who can admit their mistake—those who aren’t blindly loyal to one side and able to change their minds. It’s comforting, she says, especially given how easy it is to write off any Trump supporters as hate-filled dogmatists.

“A lot of people are just single-issue voters, didn't look at anything else, and then a lot of people really didn't trust the mainstream media,” she says. “I've learned that Trump voters, it's a more nuanced population and they're really diverse. It's not all bigots.”

That's one truth in a sea of alternative facts: It isn't all bigots.

“A lot of people were saying ‘It's just so depressing. I don't want to look.’” says Baguma. So I was surprised that there were a lot of people [changing their minds.] This kind of gives me hope for the first time since the election.”

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Will the Chronicle Herald ever be the same?

Veteran journalists and student interns are wary about the paper's future after a year on the picket line.

Posted By on Mon, Jan 23, 2017 at 10:47 PM

Rallying for local news and the Halifax Typographical Union outside the paper's headquarters on the one-year anniversary of the Herald strike. - THE COAST
  • Rallying for local news and the Halifax Typographical Union outside the paper's headquarters on the one-year anniversary of the Herald strike.

After a full year on the picket line, members of the Halifax Typographical Union are concerned the Chronicle Herald newsroom as they know it will not be able to recover—even if an agreement is met.

Union supporters rallied across the province Monday to show support for the 55 remaining members of the Herald’s unionized newsroom staff.

The union and Chronicle Herald management are meeting again this week, after months without any formal talks, in the hopes of coming to an agreement.

Roger Taylor, business columnist for the newspaper, celebrated his 35th year at the Herald by putting in a four-hour shift on the picket lines last November.

“I’m just looking to get my job back,” says Taylor. “I just want to be able to do my job the way I’ve done it for 35 years—it’s hard to give up.”

Vice president of the HTU Frank Campbell says the union is negotiating on behalf of the 26 employees who’ve been threatened with layoffs, calling the number “a moving target.” Even if all 55 HTU members—down from 62 when the strike started—head back to work with a new contract, Campbell says the reduced number of experienced journalists means the newspaper “obviously can’t be the same as it was.”

There also won’t be any student journalists working at the paper this spring, either. Tim Currie, director of the school of journalism at the University of King’s College, says by email that the department is not authorizing any of its 65 graduating students to intern for the Herald this year because of the “unstable work environment.”

Campbell says he’s enthusiastic about young people becoming journalists but warns any potential Herald interns about crossing the picket line.

“I would say to any young journalist to avoid being a scab because I think that label follows you wherever you go and whatever you do from that point on,” says Campbell.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Chronicle Herald heads back to the bargaining table

Unfair labour complaint adjourned as labour strike marches towards its one-year anniversary.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 11:57 PM

The beginning of the end? - DYLAN CHEW
  • The beginning of the end?

The Halifax Typographical Union and managers at the Chronicle Herald are heading back to the bargaining table, just in time for the one-year anniversary of the newspaper’s strike.

In light of the upcoming talks, a five-day hearing for an unfair labour complaint put forth by the union has now been adjourned until February 6.

“Off-the-record talks between the two sides have hopefully laid the groundwork for meaningful negotiation,” writes Ingrid Bulmer, the Halifax Typographical Union’s president, in a news release.

The last time the two sides negotiated was back in November, when offers were submitted—and ultimately rejected—through a conciliator.

The HTU launched its unfair labour practice complaint shortly after, arguing the Herald had been tabling bargaining positions designed to be rejected in a move to break the union.

“The company remains hopeful for a sustainable resolution to this disruption. A solution that sees our employees treated fairly and provides the basis for the Chronicle Herald to continue serving Nova Scotia,” chief operating officer Ian Scott writes in a press release about the upcoming talks.

It will be one year exactly since the Herald strike began on Monday, January 23. At the time, there were 62 unionized newsroom employees. Only 55 remain on the picket line and working for the competing Local Xpress website.

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Friday, December 30, 2016

A toast to the Halifax Media Co-op

The other sad local media story in 2016 was the HMC's “indefinite hiatus.”

