MONTREAL, QC.– One of my favourite parts of the season is receiving cards and emails from people I don’t talk to on a regular basis. Often there is an update about themselves and their families. Those who choose to make contact by phone speak in a special tone that denotes an extra helping of caring.
It’s the holidays! In the past, I’ve been known to write about the Christmas season. Who could have predicted that I would be writing this story?
It can be the time of year that restores people’s faith in humanity. It’s truly nice! I won’t catch me writing “Imagine if we could be that way to each other every day of the year?” I’m a pragmatist.
But once a year, I’m allowed to dream a little.
One morning last week, as I waited for my computer to come to life, Montreal and the weather provided a beautiful backdrop for the season feelings. Snow, and lots of it, covered the trees and shrubs as I looked out the window. Smoke rose from a chimney across the street.
While the room was mostly silent, Christmas carols played in my mind. Not the kind squeezed out of the mall speakers but with the power of a full choir that you can feel in your chest.
The picture-postcard scene came to an abrupt end. It was as if the stylus had been snatched off an album on the turntable with that grating sound (that some will never know). I was snapped back into a much nastier reality.
You see my eyes were already scanning the computer monitor and had locked on to a subject in my list of unread emails. It read “Copyright infringement.”
Not possible was the first thought. Spam, was the second.
The email was relatively short and wasn’t from a lowly section editor. It came from the fellow who is next in line to the publisher at one of the city’s major daily newspapers. No doubt, it was something to be taken seriously.
The tone of the email was aggressive. The author wrote that information had been brought to him alleging “a clear violation of … copyright.” I was given a short deadline of “72 hours” after which the newspaper would “take appropriate legal action.”
Threatening litigation a week before Christmas? Well this doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a happy holiday story at all, does it?
The email was copied to a cadre of corporate suits, including some from the parent company.
Could it be a mistake, I wondered?. Maybe they’re out of their minds? Or perhaps, there was something more strategic at work.
It took me some digging, considerable digging, before I understood what they were on about. Deep in the archives of the website, credited material from the newspaper was stored. It dated back to 2007 and 2008.
The content was mostly excerpts with links, but included some full articles. It had been posted by a previous owner and was leftover from a former website. I’m told it was a practise that had mutual benefits but was one that was discontinued quite some time ago.
In its early days, All Habs was more of an aggregator of information on the Montreal Canadiens from all over the web with a small amount of original content. You’ll see a number of sites still using this model today with daily links to articles. In fact, the newspaper’s Habs’ site is one of them.
Over the past two years, we have evolved into a more progressive publication. When I became the owner of All Habs, I had a different vision and put the website on a path of restructuring into a magazine format. That process was completed last August when we moved to our new home at AllHabs.net.
I am very proud of the redesign and of the original, exclusive content on AllHabs.net. Our talented team of diverse writers works hard to produce a digital magazine that has been very enthusiastically received by you, supporters of the Montreal Canadiens and hockey fans in general.
So what was it that got their knickers in such a knot?
It seems that the newspaper and their Habs website were being very protective of segments of their work. It would have take some trouble to find it. It was riveting stuff such as “Yann Danis will test UFA market” and “Smolinski in, Kostopoulos, Locke out vs. Bruins.”
For those of you not scoring at home, that’s Corey Locke who was drafted by the Canadiens in 2003. After he was traded by the Habs to the Minnesota Wild (for Shawn Belle, currently playing for Oklahoma City), Locke donned the sweaters of the Houston Aeros, the Hartford Wolf Pack, the New York Rangers and the Binghamton Senators.
There, now you’re all caught up. I think you get the idea that we are not talking about current Habs news.
So why would a giant newspaper chain threaten to use their legal arsenal over rancid content? (Rancid is a generous term. Some would say, no longer relevant.)
Was it simply a matter of corporate-Goliath wanting to crush upstart-David? Maybe they would like to see us spending time scouring the archives rather than doing what we do best: write about hockey. Is it possible that we pose a financial threat and this was all just a red herring?
These are all good questions that will remain unanswered for now. Suffice to say, we must be doing something right.
Could it be something far more basic? You know, such as “We don’t want your kind around here.”
“You’re a mean one, Mister Grinch You really are a heel, You’re as cuddly as a cactus, you’re as charming as an eel, Mister Grinch.”
