The journalism world has been all a flutter this week discussing some of the most heinous crimes in Canadian history: the Russell Williams murders. At issue is how to deal with publishing and broadcasting details in an era of instant communication. Reporters have been live-tweeting nearly every disturbing element of the case (using hashtag #colrw), raising questions amongst journalists and citizens alike about how much is too much. On Tuesday, when the case turned from the shocking but comparatively tame underwear fetishism to the murders of Cpl. Marie-France Comeau and Jessica Lloyd, some had had enough. “If you’re live-tweeting the #colrw trial, you’re unfollowed. Sorry, but horror-show stenography isn’t why I’m on twitter,” tweeted Maclean’s columnist Andrew Potter. His colleague, Scott Feschuk, soon followed suit: “What’s the purpose of so much #colrw coverage? What in the public interest is being served by it?” Questions were also being raised about how to report on the subject in the dailies—should the papers print the photos of Williams in women’s lingerie, and if so where? John Cruickshank, publisher of Toronto Star said the paper’s cover—two juxtaposing photos, one of a lingerie-clad Williams, the other of him in full Colonel apparel, with the headline “A depraved double life”—was necessary to tell “a story we shouldn’t turn our heads from.”
The Globe and Mail wouldn’t strike most people as a Rob Ford type of newspaper, but the publication has cut ties with columnist Stephen Marche following Flabbergate, or, the column in which he theorized Ford was popular for being fat (I would normally link to that, but the Globe pulled the article from its website following enormous backlash. Marche, only two months into his freelance contribution to the paper, told OpenFile’s Craig Silverman that he was not informed why the article was pulled from the site and that editors never expressed any concern about the article’s content (the piece, he adds, was submitted two days early). But, he was told that he no longer has a column in the paper.
What’s this? More supposed evidence that print isn’t dead? This week, a British study claimed to show there is no correlation between newspaper sales and hits on the publications website—as in, when hits go up, newspaper circulation doesn’t necessarily go down. “Indeed, the opposite case could be argued: that newspapers that do well on the web also do better in print… Understandably worried traditional journalists should know that the internet is not a threat,” says Jim Chisholm, analyst and author of the study. Chisholm says it boils down to loyalty, and that readers are going to the sites as well as reading the papers. Not surprisingly, he does not go into great detail about why circulation is actual dropping if it’s not because of that darned internet.