Monthly Archives: January 2014


Extra! Extra! Read all about what isn't being read about online. (Photograph by

Extra! Extra! Read all about what isn’t being read about online. (Photograph by

Earlier this week, I opined on why so little political news was among the most read stories on the Websites of many major Canadian news outlets.

The three organizations I used as examples were the Victoria Times Colonist, the Montreal Gazette and the Globe and Mail. But they weren’t the only organizations that published most read lists — although many didn’t.

Below, you can find a collection of those lists, which were found on Google, Google News and Canadian Newsstand using the following search string:

(“most read” OR “most popular” OR “most viewed” OR top) AND (articles OR stories) AND (2013 OR “last year”)

Some organizations explained why those stories were popular online. Others didn’t. One list looked like a police blotter. Others didn’t. Two organizations didn’t appear to rank their most read stories. Everyone else did. But you can see for yourself.


“Looking back on the top stories of the year at, it’s a varied list. While it’s hard to predict sometimes what will make for high web traffic, whether it’s a viral video or a good news story, breaking news like June’s flood will grab the public’s attention. Here are the top-10 most-read stories of 2013.”

  1. WestJet makes passengers’ Christmas wishes come true
  2. Calgary man Mike Spencer Bown becomes world’s most travelled after finishing 23-year odyssey
  3. Calgary Lotto Max winner Tom Crist plans to give every cent of his $40 million winnings to charity
  4. Heavy rain in Southern Alberta area causes flooding, forces evacuations
  5. Sperm whale explosion caught on video
  6. Anti-pipeline protesters gather in Calgary to decry climate change
  7. Lukas Strasser-Hird, 18, dies from wounds suffered in attack outside Calgary bar
  8. City of Calgary spends $470,000 on giant blue hole on far-flung stretch of road in the name of public art
  9. Motorcyclist snaps pics of wolf as it chases him on highway
  10. Downtown Calgary evacuated as flooding takes turn for the worse


“Top stories of 2013 on the Journal website. Ten articles that rose above the rest online, and why.”

  1. My House Beautiful: Divorce house
  2. Alberta hamlet coldest place on Earth
  3. Fear on the family farm
  4. Tornado warning sends people scrambling to safety
  5. Pit bull severely slashed while protecting owner
  6. Parody on anti-rape posters offensive, says professor
  7. Woman killed at downtown Jeep show in Edmonton / Young boy killed after car hits restaurant patio
  8. Simons: No misunderstanding: That’s Edmonton’s winter, starring in Apple’s Christmas ad
  9. ‘Road Construction City’ sign greets people on drive into Edmonton
  10. Girl, 3, dies after being left in hot vehicle


“What topics did Globe readers care about most this year? Take a look at the 10 most read stories on in 2013.”

  1. Globe investigation: The Ford family’s history with drug dealing
  2. How BlackBerry blew it: The inside story
  3. Green coffee bean extract: Does it really help you lose weight?
  4. Toronto police spoke to Mayor Ford’s senior staffer after tip linked killing to alleged drug video
  5. Glee star Cory Monteith found dead in Vancouver
  6. NHL veteran Dominic Moore opens up about his wife, their life and her death
  7. Too many first nations people live in a dream palace
  8. How a ‘model’ employee got away with outsourcing his software job to China
  9. Obituary: Hannah Montana dies of neglect and shame at the VMAs
  10. Life of solitude: A loneliness crisis is looming


“At an online news outlet, you can never quite predict what’s going to bring readers to the page. In 2013, stories telling of blockbuster murder cases, with their inherent human drama, inevitably attracted hundreds of thousands of clicks, and then some…CBC Hamilton developer Kevin Gamble has created an interactive summary of the most-viewed stories on our site this year, organized by month.”


Decline in Hamilton’s smoking rates may have hit a wall
City used video surveillance, GPS records to investigate Hamilton workers
Ontario public elementary teachers to hold one-day strike Friday


Asteroid DA14’s close flyby with Earth: How bad would an impact be?
After visit from CSIS, Hamilton man criticizes ‘intimidation’
Hamilton teen’s video of lucky basketball shot goes viral


NHL hopeful from Hamilton wakes up drunk in stranger’s home
Ancaster man reels in 18-foot Great White shark on fishing holiday
Tim Hortons dancing queen serves smiles to McMaster students


Anti-circumcision activists to protest Oprah’s Canadian appearances
McMaster student leads online charge against RBC hiring practices
Montreal Canadiens player and father face assault charges


