Working differently in an era of disruption

Written by Dr. Steven N. Liss, Vice-President Research and Innovation, Ryerson University. Originally published in Research Infosource Inc.

Knowledge creation and the headwaters of innovation are deeply embedded in the tradition of university research, scholarship and creative activities. Our students, research trainees and faculty increasingly bring new knowledge, ideas and innovations to the forefront of the most pressing issues facing our planet and our communities – creating opportunities to advance economic prosperity and quality of life.

In an innovation economy, the ability to collaborate, to compete, and to address complex challenges is key. By their nature, complex challenges transcend borders and require a willingness to work differently, to establish new combinations and types of relationships. This includes coopetition, breaking down silos to look horizontally, intensifying international partnerships in the face of geopolitical challenges, and recognizing the value of the intersections where innovation occurs.

Tackling challenging issues, such as climate change, immigration, advancing sustainable and innovative cities, and industry 4.0, requires us to look ahead while keeping in mind the fundamentals of knowledge upon which sound decision- and policy-making is created. Research provides the critical insights that can be leveraged to shape future directions and encourage aspirational and visionary thinking. We need the space to ask fundamental questions that address the grand challenges, formulate and test hypotheses, and determine who is in the best position to act on the outcomes of this work to advance ideas that can have impact. In many instances, there will be a time lag between efforts in deep technology and their results, which could conceivably have profound impacts on our lives.

Ryerson’s place at the centre of one of the world’s most diverse cities provides a unique lens through which to view and address societal challenges Ryerson is a leader in the transdisciplinary exploration of international migration, integration, and diaspora and refugee studies through the Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement (RCIS). Ryerson also has Canada’s only graduate program devoted to the advanced study of immigration policy. Building on this foundation, in August 2019, we welcomed Dr. Anna Triandafyllidou as the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration where she leads a multi-faceted program to fundamentally transform approaches in migration studies, foster global collaborations, and impact policy and practice.

Our strategic partnerships are at the core of leading hubs for research and innovation. This has been key to the success of the Institute for Biomedical Engineering, Science and Technology (iBEST) and the Biomedical Zone (BMZ), in partnership with St. Michael’s Hospital.

The MedTech Talent Accelerator is an innovative training program co-designed with industry and supported by a Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) grant. The accelerator is led by Dr. Stephen Waldman of both Ryerson’s Department of Chemical Engineering and iBEST.

Dr. Kathryn Underwood’s partnerships, and support from SSHRC and CIHR, are addressing human rights and education practice, particularly with regard to disability rights and inclusive education. Her research in the School of Early Childhood Studies examines how constructions of disability in education and early childhood program contexts are used to organize children.

Dr. Ebrahim Bagheri is building technology that enables machines to understand social content the way humans do. As the NSERC/Warranty Life Industrial Research Chair (IRC) in Social Media Analytics and as a Tier II Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Software and Semantic Computing, his laboratory works in collaboration with partners to analyze large-scale digital “breadcrumbs” from user-generated data.

We are at the precipice looking beyond the horizon to chart pathways and directions for the future in a digital world at the Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst, pivoting in an innovation economy at the Brookfield Institute, and preparing for disruptions in the nature of work at the Future Skills Centre.

By encouraging brain circulation, setting a bold course and focusing on connections, collaborations and excellence, we can create evidence-based solutions and activate real-world transformation that will enhance Canada’s competitiveness and prosperity.

Newsrooms not keeping up with changing demographics, study suggests

Written by Asmaa Malik & Sonya Fatah, Ryerson University. Photo credit Bank Phrom/Unsplash. Originally published in The Conversation.

Canadian newsrooms seem reluctant to share data on the diversity of their newsrooms but doing so would help hold accountable the fifth estate.

Over the past two decades, as Canada’s demographics have shifted, news organizations have failed to reflect the country’s increasing diversity in both content and staffing.

Research on media coverage of race-related stories on politics from scholars like University of Toronto professor Erin Tolley has highlighted how far newsrooms have still to go.

But in Canada, most print and digital news organizations have resisted processes to examine their staffing. The conversation on the impact of industry job losses on newsroom diversity cannot advance until fundamental questions about staffing numbers are answered.

Our new study aims to fill in important information about newsroom staffing by showing how the demographics of national newspaper columnists compare to the increasing diversity of the Canadian population.

When it comes to news, who makes the decisions behind the scenes is just as important as whose byline is on the front page.

While Canadian broadcasters are federally mandated to report on their workforce demographics, newspapers and digital publications have no such requirement. In the United States, several national news organizations, including the New York Times and BuzzFeed, have begun self-reporting the race and gender make-up of their newsrooms.

The American Society of News Editors (ASNE) has been conducting annual diversity studies of major newsrooms since 1978, allowing for the mapping of meaningful trends in how newsrooms hire, retain and promote journalists from diverse backgrounds.

“Counting gives us a starting point,” said Linda Shockley of the Dow Jones News Fund, which uses such demographic data to design training for U.S. journalists, in a recent interview with Poynter.

Back-of-the-bus/plane media crew for the Trudeau campaign sent out in a tweet by @TondaMacC. Photo credit @TondaMacC/Twitter.

Racialized journalists drive diversity conversations

Recent conversations around diversity in media have been largely driven by racialized journalists, including the Toronto Star’s Shree Paradkar. Former Globe and Mail reporter Sunny Dhillon wrote about his decision to leave the paper after 10 years, frustrated by a continued editorial pattern of approaching complex stories through a “colour-blind lens.”

Columnist Desmond Cole stopped writing his twice-monthly freelance column for the Toronto Star after the paper’s editorial board editor barred him from his civic activism.

“If I must choose between a newspaper column and the actions I must take to liberate myself and my community, I choose activism in the service of Black liberation,” Cole wrote in a blog post.

There is little data on the breakdown of Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) journalists in Canadian newsrooms. In 2004, Ryerson School of Journalism professor emeritus and former Toronto Star editor John Miller relied on voluntary participation for a survey on the demographic makeup of Canadian news organizations.

Some editors returned the survey empty; one scribbled across the page, “I find these questions insulting.” A few years later, Miller and Wendy Cukier, a professor at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management, examined visible minority leadership at Toronto media organizations by using publicly available information and having it reviewed by researchers trained in employment equity.

Publications such as Canadaland (in 2016) and J-Source (in 2014 and 2017) have also sought voluntary co-operation from news organizations and individual journalists with limited results.

‘Self-reporting’ offers window into staffing

To address the failure to engage in self-reporting by many Canadian news organizations, our study looks at the section of the newspaper where journalists often self-identify: the op-ed pages. In the process of expressing their perspectives on the issues of our time, columnists often disclose their identities.

We focused on news, city, opinion page and political columnists as they are most likely to shape social and political discussions.

For our 21-year study, we looked at Canada’s three largest publications, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the National Post, narrowing the scope of our research to include only those who wrote weekly columns or a minimum of 40 columns a year. In the end, we analyzed the work of 89 columnists, beginning in 1998 with the birth of the Post and ending in 2018.

Using terms of self-identification found in the columnists’ own words, in their published work and on their social media posts, we categorized their race and gender by census category.

Examples of self-identification that we found include phrases from columns such as “I, for one (old WASP),” “I, middle-class white lady” and “(as an) affluent white woman.” We then compared the numbers with corresponding census blocks over the 21-year period to chart how closely, along the lines of race and gender, columnists at Canadian newsrooms reflect Canada’s demographics.