Keep in mind that new media who approach an equal-footing with traditional media are often greeted with a smack-down. It’s happened to Hockey54.com on the English side and 25Stanley.com on the French side. The owners of the two websites were subjected to what can only be described as bullying.
There is also an apparent lack of respect. How many times have we heard “Twitter twits” blamed for misinformation that originated with the traditional folks and characterized as “guys [and girls] sitting in their underwear writing from their parent’s basement?”
I suppose the question that could be posed to our newspaper, radio and TV friends is: How many of you would be passionate enough about the job to do it if your weren’t getting paid? Many bloggers have long ago answered that question.
Let’s not go any further along on that train of thought. If true, it would indicate petty and jealous individuals who mobilized superiors in an attempt to intimidate. That’s unlikely, wouldn’t you say?
So what happened next?
A response was sent to the newspaper advising them of the ripe, old age of the content and that steps were being taken to remove it. In addition, it was noted that the first indication of a problem was an email that threatened legal consequences. Wouldn’t a simple request be more collegial?
Well, in Whoville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of *ten* Grinches, plus two!
After such an aggressive opening salvo from the newspaper, one couldn’t have predicted the reply that arrived a short time later. It was a very cordial email from the Executive Editor. It included an apology for the tone of the initial communication.
In addition he offered a compliment writing that “your original content is of such a quality that we have a permanent link to your site.” Well, thank you!
Why the change of heart? After our exchange was he now privy to some new information? Or was it, could it be, a miracle of the season?
Maybe it was an email from the keyboard of a kind gentleman and smart newspaper executive.
Whatever the reason, there was cause to be buoyed by the spirit of professional cooperation. Perhaps this would mark a turning point in relations between new and traditional media?
The choirs in my mind started singing once again. I had my holiday story and it had a happy ending.
Not only was there a positive outcome, there seemed to be a thawing of relations even as we approached the first day of Winter. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to reach out to two colleagues on the other side who know the ins and outs. I extended a hand of cooperation and suggested that we solve any future differences over a beverage.
The calming verses of ‘Silent Night’ were interupted as once again the needle was dragged across the record, scr-a-a-atchhh!
It seemed that my greetings of the season were not received in the spirit that they were intended.
I received the following reply from one of the gents.
“just to clear up a few misapprehensions:
You and I are not friends.
I am particular about the people with whom I drink.
To my knowledge, we do not have a working relationship, cooperative or otherwise.
Best of the season to you,”
That’s not quite a Dr. Seuss ending, is it?
Well, I could be discouraged by the reply or take it at face value as the words of a bitter, ornery man. Perhaps he needs a visit from the three ghosts. (as we temporarily switch Christmas stories.)
Those will not be the final words of this story. Looking back, this has been an exciting and successful time. It’s appropriate to end this on a positive note, and not just because it’s Christmas.
The thing is, I’ve met and worked with some amazing people over the past year.
Some of them were members of the mainstream media. I thank you for all the emails, texts and phone calls offering advice, news and encouragement. I also enjoyed sitting across a table getting to know you personally.
The new media community is diverse and spans hobby bloggers to those who rival the professionals. You are dedicated, knowledgeable people and I value the camaraderie and your friendship.
I am grateful to the bright and talented writers, event coordinators and technical staff who I work with every day. The All Habs team has become a family, and I’m proud to be associated with each of you. Thank you to Erica, Kathy, Amy, Laura, Kristina, Veronica, Lyse, Priyanta, Steve, Kosta, Pablo, Mike, Brian, Reza, Michael, Chris, Pier-Luc, David, and Joe. Thanks to honorary crew members Jamie, J.T., Katherine, Kyle, Celia and Spencer as well as all of our guest contributors.
Most importantly, I am very appreciative of the loyal following of readers who support All Habs. It has been a pleasure to meet some of you in person at our Habs Tweetup events or connect with you daily via Twitter and Facebook. We are committed to doing our best for you.
Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near.
Merry Christmas | Joyeux Noel | Feliz Navidad | Boas Festas | Vesele Vanoce | Hyvaa joulua | Froehliche Weihnachten | Kala Christouyenna |
Buone Feste Natalizie | Maligayan Pasko | веселого рождества | Glædelig Jul | Srozhdestvom Kristovym | Sawadee Pee Mai
(passages and artwork from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss)