ONLINE POLITICAL NEWS CONVERAGE
A STUDY OF FIRST BALLOT VOTING IN THE CANADIAN ALLIANCE
LEADERSHIP RACE (JUNE 22 - 24, 2000)
3.6 Site Profiles
The following is an assessment of each site in this
study. The site profiles are based on the findings of the study
at the time of the study.
This is a site in the midst of evolution. In fact,
the site was re-launched Monday June 26, 2000, the last day of the
study period. Because of this, results from the NationalPost.com
site were somewhat mixed and not necessarily reflective of the typical
political news coverage offered by this online version of the National
While the results from the specific study period
may be mixed, this is an exciting site to watch. At the time of
the study, the National Post newspaper and the NationalPost.com
Web site was part of the Southam newspaper chain, owned by Hollinger
Inc. Since the time of the study, most Hollinger Inc. media interests
have been purchased by CanWest Global television network, including
part of the National Post newspaper and the Internet portal
site Canada.com which serves as the hub for all Southam
newspaper Web sites, including NationalPost.com.
As a result of this new ownership structure, it
is not unreasonable to expect NationalPost.com to soon
be at the forefront of Internet news sites, converging the visuals
of television and the information richness of print in a way that
traditional media sites have yet to do.
During the study period, however, political news
content on the NationalPost.com Web site generally replicated
the content found in the National Post newspaper, a fact
that highlights the weakness of transferring the traditional print
news cycle to this new medium.
The National Post is known for its political
content and in the lead up to the first ballot voting had provided
near saturation coverage of the Canadian Alliance leadership race.
However, on voting night, the traditional newspaper
news cycle upon which the NationalPost.com obviously relies
was evident. At the Saturday 21:00 download, while some other sites
were providing up-to-the-minute coverage of voting results as they
became available, this site posted a Canadian Press wire
story. Wire copy remained the lead Canadian Alliance story on this
site until Monday morning, when the newspaper published its next
The NationalPost.com is also a somewhat
difficult site to navigate. The political news front page cannot
be bookmarked and politically interested news consumers must therefore
navigate through the site in order to access specifically political
In terms of maximizing use of unique features of
the Internet, a strong point of the NationalPost.com story
pages was the comprehensive list of links to party, candidate and
polling firm sites. This list of links was consistent, generally
appearing at the bottom of lead story pages.
Thompson Corp., another giant in Canadian media
publishing, owns both The Globe and Mail newspaper and
the associated Internet site. Thompson recently divested much of
its newspaper holdings, announcing a restructured business plan
that places more emphasis on electronic publishing.
Just prior to the study period, the revamped TheGlobeandMail.com
Web site was launched. The most significant feature of the
new site was that reporters were filing in so-called 'real time'.
As a result of this new approach to the news cycle, the results
for TheGlobeandMail.com differed significantly from the
results for the other newspaper sites with more edited leads and
more frequent updates than the other 'old media' sites.
Ongoing updates gave this site the appearance of
being far more dynamic than either the NationalPost.com or
TheStar.ca whose front pages and lead stories generally
did not change at all over the course of the day.
TheGlobeandMail.com also offered more interactive
features, including an audience poll and discussion forum, than
the other newspaper sites.
TheStar.ca came as close as possible to
being a digital replication of the print version of a newspaper.
The site was as rigidly static as a printed edition of the Toronto
Star newspaper, featuring content essentially identical to
the print edition. Ironically the print edition actually featured
more photos, and thus provided a superior visual image.
Torstar Corp., publisher of the Toronto Star
newspaper, hosts TheStar.ca.
CBC.ca is the Web site of the Canadian
Broadcasting Corp., Canada's federally legislated national public
broadcaster. At the time of the study, this was the only major news
Web site hosted by a Canadian broadcaster.
If we look for a Canadian counterpart to CNN.com,
we must look to CBC.ca. This site is the only multimedia
Canadian news site, integrating related audio and video material
on each story page.
What was troubling about this site was that it accorded
no credit whatsoever to the Web journalists who, one would assume,
transform audio and video news into written copy for the Web.
Canoe.ca is the Internet property of Quebecor
Inc., owner / publisher of the Sun Media chain of daily newspapers
as well as numerous French language daily newspapers. However, despite
this content rich ownership group, the site curiously featured predominantly
wire copy, only rarely featuring a Sun media reporter's story as
the lead Canadian Alliance leadership race story.
Canoe.ca does offer a political front page
that can be bookmarked. This was the front page monitored for the
The Excite.ca Web portal service is a joint
venture of Rogers Media and Excite@Home. Rogers Communications Inc.
is one of Canada's major radio and cable television service providers.
It is also involved in tele-shopping, publishing and new media businesses
ventures through Rogers Media Inc.
The Excite.ca site featured only Canadian
Press wire copy. Disappointingly, the site offered no photos
and did not credit journalists for their work.
Yahoo! Inc. is a global Internet company servicing
120 million users worldwide. Yahoo! caters to a niche market,
offering an online navigational guide to the Web. The Yahoo!
Canada portal provides Canadian and international content listed
In terms of richness and variety of information
on the subject at hand, Yahoo! provided one of the most
impressive sites profiled in this study. The site offered a special
featured section for the Canadian Alliance leadership race, featuring
a page with links to news stories from across media. The site provided
many audio and video links.
There were no photographs on the political front
The Yahoo! page was the only consistently
updated meta-journalism site monitored in this study.
Sympatico.ca, a portal site, is a subsidiary
of Bell Canada, our country's largest communications company. Sympatico.ca
is one of Canada's largest Internet service providers with approximately
650,000 member households. Page views are 100 million a month and
80 per cent of subscribers maintain Sympatico.ca as their
default home page.
Sympatico.ca features only Canadian
Press wire copy.
AOL Canada Inc. is a strategic alliance between
America Online Inc., a world leader in interactive services, and
Canada's largest Schedule 1 chartered financial institution, the
Royal Bank of Canada. AOL Canada Inc. operates AOL Canada with more
than 130,000 subscribing households and CompuServe with approximately
50,000 subscribers, in addition to the Internet portal brand aol.ca,
where the news content reviewed for this study was located.
aol.ca mimics the CBC.ca site
except devoid of the audio / video links. As with the CBC.ca
site, no journalists were credited for their online copy.
The final Web site included in this study was Bourque
Newswatch, an independent site apparently operated at the whim
of a single individual. It was included for two reasons: anecdotal
evidence suggests it is monitored regularly by political staff on
Parliament Hill and because it is perhaps the only independent Web
site that attempts to provide original reporting, that is, reporting
that does not originate from traditional media sources.
Bourque Newswatch was one of only two sites
(the other being Yahoo!) to even attempt to offer any original
content unique to the Internet site.
However, the reporting at this site generally was
based on only one source, usually unnamed. This material generally
would not be considered journalism by any professional standard.
The site appeared to only be updated at the whim
of the Web site operator. For example, over the weekend, during
the peak of the voting results returns, the site was not updated