In the 1996-2000 census period, white people comprised 88.8 per cent of all Canadians, with two per cent Black, 2.8 per cent Indigenous, 2.4 per cent South Asian and 3.5 per cent East Asian. By 2016, the numbers changed significantly: white, 77.7 per cent; Black 3.5 per cent; Indigenous 4.9 per cent; South Asian 5.6 per cent; and East Asian 5.4 per cent.

Our preliminary research shows that this demographic shift was not reflected in the makeup of Canadian columnists. Over the 21 years, as the proportion of white people in Canada’s population declined, the representation of white columnists increased.

Between 1998 and 2000, 92.8 per cent of columnists at the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the National Post were white, over-representing corresponding census statistics by four per cent. And during the 2016-18 comparative period, while overall representation of white columnists dropped to 88.7 per cent of the columns pool, those numbers over-represented against the census numbers by 11 per cent.

Over the period of our study, not one of the publications had an Indigenous columnist who appeared regularly. Only three Black men and no Black women met our criteria for columnists.

Upholding trust and accountability

Our preliminary findings are concerning. For more than two decades, the voices that these publications chose to give prominence to did not reflect the perspectives and interests of a large segment of Canada’s population.

Self-reporting on newsroom diversity would encourage a culture of trust and accountability, one that the journalism profession upholds in its role as a watchdog of public institutions.

We are working on the development of a self-reporting tool for Canadian newsrooms, with the hope that such a strategy will be seen by media outlets as an invitation for redress.

After all, it’s impossible for Canada’s newsrooms to address a problem they can’t see. We are concerned that for the many who refuse to co-operate, that just may be the point.

The end of dangerous working conditions starts with informed consumers

Written by Patrick Neumann & Cory Searcy, Ryerson University. Photo credit AP Photo/A.M Ahad. Originally published in The Conversation.

Bangladeshi child labourers work at a balloon factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Consumers must demand products made under favourable working conditions.

Halloween has just passed and your kids are probably still polishing off this year’s candy haul. As recently reported in the Washington Post, there’s a good chance that some of those chocolate treats were made using child labour. Would knowing that change your mind about purchasing that product?

What about reports of beatings and abuse of Bangladeshi textile workers sewing clothes destined for our closets? Should companies that produce goods responsibly be identified? How can consumers make the right choices?

Work causes more than 2.1 million deaths globally every year, whether it’s due to the child labour used in the production of cacao or electronics, or contract food preparation workers dying on the job in Canada. The costs of work-related injuries account for about four per cent of the total world GDP.

Children living in a cocoa-producing village walk back from the fields on the outskirts of the town of Oume, Ivory Coast. Photo credit AP/Photo Schalk van Zuydam, File.

In fact, studies have shown that the costs of workplace injuries are on par with those of all cancers combined. A survey of more than 5,000 workers in Québec has found that one in five are suffering from work-related musculoskeletal pain, particularly shoulder and back pain, with women being affected in greater numbers than men.

Workplace injuries also erode companies’ profits. And this doesn’t begin to address the cost of mental health issues associated with work. Working environments should not cause pain and injury in employees — it’s bad for business.

Consumers also to blame

Bad work environments, and their associated burnout, injury, pain and fatalities, plague workplaces around the world. While it’s tempting to blame companies for egregious working situations, consumers should also look in the mirror.

Companies will provide you with goods according to your demands. If you don’t demand products made under good working conditions, then the all-too-common status quo — dangerous, dirty and demeaning conditions — is what you are supporting with your purchases.

Our research has shown that consumers, when asked, would prefer goods made in favourable working environments. When we interviewed millennials, they expressed a willingness to pay 17.5 per cent more on a $100 product for goods made under healthy conditions than those that are not. The main barrier noted in this research is access to trustworthy information about the working environments in production.

When we examined how 100 companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange are currently reporting on their working environments, we find almost 900 different indicators reported, with almost no organizations using the same indicators in their reports. This makes it virtually impossible for a responsible consumer, or a company seeking a responsible supplier, to compare practices and make informed choices. A standard for reporting is needed.

Recently the Canadian Standards Association has begun to lay the groundwork needed to create a standard providing advice and guidance to help companies report on their working environments in a consistent and comparable manner.

When you consider the complexity of characterizing all of the physical, mental, environmental and social dimensions of a workplace, it’s clear that creating a consistent reporting approach remains a challenge. Further work is needed.

Demonizing not enough

Demonizing companies with poor working conditions and operational practices is not enough. We also need to support companies with good track records and work to foster favourable environments in our own workplaces. For companies trying to communicate the quality of their workplaces, there is a need for clear guidance of what and how to report.

Without good reporting, consumers won’t trust companies, and the potential for consumers to become socially responsible disappears. Furthermore, a reporting standard would give companies with stellar workplaces a credible means to demonstrate their leadership to clients and customers.

There is a growing awareness that we, as consumers, can influence broad issues like climate change just by making smarter choices about where we spend our money. This is equally true for the working conditions of the people who produce our food and manufacture our products.

In this 2014 photo, a Honduran boy assembles an ice cream cart. Photo credit AP Photo/Esteban Felix.

But we have not yet reached the tipping point of public opinion — and employees around the world are still literally dying for a paycheque.

Work shouldn’t hurt. The food we eat and the products we use should not be made in pain or contribute to human misery. While companies hold some blame, so do consumers who wilfully avoid dealing with the consequences of their purchasing decisions.

Access to reliable information on working conditions needs standardized reporting, and Canada is well-positioned to show leadership on this issue.

Without clear reporting, how are we to know about the conditions our food and goods are made in? Let’s make sure the chocolate we buy leaves no bitter aftertaste.

Andreescu’s meteoric rise shows what happens when we value women’s sport

Written by Katie Lebel, Ryerson University and Ann Pegoraro, Laurentian University. Photo credit AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez. Originally published in The Conversation.

Bianca Andreescu serves to Serena Williams during the women’s singles final of the U.S. Open tennis championships, on her way to making Canadian history.

Sometimes the stars align and allow for an unexpected, seemingly impossible feat to occur. But more often, a series of little things are done well over a length of time that put people in a position to succeed.

Bianca Andreescu has become a superstar. While it would be easy to attribute her two-week ride into Canadian sport history to divine intervention, there is evidence to suggest it’s the culmination of many years of hard work and dedication combined with countless little things done right.

From this lens, there is much to be learned from the recipe that produced Canada’s first grand slam tennis champion and insights that can help to guide us all moving forward.

What happens when word gets out

News stories about Andreescu increased 286 per cent after her Rogers Cup victory in August and were up another 214 per cent after her U.S. Open win. Her success undoubtedly created a moment of national celebration, but it’s also an example of how the media can and should cover women’s sport and promote the athletic achievement of female athletes with hype and enthusiasm.

Viewing parties were held across the country. Celebrities voiced their support in droves, both before and after her victory.

After record-breaking ratings came in for Andreescu’s semi-final match, Canada’s TSN sports network pre-empted a live Canadian Football League game to rebroadcast the semi-final performance in the lead-up to the championship match. Special pre-game coverage was broadcast to highlight the significance of the moment.

These are uncommon occurrences when it comes to the coverage of women’s sport, yet they make an incredible difference in familiarizing audiences with an athlete. All the attention serves as a signal that they’re witnessing something important.

It’s An-dress-ku

While the initial arch of the Andreescu storyline left some media flat-footed, commentators quickly sorted out the pronunciation of Andreescu’s last name and were able to shape an intriguing narrative around the young Canadian phenom.

