The Shift

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By Robert Delaney

Just a couple of months after my career shift from journalism to brand journalism and I’ve been asked at least once a week what it’s like to work on the “dark side.”

It hasn’t been very different. So far, I haven’t had to come up with a tag line or a sales pitch or a special offer. I spend much of my time looking for objective sources of information and data. I put this material together for an audience that has opted into a particular conversation because they want, more than anything, to learn something. The members of these audiences opt out once the content looks like a marketing initiative. So in short, not much has changed, except that the work is meant to drive sales leads to my company’s clients. Put simply, the objective is to make money for a certain group of stakeholders. There’s a profit motive.

News outlets have the luxury of claiming to be in the business of creating transparency. But how many of them can claim to ignore their balance sheets for the greater good? At Bloomberg News, we were told to write for “Aunt Agatha,” but in reality we were writing for the Wolves of Wall Street. At The Globe and Mail, a venerable Canadian institution, extremely difficult financial circumstances hang over every reporter’s head, and many talented people have had to leave as a result.

Perhaps I’m drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid, but I have to believe that audiences will always be sophisticated enough to know when to look for brand journalism and when to consult The New York TimesThe Globe and Mail, the Financial Times, or The Wall Street Journal. And I’m happy that the era of the sales pitch is coming to a close.

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Jim Flaherty’s Death Brings Out the Best in Canada’s Politicians

Jim Flaherty’s Death Brings Out the Best in Canada’s Politicians

Jim Flaherty

Justin Trudeau, Katherine Wynne, Andrea Howarth, Dwight Duncan… It’s great to see so many respectable politicians of different ideological stripes expressing condolences over Jim Flaherty’s death and admiration for his work. The man cared deeply about Canada and helped the country through a very tough time.

Obituary – Canada’s Jim Flaherty dies aged 64 – FT

Like Drowning Children for Steak

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By Robert Delaney

@robertoftoronto

 

These two headlines, running within a few days of each other, reflect what may be a filicidal degree of stupidity.

New U.N. Report: Climate Change Risks Destabilizing Human Society 

Farms Can’t Keep Up With Demand for Meat 

When scientists and representatives from 110 countries – including China, the U.S., Tanzania and the Maldives – agree on something, perhaps we should pay attention.

The conclusion they reached – and one that is reinforced with every new round of studies – is that human activity is “extremely likely” to be a dominant cause of climatic changes that threaten to flood many populated coastal areas and interrupt our ability to produce enough food.

I doubt these folks are just reaching for an Upworthy headline.

I won’t bother with the connection between fossil fuel burn and climate change. A four-word Google search will give you more than you need. What is treated, frustratingly, as tertiary is the degree to which methane gas from livestock exacerbates the problem. Even business-oriented Bloomberg News explains the case for a meat tax. A Worldwatch Institute report pegs it at 51% of the world’s greenhouse gas production.

Huge numbers of people, particularly North Americans, believe that a portion of meat defines a meal. That means three helping of animal flesh every day, which translates into 122 kilograms of per-capita meat consumption annually in the U.S.  Too many reporters hit their word limit before they can work the meat problem into their climate change stories, and that could be why we’re so fixated on fossil fuel burn.

It’s much easier to reduce or remove meat from our diets than it is to do the same for fossil fuels. Renewable energy solutions help at the margins, but their reliability often depends on weather conditions, and it will be many years before we can move a freight train or a passenger jet with solar cells.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t do everything possible to reduce our carbon footprint. Nor would I argue that we must all give up meat completely. (I will, however, suggest that we demand better treatment of animals and reform of mechanized and medicated livestock production.)

Given the scientific consensus, would it hurt so much to, at least occasionally, serve bean burritos or a hummus platter or a hearty lentil soup instead of cheeseburgers? What goes through the minds of parents who drive their Cadillac Escalades to the supermarket to load up on ground beef and steaks?

Do they look in the rear-view mirror and wonder how life will be for their kids if scientific consensus turns out to be accurate?