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2016 at 4:00 AM

“News from Nova Scotia's grassroots” was the Halifax Media Co-op motto. - VIA BEN SICHEL

The death of the Halifax Media Co-op was everything the Chronicle Herald strike wasn’t. The labour situation at Nova Scotia’s daily paper of record dominated headlines this year and drew national attention, while the quiet passing of the local media co-operative earned barely a eulogy.

The website remains online, for the time being, and the occasional volunteer blog post continues to crop up. But the money’s gone, and with it goes another news outlet in Halifax.

Back in June, the Halifax Media Co-op (HMC) announced in a short blog post that it would be taking an indefinite hiatus. A joint statement by the co-op’s interim editorial collective said the site had tried its best to “help amplify underrepresented voices,” but the “capacity to keep the co-op running functionally has dried up.”

One of the HMC’s core volunteers was Miles Howe, who had been writing for the site since 2010 and was practically running the shop until this spring when he moved to Ontario (Disclaimer: Howe also occasionally wrote for The Coast). His departure brought previous and founding editors like Ben Sichel and Hillary Lindsay together to try and figure out the co-operative’s future. For a number of reasons, continuing to run the site proved too daunting of a task.

“There wasn’t a functioning editorial board,” says Lindsay. “None of us who were called together had time in our lives at that point to put time into outreach and getting things moving again.”

“All of us were busy with other commitments. None of us wanted to re-start the Media Co-op,” says Sichel. “We decided we were going to let it lay dormant, for now.”

It didn’t help matters that funding this year from the Canadian Nova Scotia Federation of Labour (NSFL) dried up in the wake of the site’s dormancy. The NSFL was the site’s largest single source of money, contributing approximately $20,000 a year. Howe says the co-op become “overly reliant” on that money. At the same time, he says, it was spending too much money propping up the national Media Co-op organization that had spawned a series of spinoff sites in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

“It was becoming very top-heavy, very national-oriented,” says Howe, who estimates half the money coming into Halifax from subscribers was redirected to help the national co-operative.

The Halifax Media Co-Op went online in 2009, launching a year after the closure of the Daily News and the same winter that the Herald announced $1.5 million in cutbacks. It was created by editors of the Dominion, a monthly alternative newspaper published out of Halifax that had started six years prior. It was the first in what quickly became a coast-to-coast network of democratically-run news co-operatives—membership-funded media outlets writing for the unrepresented.

“People got their voices heard, in an unmodified way, without going through the more traditional journalism,” says Robert Devet, who wrote for the HMC for several years and now runs the alternative news blog the Nova Scotia Advocate. “People got to make their own case, in their own voice.”

The stories told by the Media Co-Op strongly focused around areas that were—and often still are—ignored by larger, corporate-funded media: the struggles faced by low-income Nova Scotians; First Nations groups; environmental changes; labour rights; corporate and political collusion.

Its critics would call the HMC home to partisan, left-wing writers and activists. “We tried to be always fair, which I think is different than claiming you’re unbiased,” counters Sichel.

As easy as it was for some to write-off the co-op's politics, its journalistic efforts are worth remembering. It helped launch a Mi’kmaq-language podcast and published a blog written from inside the notorious Burnside jail. It tackled resistance movements in Elsipogtog (for which Howe was arrested three times), and examined Emera’s control of electricity in the Bahamas. It provided a launching ground for young reporters like Natascia Lypny (now with CBC in Regina), Stephanie Taylor (formerly Metro Halifax, now Metro Winnipeg), Hilary Beaumont and Justin Ling (both now with Vice Canada), amongst others.

“I think it shows what can be done when you take the Fifth Estate very seriously,” says Howe. “When you do your best to separate money from that, what can be done on a very limited budget—what you can dig up.”

“When people were coming together and mobilizing, and when the corporate media was not reporting on what was happening on the ground, that’s when the Media Co-op could really shine,” says Lindsay.

And it still could. The website, archives, all of it can be revived if someone wants to take up the cause.

“Hopefully that can get picked up again by someone else,” says Lindsay. “Learn from what we did and, yeah, take it from there.”

“We did sort of leave the opportunity if anyone wants to come together,” says Sichel, while cautioning that any revival would be a lot of work. Restarting the Halifax Media Co-op would be a labour of love, but then again, it always was.

“You’re welcome to get in touch.”

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Vol 27, No 29
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