Commentators picked up on the success story of Andreescu’s parents immigration to Canada and the family’s adorable dog.

The semi-final match featured a somewhat painful back and forth around differences in sweat production between the two athletes (and a baseless link to perceived fitness levels), but by the final, the discourse was more squarely focused around Andreescu’s mental toughness and her incredible athletic talent.

Language matters. Commentary centred around athletic performance provides credibility to women athletes more so than who they’re dating.

Coverage breeds interest

TSN reported more than 7.4 million Canadian viewers tuned in to watch Andreescu’s championship match against Serena Williams. On ESPN, the match boasted its highest-ever ratings for the event, up 13 per cent from the previous record. Audiences ate this story up.

According to Zoomph, a leading digital intelligence company, Andreescu’s victory generated 3.6 billion — yes, billion —impressions on social media, contributing to an impression value of US$19.8 million. That’s proof women’s sport can be both exciting and lucrative.

Seeing is believing

Professional athletes are often seen as role models, and mass media attention can be a catalyst for the promotion of sport participation at the community level. Andreescu has noted the influence of Williams on her career —one can only imagine the legions of youth who were inspired by watching her incredible achievement and the poise with which she carried out the accomplishment.

To be sure, there’s no shortage of female role models in sport, but it’s rare that we have the opportunity to get to know them as fans. Brooke Henderson has taken the LPGA by storm and there will be an impressive collection of Olympians touring North America for the Dream Gap Tour over the next few weeks.

They’re among many women in sport who have incredible talent and remarkably inspirational stories to tell. It is an untapped market brimming with possibilities.

If you build it, they will come

On the heels of Andreescu’s win, Roger Martin, the former chairman of Tennis Canada, astutely pointed out the “bold strategy” the organization adopted in 2005 to overcome what he termed a “long track record of mediocrity.”

Martin described the evolution of an organizational philosophy based upon “higher aspirations and more distinctive strategies.”

This initiative was spearheaded by innovative approaches to infrastructure and lead by a patient team that had the wisdom to understand long-term investments take time to flourish.

It’s in this atmosphere that Andreescu’s talent was nurtured. It’s this purposeful strategy that has seen only one other country in the world produce more Grand Slam finalists over the past six years. (Genie Bouchard and Milos Raonic have made it to Grand Slam semi-final matches, and several junior players have won Junior Grand Slam finals in recent years.)

As women’s sports all over the world work to develop infrastructure, tennis’s example is worth noting. It’s not hard to envision grassroots tennis participation skyrocketing over the next few years and tennis events have become a branding juggernaut.

Andreescu proves that the combination of strategic infrastructure (including training facilities, coaching and support staff) and investment in women’s sport can produce big wins. The language we use to describe her success and the media’s continued coverage of her rise are lessons we should also keep in mind in the continued push for gender equity in sport.

How big brands could solve the gender pay gap in sport

Written by Katie Lebel, Ryerson University. Photo credit AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino. Originally published in The Conversation.

The U.S. women’s soccer team celebrates with the trophy after winning the World Cup final.

Once upon a time, a team of phenomenal female athletes won a championship in spectacular fashion. Their victory received significant media attention, inspired a generation and motivated a mass uptick in sport participation. The accomplishment was widely celebrated and pundits labelled it a pivotal moment in sport history.

This blip in the news cycle then wrapped up. The superstar athletes returned to their regular lives, and the rest of the world returned to its regularly scheduled sports programming.

This was 20 years ago when Brandi Chastain famously lead the United States to a World Cup victory in 1999.

We’re experiencing a similar afterglow today following the grand accomplishment of another extraordinary team of sportswomen.

It’s the same warmth of inspiration that now predictably follows all mega sporting events that feature female athletes at their best.

What have we learned?

Highlighting exceptional athletic feats with the right mix of hype and media coverage sparks interest in women’s sport. FIFA estimates this year’s Women’s World Cup drew more than a billion viewers. Television records were broken around the world. The round of 16 match between Brazil and France garnered an audience of almost 59 million people, making it the most viewed women’s soccer match of all time.

In response to the massive outpouring of support for the women’s tournament, FIFA president Gianni Infantino got positive media attention for announcing that the 2023 Women’s World Cup would expand from 24 to 32 teams and double the tournament’s total prize money to US$60 million.

Context is key though. The 2022 Men’s World Cup has earmarked $440 million in prize money, not including the bonuses provided by national federations. This amounts to, at minimum, a $380 million pay gap between FIFA’s men’s and women’s championships.

When it comes to pay inequity, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The most recent U.S. Women’s National Team lawsuit crunched the numbers to illustrate the alleged pay discrimination within the United States Soccer Federation.

The U.S. women’s soccer team celebrates at a parade in its honour in New York City following its World Cup victory. Photo credit AP Photo/Richard Drew.

The calculations show that if a woman were to play in and win 20 national team matches, she would earn US$99,000 — just 38 per cent of the US$263,320 that a man would receive for the same feat.

In 2014, the federation provided the men’s national team with performance bonuses totalling US$5,375,000 for losing in the round of 16. In 2015, the women’s national team received US$1,725,000 for winning the entire tournament.

Critics often argue the gender pay gap in sport is simple math — men’s sports bring in greater revenue, therefore, male athletes earn more lucrative salaries.

This argument dramatically oversimplifies the issue and fails to take into consideration the environmental and cultural factors that so powerfully hinder earning potential in women’s sport.

Inequities exist around playing, training and travel conditions. There is disproportionate investment in long-term player development, lopsided promotional budgets and severely limited merchandising opportunities. The U.S. women’s team lawsuit specifically argues that inferior marketing budgets are routinely coupled with reduced ticket prices and used as tactics to “manufacture revenue depression,” which can be “used as pretext for lower compensation.”

All of these factors must be taken into account when considering compensation structure — something the U.S. Soccer Federation’s recent pay analysis failed to do. Male-versus-female compensation is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Women in sport are consistently asked to accomplish more with less.

Where do we go from here?

Some might wonder why an organization would do anything not directly related to profit maximization. The answer is simple — institutionalized practices are often taken for granted, widely accepted and resistant to change, and there are few more institutionalized practices than male hegemony in sport.

The good news? One of the tenets of institutional theory suggests that organizations look to their environment for clues to understand appropriate courses of action. Sport federations are historically slow to adapt to change, but big corporate brands have the flexibility to be more nimble. While women’s sports now account for just 0.4 per cent of sport sponsorship spending, we’re beginning to see some evidence that suggests a potential sea change.

Notably, Budweiser announced it would become the first official beer sponsor of the U.S. National Women’s Soccer League on the heels of the women’s victory. Their #WontStopWatching tagline implied a deeper understanding of the issues at hand and how they might be able to best leverage their power to affect change.

Procter and Gamble, an official sponsor of U.S. Soccer, urged the governing body to “be on the right side of history” in a full-page ad in the New York Times while simultaneously announcing a US$529,000 donation in support of closing the gender pay gap.

Visa recently mandated that 50 per cent of its official sponsorship go towards the women’s team in its new deal with U.S. Soccer.

Luna Bar announced it would make up the difference between the women’s and men’s World Cup roster bonuses by paying out US$31,250 to each of the 23 players on the U.S. women’s team.

FOX Sports sold out ad space for the Women’s World Cup tournament, nearly tripling expected revenue.

And Nike’s U.S. women’s national team jersey became the company’s all time highest-selling soccer jersey, men’s or women’s. It unveiled an inspirational ad following the American victory.

Just imagine if a company like this also used its clout to demand equal pay.

The business model in sport is changing. These brands have not suddenly become more philanthropic. They’ve realized the market potential of women’s sport and have their finger on the pulse of a broader cultural turning point.

The fact is, brands have the power to be incredibly influential allies in this quest for change. And there is power in numbers. If more brands were to realize the full weight of their influence in the sporting sphere and demand gender equality in sport, we would collectively be able to put a much deeper crack in that glass ceiling.

The impact of women trailblazers in Canadian publishing

Written by Ruth Panofsky, Ryerson University. Originally published in The Conversation

Many of the classic books of Canadian literature thrived because of women editors, publishers and agents. Some are profiled here: Anna Porter in the 1970s, Bella Pomer in 2015 and Claire Pratt in 1950.

As you indulge in summer reading, consider this fact. If not for the path-breaking women in Canadian publishing, some of Canada’s best-known writers might not have made it: Margaret Laurence, Farley Mowat, Carol Shields.

Although it’s known that women have always participated in Canadian publishing, the lasting influence they’ve had on the industry remains largely unacknowledged. It’s time we honoured Irene Clarke, Claire Pratt, Anna Porter and Bella Pomer — Canada’s own Diana Athills, the famous British editor — whose contributions count alongside those of men like Jack McClelland, a name that still dominates the history of Canadian publishing.

My research focuses on Canadian authors and their publishers, editors and literary agents. It has led to many happy hours immersed in archival collections in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, where I’ve uncovered the record of women’s labour in mainstream Canadian publishing. In making a place for themselves in the mainstream press, these women helped lead the way for the feminists who established their own imprints, such as Press Gang Publishers (1970-2002) and Sister Vision Press (1985-2000).

Who were these trailblazing figures?

Irene Clarke, publisher

Irene Clarke (1903-1986) was Canada’s first woman publisher of English-language books. In 1930, she co-founded Clarke, Irwin.

At the time, with the world economy in collapse and the country in the grip of the Depression, the decision to launch a publishing company might have seemed foolish. By the late 1940s, however, under Clarke’s leadership, Clarke, Irwin had become one of the country’s five largest educational and trade publishers.

In 1941, Clarke took another bold step and published Emily Carr’s first book, Klee Wyck, under the Oxford University Press Canada imprint. At the time, in an unusual arrangement, Clarke, Irwin shared staff and premises with Oxford.

Carr’s book of sketches, which had been rejected by other publishers, won the Governor General’s Literary Award for non-fiction and helped generate new recognition for her paintings.

A close bond formed between Irene Clarke and Emily Carr, two women who broke historic ground, one as a publisher, and the other as a writer and a painter. Clarke not only launched Carr’s literary career. She went on to publish and acquire the copyright to all of Carr’s writing, which now endures alongside her more celebrated paintings.

Claire Pratt, editor

From 1956 to 1965, Claire Pratt (1921-1995) was senior editor at McClelland & Stewart, where she worked closely with individual writers.

Pratt came to know Margaret Laurence through her fiction set in Africa and recommended the novel This Side Jordan (1960) and The Tomorrow-Tamer and Other Stories (1963) for publication.

When she read the draft of The Stone Angel (1964), the first novel in Laurence’s Manawaka series, the editor was deeply moved. Pratt’s appreciation won the author’s trust and she remained a touchstone figure in Laurence’s life.

Pratt was most vivacious with the spirited poet Irving Layton. Pratt worked with Layton on four volumes issued by McClelland & Stewart, the first of which was the Governor General’s Literary Award-winning A Red Carpet for the Sun (1959).

Layton sought Pratt’s opinion of his poetry. He tested her patience by continually revising a manuscript until the moment it was forwarded to the printers. He bartered constantly: if he were to remove one poem from a collection, might he replace it with another? He also enriched Pratt’s professional life and offered some of the most heartfelt expressions of thanks she received over the course of her career, even an ode glorifying “Saint Claire.”

Anna Porter, publisher

Following a similar path taken decades earlier by Irene Clarke, Anna Porter (born in 1943) became the first woman to head a Canadian publishing company devoted to English-language non-fiction trade books. In 1979, she co-founded Key Porter Books, and then in 1982 assumed the lead as publisher of the firm.

Today, non-fiction is a popular and steadily growing genre that appeals to a wide audience. When Porter established her company, however, she broke new ground by rejecting fiction in favour of the expanding category of non-fiction.

Porter pursued journalist Allan Fotheringham, whose Malice in Blunderland or, How the Grits Stole Christmas (1982) was Key Porter’s first best-selling title and the first of Fotheringham’s six books to be issued by the press.

The crusty Farley Mowat was one of Key Porter’s more outspoken and popular authors. Mowat and Porter shared a long and fruitful connection characterized by impassioned and vigorous debate and reconciliation.

Bella Pomer, literary agent

Bella Pomer (born in 1926) established her own literary agency in 1978. One of Canada’s first agents, she was undaunted by the prospect of entering a burgeoning field that soon was dominated by a cluster of women based in Toronto.

Pomer’s most prominent client was Carol Shields. Their agency agreement lasted 20 years, from 1982 to 2002. Pomer’s vision and tenacity helped shape Shields’s career.

When Pomer placed The Stone Diaries with Random House of Canada in 1993 — after 11 lean years of representing Shields — the response was immediate. Critics and readers alike were intrigued by the novel’s structure and captivated by its elusive protagonist, Daisy Goodwill. It was short-listed for the Booker Prize and went on to win the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

Soon, Pomer was handling the countless administrative details that increased exponentially in the wake of The Stone Diaries. She orchestrated U.S., British and foreign publication of all of Shields’s books, ensuring that each edition received individual attention. She negotiated with publishers and sub-agents to secure handsome royalty advances for Shields’s subsequent books.

As a top agent, Pomer was more than a professional who shared in Shields’s triumph. She was also an attentive listener, an ally and a strong defender of Shields.

Pomer’s business approach to her many book deals was a boon to writers. With understanding and skill, she brokered better terms and royalty advances for her clients and sold their work outside of Canada. Such intervention succeeded in altering Canadian publishers’ negative perception of agents. More importantly, it helped reform dated practices that favoured publishers over authors.

Clarke, Pratt, Porter and Pomer were among the women who changed the face of Canadian publishing. Their achievements, which resonate in today’s highly charged publishing environment, deserve our attention.

Women’s hockey has avid fans but needs a corporate cash infusion

Written by Katie Lebel, Ryerson University. Photo credit Dave Holland. Originally published in The Conversation.

The Toronto Furies huddle up before their match-up against crosstown rivals, the Markham Thunder.

Kawhi Leonard recently registered one of the most iconic moments in Toronto Raptors history with his Game 7 buzzer-beater against the Philadelphia 76ers. The thrilling shot was captured by five different camera angles, the play-by-play commentary was available in multiple languages and corporate partners immediately activated, enhancing the value of the moment.

It also engrained Leonard’s awe-inspiring feat into the minds of millions of fans around the world.

In the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) this past season, the Toronto Furies won their final five games in a row to clinch a playoff berth. In a classic win-or-go-home matchup against their crosstown rival, the Markham Thunder, the game-winning goal was scored by the Furies’ top draft pick, Canadian Olympian Sarah Nurse, in a storybook finish.

How was this different from Leonard’s immortalizing shot?

Only the 500 people physically in attendance at the game had the pleasure of witnessing it. The event was not covered by any legacy media, there were no cameras to capture the moment nor any audio commentary to preserve the excitement of the play. Like trees in a forest, even the most extraordinary sport achievements fall silent if there are no tools in place to showcase them.

The power of visibility

Women’s sports are not promoted in the same ways that men’s sports are. This shortcoming has an impact on the awareness of women’s sports, which in turn affects the public’s ability to get to know female superstars, understand key rivalries or bear witness to historical performances — all important ingredients that foster fan engagement and inspire sport participation.

These systemic limitations make it incredibly difficult to even try to be a fan of women’s sports. They restrict opportunities for revenue generation and perpetuate the common misperception that there is no market for women’s sports.

These pitfalls are among the root causes of the CWHL’s downfall earlier this year.

There is a market demand for women’s sport. Lack of awareness is different than a lack of interest. In fact, women’s hockey has been called one of the fastest growing sports in the world, with 34 percent growth worldwide over the past decade.

We know that when women’s hockey is promoted, fans turn out — the late-night battle between Team Canada and Team USA for 2018 Olympic Gold broke midnight-hour programming records for both NBC (2.9 million viewers) and CBC (4.8 million viewers).

IMI International found that 22 percent of Canadians engaged with the CWHL brand this season, a figure on par with the fandom of athletics, gymnastics, the Ryder Cup, Champions League soccer and National Lacrosse.

Beyond this, few data points exist to corroborate the undeniable growth and value of the sport.

Sponsorship opportunities in women’s sports

On the heels of the CWHL ceasing operations, 200 of the best female hockey players in the world banded together in an attempt to create an economically viable professional women’s hockey league.

A formal leadership group has just been established known as the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association (PWHPA). While providing a means for players to stay connected and co-ordinate with one another, the players’ association is also meant to serve as a front door for discussions with potential investors and business leaders.

Currently, men’s sports enjoy 99.6 percent of all commercial sport investments. While there are cultural norms at play, insufficient data again stands as a key challenge.

When prospective sponsors are not provided with the traditional business elements used to argue value, it’s difficult for them to validate serious investment. Instead of working to document relevant metrics and provide context around measures of viewership and awareness, investors are often asked to simply overlook poor profit margins.

The CWHL didn’t struggle with attendance because fans were ambivalent; fans didn’t attend games because they didn’t know they existed. There was no media publicity or promotional advertising, there wasn’t even team-specific signage at venues.

Any sponsorship was treated as more of a gift than a serious investment; brand return-on-investment research wasn’t even considered.

The need for revenue generation

We need to recognize these types of barriers and develop a system that provides legitimate opportunity to generate revenue. Emotionally charged campaigns have been helpful in elevating the conversation, but true success will require sponsors to invest with intention and activate as more than just advocates.

Keep in mind there is a precedent for this.

In 1970, nine women dared to envision a better future for women’s professional tennis. Lead by Billie Jean King, these trail-blazers signed $1 contracts with magazine publisher Gladys Heldman, who arranged a partnership with Virginia Slims to sponsor a tournament at the Houston Racquet Club.

Women’s tennis has never looked back. All it took was for one brand to believe in the product and over-invest to create the tipping point necessary for success.

Clockwise from top left: Valerie Ziegenfuss, Billie Jean King, Nancy Richey, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon, promoter Gladys Heldman, Rosie Casals, Kerry Melville and Judy Dalton. Photo Credit: Creative Commons.

Brands now have a similar opportunity with women’s hockey. All they need to do is have a little imagination and take a chance on long-term potential. It always seems impossible, until it’s done.

Sport strategy consultant Katrina Galas, who served as the assistant general manager of the CWHL’s Toronto Furies, contributed to this piece.

As Ottawa helps the news industry, latest research suggests journalists’ loyalties are tough to buy

Written by Heather Rollwagen & Ivor Shapiro, Ryerson University. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang. Originally published in The Conversation.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau participates in TV interviews after tabling his budget, which included a $595 million financial package for news organizations.

Ottawa has finally announced the details of how it will offer financial assistance to the country’s struggling news media industry — a controversial policy that will lead to suggestions that journalistic independence is compromised by government funding.

Under a heading called Support for Journalism, Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s budget laid out three new measures: some journalism organizations will be allowed to issue charitable tax receipts to donors in a potential new source of revenue, a tax credit will offer a 25-per-cent refund on newsroom salaries and consumers will be able to claim a tax credit for digital news subscriptions.

The total projected cost of the financial package would be $595 million over five years. The aid will only be available to what the government has dubbed “qualified Canadian journalism organizations,” which will be recognized as such by “an independent panel.” How that panel will be chosen is just one of several obscure or questionable aspects of the government’s approach, likely to be at the centre of debate as this election year proceeds.

A question of principle

Underlying most of the arguments is a question of principle: If news organizations get government money, do journalists become government servants?

This question’s importance as it relates to freedom of the press cuts both ways.

On the one hand, there is no freedom of the press if the press does not exist, or if its existence hangs on a daily thread of avoiding bankruptcy. On the other, funding journalism fosters at best the appearance of a conflict of interest and at worst the tendency of pipers to pick tunes that please their payers.

Our research offers reason to think that Canadian journalists’ loyalties cannot be bought as easily as some fear.

Rather, as we will report in a forthcoming issue of the Canadian Journal of Political Science, most Canadian journalists express a collective sense of mission that requires them to be detached from those who provide their funding. Those sources of funding have long included corporate owners, advertisers, and — for public broadcasters and magazines — the public purse.

Canadian newspapers have struggled for years. The 2019 federal budget stated: ‘A strong and independent news media is crucial to a well-functioning democracy.’ Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette.

Identifying the journalist’s creed

These findings come two decades after the launch of an influential turn-of-the-century study led by David Pritchard at the University of Wisconsin and Florian Sauvageau at Université Laval, who identified a “Canadian journalists’ creed” of detached commitment to the accurate and impartial telling of public-interest stories. Follow-up work suggested that adherence to this “creed” was subject to variations according to language, region and media ownership, among other factors.

Much has changed in the media landscape since the birth of social media platforms like Facebook in 2004, with news organizations’ revenues devastated by competition with free alternative sources of public information, resulting in buyouts and closures and a particular crisis in local news.

In the wake of these changes, we interviewed a random sample of 352 Canadian journalists, including freelancers and salaried journalists working in small, medium and large news organizations across Canada.

Rating sources of influence

We asked them to rate potential sources of influence including politicians, business representatives, audience feedback, social networks and, of course, the mandates of employers and expectations of shareholders. Their answers strongly suggest that politicians, government officials and pressure groups are no more likely to influence their work today than at the end of the 20th century.

Instead, the journalists cited procedural matters as most influential on their work, especially ethical and legal constraints, limited time, the availability of news-gathering resources and access to information.

Journalists understand their role is to report on things as they are, educating their audiences, telling stories about the world and being detached observers. In addition, many believed their role to be one that especially scrutinizes politics and business and provides analysis of current affairs.

Creed tied to identity

What’s more, this enduring “creed” seems to be a stronger part of Canadian journalists’ professional identity than is true for peers in other democracies.

The budget offers tax credits for readers who have digital news subscriptions. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson.

Because we are part of the Worlds of Journalism Study, we were able to compare Canadians’ answers to those collected from more than 27,000 journalists in 66 other countries. When compared to their global peers, Canadian journalists report a stronger sense of being detached observers who report things as they are — and are significantly less likely to believe themselves to hold a collaborative role with the government.

Canadian journalists are also less likely than others to perceive themselves influenced by politicians, government officials and pressure groups and more influenced by journalism ethics.

Could this difference be ascribed to self-delusion or self-aggrandizement? Of course that’s possible, but there’s no theoretical basis for this to be more true in Canada than elsewhere. Social psychologists have demonstrated a significant link between people’s behaviour, their values and the norms of their milieu, and that they feel rewarded when they act consistently with their beliefs.

Whether journalists demonstrably produce work that is consistent with their collective sense of mission is another question, which will be a focus of our next phase of research.

Journalists are far from immune to confusion and ambivalence in describing their roles and their ethics. Yet, Canadian journalists’ accounts of their commitment to accuracy stand as an enduring article of faith, in stark contrast to their apprehensions about procedural (including financial) stresses.

This, if nothing else, gives us reason to suspect that a little extra financial security will aid, more than hinder, news people’s determination to remain independent monitors of power.

Post-Brexit, the U.K. and Canada can fuel global sustainability

Written by Deborah de Lange, Associate Professor, Ryerson University and Philip R Walsh, Associate Professor, Entrepreneurship and Strategy, Ryerson University. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick. Originally published in The Conversation.

A “circular economy” is one that avoids waste and instead innovatively reuses or regenerates end products. That’s in contrast to today’s largely “linear” economy, in which products are dumped as waste after we’re finished with them — losing value and damaging our environment.

With a circular economy, new business models generate value from end products and even turn those products into services, such as the phenomenon known as car-as-a-service, which minimizes negative impacts on the environment and people. A circular model relies on renewable energy, and an emphasis on human well-being has been incorporated into the concept.

Our new research into circular economy trade is one of only two reports on the topic tying the circular economy to international trade. The report was jointly funded by the Canadian and British governments as they ponder a post-Brexit Canada/U.K. trade deal.

As 2019 dawns, we’re proposing that a worldwide circular economy could be created through international trade and trade agreements like the one that might be forged between Canada and the U.K.

Global circular economy a possibility

The main message of our research is that Canada and the U.K. could jointly start a global race to the top through a trade agreement that incorporates circular economy principles.

The two countries can move ahead on precedent-setting circular economy trade, which would harmonize regulations across nations so as to eliminate industrial and consumer waste. We could even add incentives as part of the terms of trade — for example, lowering tariffs on goods generated by a verified cross-border circular process.

CETA (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), Canada’s agreement with the European Union, is considered a foundation for progressive trade, according to the expert opinions incorporated into our study.

Others, however, think CETA needs a great deal of improvement. Our research offers suggestions on how CETA too could be enhanced by more circular trade provisions, although they still may not satisfy those who prefer no trade agreements at all.

The norms of free trade among nations originated with GATT (the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), continued through the World Trade Organization (WTO), and have led to the unintended consequences of weakening environmental rules rather than strengthening them.

Standards weakened, not strengthened

Our trade agreements, in fact, have amounted to a race to the bottom and that must change. Many businesses also want to see positive initiatives incorporated into trade deals, but they’ve faced competitive pressures to lower rather than raise standards.

So let’s turn the negative side effects of our activities into an economic boon, enlarging the economic pie.

Both Canada and the U.K. are on their own paths towards greater sustainability and have Paris Agreement climate commitments to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. They can reinforce and strengthen each other’s efforts through circular economy trade — reducing, reusing and recycling in a co-ordinated fashion among businesses and consumers around the world.

We would like to see circular economy principles normalized into trade agreements. The WTO has set a goal for free trade everywhere, and we are ultimately proposing that the WTO could also get behind circular economy free trade everywhere too.

Trade integrates economies

Our study covers five areas in a potential circular economy trade agreement: Design inputs, governance, tariffs and non-tariff barriers, technology and sustainability as related to prosperity.

Thematic Linkages to Canada-UK Circular Economy Trade

We know from previous research that trade tends to integrate economies, reducing trade volatility and increasing trade volumes. Integrating economies may also tend to reduce the potential for violent conflict because the economic sacrifices become too high. Circular economy trade would lead to even tighter integration.

Through circular economy trade, firms develop even more intertwined relationships with each other, not only by selling new products and services to each other, but also by selling their waste products to each other and finding new, more efficient business models to serve each other and consumers.

Depending on firms’ expertise, they can work together through a digitized economy to deliver co-ordinated products and services to consumers. Circular economy trade can support this international digitized co-ordination based on complementary expertise. If circular economy trade increases integration, then it should further reduce trade volatility and boost trade volumes.

Consumers also need to redefine their role as part of waste reduction/reuse in a circular economy. Circular economy trade can spread these new consumer norms. For example, consumers may choose to buy or lease their appliances, their smartphones, their cars, etc., in the future, and purchase upgrade services instead of throwing old appliances and cars away.

Tesla cloud upgrades

Trade rules can support an increase in the availability of these consumer options. Some of it is already the norm in Europe.

Longer-lasting electric vehicles support sustained use, and software upgrades from the cloud are already part of Tesla’s service. As car-as-a-service spreads, utilizing electric autonomous cars, a new international auto industry is developing.

Canada and the U.K. can work together on this modern circular auto industry by co-ordinating on trade and investment. The U.K. has a strong auto industry and Canada could rebuild its own by doing business with the British industry, given the current losing game with American automakers.

A Canada-U.S. auto pact supported our auto industry, so now we need a circular version with the U.K. British automakers would work with sophisticated Canadian partners from a convenient base to supply the hungry and lucrative North American auto market.

Financial services are another area for co-ordination. Canada and the U.K. both have vital banking sectors with different strengths. By sharing their strengths, they can become even more robust and co-ordinate investments in an international circular economy while they divest of fossil fuel investments.

A recent OECD conceptual report examining global circular economy trade calls for more research on the topic. Involvement and support from the WTO would also be helpful.

Future research needs to consider how social justice can be integrated into circular economy trade —for example, by ensuring more stakeholder engagement as part of negotiations and trade agreement development.

Consultation with, and input from, citizens, industry, provincial governments and other stakeholders will all help devise workable circular trade solutions while we carefully balance national with corporate interests.

Our report emphasises the potential for a post-Brexit trade agreement between the U.K. and Canada that could promote and foster a sustainable circular economy around the world. We hope trade negotiators use the ideas to make international trade more sustainable overall.

Funding journalism means defining who’s a journalist – not a bad thing

Written by Ivor Shapiro, Ryerson University. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward. Originally published in The Conversation.

The Canadian government wants to offer financial assistance to the news industry. How will it define what’s journalism?

The federal government’s recent announcement of financial support for news organizations has been met with understandably wide-ranging reactions — from relief to skepticism, and worse.

Among other measures, the package will incentivize consumers to sign up for digital news subscriptions and subsidize publishers through a tax credit on salaries paid to journalists.

It’s good news for imperilled news businesses, but even some who share the government’s expressed concern over the sustainability of independent information about public affairs have expressed misgivings. The doubters include many journalists — the very people who stand most to gain from the promised support.

So what gives? It’s all about definition — and independence.

The argument for taxpayer subsidies rests on an immutable truth: It’s become tough, and sometimes impossible, to turn a profit by providing communities with verified information about public affairs.

People want free info

People want information to come free, like so much on the internet, and the economics of online advertising favours Facebook and Google over news providers.

This is a problem, according to Ottawa’s fall economic update, because:

“A strong and independent news media is crucial to a well-functioning democracy. It empowers citizens by providing them with the information they need to make informed decisions on important issues, and also serves to hold powerful institutions — including governments — to account by bringing to light information that might not otherwise be made available to the public.”

Principled counter-arguments to the government’s plan, however, likewise hinge on a perceived threat to the independence of a free press. To explain, here’s a deceptively simple political-philosophy pop quiz.

Which of the following statements is true?

  • Democracy functions best when the relationship of journalists and governments is one of tension, rather than interdependence.
  • In a healthy democracy, governments today need to spend taxpayer money to sustain a free and independent press.
  • Freedom of the press means that no one needs the government’s permission to produce and publish journalism.

The answer may be “all of the above,” because contrary to first appearances, the three statements aren’t contradictory.

Public support isn’t new

The United Kingdom, for example, is arguably home to the world’s rowdiest, most indomitable reporters and editors. Thousands of that country’s journalists benefit from a legislated universal tax (the so-called radio licence) that’s kept BBC’s news division vigorous enough to boast a global digital audience nearly 10 times bigger than Canada’s entire population.

Closer to home, the federal government has long provided grants to magazines both newsy and not, but not to daily papers, private broadcasters or news websites. And hundreds of journalism jobs at CBC-Radio Canada depend for their continuance on the largesse (or otherwise) of annual federal budgets, because there’s no Canadian equivalent to the BBC’s longer-term legislated assurance.

Who’s a journalist?

Now, the government plans to extend public-purse subsidies directly to the salaries of privately employed journalists.

But who and what is a journalist? This question has stumped some tough minds over the years, including that of former Chief Justice Beverly McLaughlin.

In 2009, she wrote a landmark libel judgment that lit a cherished green light for investigative reporters by holding them accountable for the fairness of their methods, rather than demanding literal truth of every word. The new protocol was based on a British precedent that lawyers call “responsible journalism.”

This straightforward moniker succinctly captured “the essence of the defence,” McLaughlin allowed, but instead of citing the term “responsible journalism,” she chose a markedly clunkier name for Canada’s version: “Responsible communication in the public interest.”

Why? Because “the traditional media are rapidly being complemented by new ways of communicating on matters of public interest, many of them online, which do not involve journalists.”

Dearth of local news

So, Chief Justice, one might ask — what is a journalist? On this, McLaughlin declined to pass judgment.

In 2011, the problem of defining journalists scuppered the country’s first substantial proposal of government support for news media. Laval University Prof. Dominique Payette delivered a carefully researched and well-argued report to the government of Québec describing a crisis in the availability of local news that escaped attention in the rest of Canada until some years later.

A proposal for government to legally recognize the profession of journalism was first proposed in Québec in 2011, but the idea was met with derision from many journalists. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes.

Payette recommended legal recognition of professional status for journalists and taxpayer-funded benefits to organizations that employ members of this order.

Shot down in Québec

The idea was initially welcomed by Québec’s government and by many journalists, but eventually got dropped due to a fractious debate among journalists about how it could be implemented. Opinion among anglophone journalists, meanwhile, was solidly dismissive — many persisted in misunderstanding the proposal as implying a required “licence” for practising journalism.

Coincidentally, around that time, my research was focused on a search for signs of consensus about what defines journalism. But the only consensus to be found was that a definition was neither needed nor wanted.

For most Canadian journalists, a free press means anyone should legally be allowed to describe their work as journalism. End of story.

Drawing distinctions

When I published my theory-building paper on the topic in 2014, I was careful to defer to the prevailing inclusive point of view. I made the case for defining journalism with reference to, among other things, the work of “independent” discovery. As for defining journalists (the workers rather than the work), my argument discreetly evaded its own obvious conclusion — if journalism can be defined, then a journalist is simply a person who practises journalism.

The inclusive position will no longer be tenable once the government offers tax breaks to companies that employ journalists. The government proposes to establish “an independent panel” to “define and promote core journalism standards, define professional journalism, and determine eligibility.” And who will be on this vital panel of definers? Journalists, of course.

Circularity aside, this might be viable as a short-term pragmatic solution. Most appointees to the independent panel will likely be current or former minions of legacy news brands, disinclined to recognize traces of their traditions in nimbler, edgier upstarts aimed at unconventional audiences.

Paul Godfrey, CEO of Postmedia Network, Canada’s largest newspaper company, has joined other publishers in lobbying Ottawa for financial assistance. Godfrey has in turn been criticized for giving himself large bonuses while laying off journalists across the country. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette.

But attention to diversity and terms of appointment will foster open minds and a sense of fairness. So too will a clear mandate, crafted through non-partisan consultation that favours neutral criteria, perhaps including membership of either the francophone Québec media council or its anglophone national counterpart.

But long-term, there is a more intuitive and less compromising way by which professions “define” themselves, set “standards” and determine “eligibility” for government recognition.

A time for self-regulation

This more conventional system for managing professional recognition works well enough for engineers, lawyers, plumbers and many others.

Governance for these professions and trades does not involve government-appointed panels, whose own biases must eventually collude or collide with those of their effective employers to foster actual distrust or subtle corruption.

Rather, these other socially important professionals are governed by their peers in legally recognized official bodies usually known as colleges or institutes. Their central goal: To protect the integrity and independence of their profession.

The system is called self-regulation and it already applies to journalists in France, Italy and many other industrialized democracies that boast markedly undeferential news cultures.

If self-regulation came to Canada, journalists choosing to enrol would not morph into humble servants, ready to trade away their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. And those same freedoms would continue to protect, likewise, the right of conscientious non-registrants to publish news (whether verified or fake).

In short, a system of self-regulation could do no harm and much good. Mostly, it would simply recognize the plain reality that journalists’ work is vital enough to foster, distinct enough to define, and, today more than ever, vulnerable enough to defend.

Big, bigger, biggest: Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Singles Day

Written by Norman Shaw, Ryerson University. Photo credit 松林 /flickr, CC BY-SA. Originally published in The Conversation.

The holiday shopping season is upon us. But do you need to go to the mall?

Cyber Monday is online retailers’ response to the bricks-and-mortar marketing push of Black Friday. Online shopping is only set to increase, as smartphones and apps continue to capture more of the market.

In the United States, the fourth Thursday in November is Thanksgiving, a public holiday recognizing the first harvest gathered by the colonists. The streets are quiet, the shops are closed and families gather together to enjoy the holiday. Many businesses add to the occasion by giving their employees a day off on the Friday immediately following Thanksgiving Thursday.

And what do these people do? Go shopping!

Kicking off the shopping season

Marketing gurus have advertised the day as “Black Friday,” which heralds the start of the Christmas shopping season. One myth about the name is that it was the day when retailers started earning profits, or in other words, their bottom line changed from red for losses to black for profit.

In truth, the term was used by the Philadelphia police in the 1960s because of the traffic jams caused by shoppers flocking to snatch the bargains. Whatever the origin, we are now treated to Black Friday super sales when hordes of consumers wait until the stores open at midnight so that they can buy whatever is on sale at a bargain price.

Demonstrating the reach of the American marketing machine, the term has been used in other countries. Even though Canada celebrates Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October — and the U.K. does not even have a Thanksgiving holiday — retailers in these countries, and about 20 others, have learned that there is a large sales uplift with the marketing fever generated by Black Friday. The timing of their Black Friday sales follows the American one in late November, not because of Thanksgiving, but because it kicks off the Christmas shopping season.

Crowds walk past a large store sign displaying a Black Friday discount in midtown Manhattan on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018. Photo credit AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews.

The Monday after Black Friday

The hype of Black Friday encourages consumers to visit physical stores. But online retailers did not want to be left behind, so they created Cyber Monday. Rather than compete with Friday’s activity of actually going to a physical store, they appealed to the consumers who had just returned to work after a long weekend, but were still looking for bargains. These consumers could shop online, and so Cyber Monday was born in 2005. It has since grown to be a bigger shopping day than Black Friday.

Lonely shoppers

But which day is the busiest shopping day? Not Black Friday, not Cyber Monday, but Singles Day … in China. It all started in 2009 when the giant Chinese online company, Alibaba, wanted to encourage people to buy online. They saw the date Nov. 11 with all its ones (11:11) and offered on-line bargains on that day to singles.

Alibaba runs the online shopping site Tmall, which is the Chinese version of Amazon. They dominate business-to-consumer (B2C) online shopping, with close to 50 per cent of the Chinese market. This year, online sales on Singles Day topped $31 billion, which is over four times the volume of Cyber Monday.

Not only does China have the busiest online shopping day, they also have the highest penetration of online sales completed with smartphones. Twenty-three per cent of their Gross Merchandise Volume is online and over 50 per cent of that takes place via mobile phones. Mobile payment is made easy through WeChat Pay, owned by TenCent, and AliPay, owned by Ant financial. These two competitors dominate the buying and selling of merchandise and, with their acceptance of mobile payments, they are moving China to become a cashless society.

A chart showcasing Thanksgiving weekend e-commerce sales in the U.S., demonstrating that sales overall have increased since 2016 and that Cyber Monday is the top shopping day.
This chart shows Thanksgiving weekend e-commerce sales in the United States. Photo credit Statista/Adobe Digital Insights, CC BY.

Shopping through apps

Online shopping has moved from the desktop to mobile. In 2011, only two per cent of online shopping was via mobile whereas in 2017, it was 60 per cent. In a survey conducted in 2017 by Pew Research Center of smartphone ownership, the majority of adults in 26 countries owned smartphones.

This penetration will continue to expand, and with the growth of new financial applications powered by technology (Fintech), mobile phones will become the vehicle of choice for online shopping.

Smartphones can also benefit physical stores. Apps help consumers compare products, find the nearest store, locate the item in the store, retrieve detailed product information and finally make the payment.

We can expect retail sales to continue to grow, in both clicks and bricks. We can also expect the mobile phone to be an integral component of shopping, in both clicks and bricks.

Capitalism needs a reboot so that no industry is too big to fail

Written by Deborah de Lange, Ryerson University. Photo credit Shutterstock. Originally published in The Conversation.

No industry should be considered too big to fail, including the auto industry.

The financial crisis of 2008 has not led us to take sufficient steps to avoid the next economic disaster. The dips in stock markets last February and just recently, together with dire predictions for early 2019, are setting off alarm bells.

If you have a defined contribution type of pension plan or your RRSP funds are tied up in stocks or mutual funds, you may also be concerned about reforming our stock market system.

But stock market fluctuations reflect a more fundamental problem than most realize.

Trader James Lamb watches his screens on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Oct. 10, 2018. The next big stock market correction could be coming. Photo credit AP Photo/Richard Drew.

Large firms need to be able to focus on the substance of their operations, not be distracted by stock markets.

The next big stock market correction could be coming. Although many foresee macro-economic changes driven by a technological transformation as the world switches to clean energy and transportation and away from fossil fuels, not all are equally prepared. In Canada, we had strong banks to mitigate against the last crisis, but we still bailed out the auto companies because they were “too big to fail” — meaning their failure would have resulted in an economic catastrophe for Canada.

Canada’s reliance on the fossil fuel industry and reluctance to diversify quickly enough may make the nation more economically vulnerable than the last time — especially when Canadian banks and the domestic auto industry are still linked to the fate of oil and gas. The oil-and-gas industry is resisting change.

No pressure from Canadian lawmakers

The global auto industry, however, is trying to save itself by offering electric cars now with autonomous features and car-as-a-service coming soon. Car-as-a-service means that rather than purchase a car, we will use an app to call a car to pick us up, drive us autonomously to a desired destination, and drop us off.

This simpler car-sharing approach saves time and resources. But automotive plants in Canada have not retooled for these new technologies. And Canadian political leaders have not pressured automakers building cars in Canada to adapt.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with auto workers at an assembly plant in Windsor, Ont., on Oct. 5, 2018. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Troy Shantz.

But how can the government engage this way when Big Auto can threaten to move jobs out of the country? The government only has leverage when the auto industry is on the brink of extinction because these firms are not just too big to fail, they’re also too big to budge.

At the same time, Forbes’ 2018 list of largest publicly traded companies reports many oil-and-gas companies as some of the biggest firms in the world, with Shell at No. 11 and ExxonMobil at No. 13, to name just a couple of companies populating the list.

Canada’s the home of some big oil-and-gas players like Suncor, Enbridge, Imperial Oil, Canadian Natural Resources and TransCanada Corp. Overall, everywhere, the oil-and-gas sector, like the auto industry, is both too big to budge and too big to fail, a very tenuous situation.

Independent oversight long overdue

In my book Cliques and Capitalism: A Modern Networked Theory of the Firm, I make suggestions on how we can avoid the too-big-to-fail problem. New corporate structures and matching incentive systems with independent oversight are crucial. Structural changes can make capitalism work better for us.

This can happen by changing the way firms are run. My book makes a holistic set of interlinked recommendations that need to be interpreted as a whole, but a few characteristics are outlined below.

The aim is to develop a sustainable model for corporations so that they do not become too big to fail, and their failures don’t spell disaster for a country or several nations.

1) By eliminating hierarchy, firms are less top-heavy while more democratic and egalitarian. By placing an emphasis on core work rather than administration, companies become more adaptable.

The firm is more directly and regularly subject to market forces because it is treated like a “bundle of projects” that can be added or removed as consumer market forces dictate. For example, in strategy consulting, we would staff client projects as needed and consultants would switch to a new project after finishing the last one, and there would be multi-tasking across several projects.

Continuous learning is an imperative. The firm adapts on an ongoing basis through its changing set of projects so it doesn’t experience sudden shocks that are impossible to recover from.

2) Through team governance, the tension between labour unions and management — a result of hierarchy and concentrated power — is eliminated.

Employees become a more integral part of decision-making. Monitoring is achieved by a combination of employee social networks and market forces together with an independent audit function. Employees will not tolerate other low performers if their own survival is at stake.

3) Oversight has to become more integrated, independent and transparent, but it can also be more cost-effective for firms.

Boards of directors are not needed, and no controlling shareholders are allowed in the new paradigm. Without hierarchy, ineffective “top-down” influences are removed. Instead, each large firm has an internal Independent Audit Council (IAC) that is truly independent and motivated through a carefully designed incentive system, explained in the book.

The IAC coordinates with a single external stakeholder-run Government Business Regulator (GBR). The GBR sets out common triple-bottom line reporting standards for all large firms, and works with the IACs of each firm to make objective decisions regarding breaking up companies due to anti-competitive monopolistic or oligopolistic industry developments. Companies use a triple-bottom line approach when they report transparently on their activities as related to environmental quality, social justice, and profitability.

Picking up the slack

Maintaining transparency and market competition ensures that if one firm fails, several others in the same industry can pick up the slack. Governments never have to bail out firms this way.

At the same time, the suggested systems and structures help firms prevent failures. They are more adaptive, and internal structural problems related to hierarchy are removed.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of operations becomes the focus, while the short-term whims of shareholders and stock markets have decreased influence.