More suspects sought in Tim Bosman slaying
Tim Bosman’s widow says ‘I am broken’
Tom Bosma remembered: father, husband, son and friend


Newlywed Canadian trapped in ‘hellhole’ Dominican jail
Tim Bosman’s accused killer tried to arrange 3rd test drive
Blame men for menopause McMaster University study suggests


Hamilton man crafts homemade guitars, but can’t play them
Prankster plants pot outside Hamilton courthouse
Hamilton woman charged after putting 11-year-old behind the wheel


Ontario sisters must pay uncle $125k for false sex abuse claims
Pregnant woman says she was stranded after husband’s arrest
Widow of Tim Bosman finds hope in her new charity


Family lived with dead man in Hamilton house for months
Jay Baruchel wants U.S. films shot in Canada to be set in Canada
Graphic anti-abortion banner on Linc angers Hamiltonians


Hockey mom’s spat with league leads to ban of 7-year-old son
Tim Bosma slaying linked to Laura Babcock, Wayne Millard cases: OPP
Hospital’s tiniest preemie ever thrives and is now home


Dean Clifford, Freemen guru, arrested on Canada-wide warrant
Herpes helps fight cancer, McMaster study suggests
Man bails on girlfriend, leaves her with mugger, police say


Hamilton police officer Ian Matthews dies after shooting himself at central station
Hamilton police arrest video goes viral
How a Hamilton woman lost then won a $50m lotto ticket


“The good, bad and the inspiring. In 2013, the millions of visitors to clicked on them all and their choices at times even surprised us who work the paper’s website. The one overwhelming consistency in your choices was the interest in local stories and photographs above all else.”

1. Rail giant sues bereaved mom
2. London police pull body from Thames River in Soho neighbourhood
3. Elderly London man charged with assaulting police
4. London emergency room physician Tarek Loubani arrested in Cairo
5. Police warn pedophile plans to move to London
6. Missing 27-year-old Sarnia woman found dead
7. Hamilton-area father Tim Bosman found dead, Dellen Millard faces charges
8. Police confirm body of missing Western student found
9. Special Investigations Unit launches probe after teen injured in shootout with police on Oneida settlement
10. London got dumped with more than 30 cm of snow


“Top 10 most viewed stories in 2013. Tales of courage, profound grief, the power of nature, and questionable art among most popular stories.”

  1. Two children dead, Winnipeg mom sought
  2. Wall of ice destroys Manitoba homes, cottages
  3. Teen boy critically hurt at Red River Ex
  4. New $5 device easily unlocks car doors for thieves in Winnipeg
  5. Frequent texters tend to be shallow, research suggests
  6. Body of missing Winnipeg mom found in Red River
  7. Enemas and sex act shock audience at Winnipeg Fringe show
  8. Winnipeg man hid in swamp as strangers hunted him
  9. Dozens of children seized from Manitoba Mennonite community
  10. Ballet school accused of kicking out dancer for doing porn


“Here are the Gazette stories of 2013 that were the most read on our website.”

Waiters’ top 20 ways to not be a horrible restaurant customer
Boil-water advisory widens for Montreal area
The Osheaga Music Festival
Rape victim finds her voice and her dignity
Quebec hotel sues former guest over online review
Kovalev, the reluctant retiree
Actress Emma Roberts arrested in ‘unfortunate incident’ in Montreal
Boil-water advisory caused by a ‘whoops’ moment
Veteran radio hosts at CJAD, TSN 690 lose their jobs
Brossard team dons turbans in solidarity


“Here are the top 10 most-viewed stories of 2013 on CBC North’s website.”

  1. Customer swallows human toe in Dawson City bar
  2. Ottawa testing $620K stealth snowmobile for Arctic
  3. Arctic coast guard helicopter crash kills 3
  4. ‘Damn good pilot’ hailed in safe Yellowknife plane crash landing
  5. Bison in Alberta man’s ‘best friend’
  6. Possible world record size moose shot in Yukon
  7. PM Harper rips opposition on 1st stop of North tour
  8. World temperatures go off the chart by 2047, study says
  9. Radiation from Japan nuclear plant arrives on Alaska coast
  10. Nunavut mom jailed after telling daughter to kill herself


“Thousands of stories were published by CBC Nova Scotia in 2013, but few generated more discussion, reaction and emotion than the ones you’re about to read. Here are the top 10 newsmaking headlines of 2013 based on our most-read stories.”

  1. The death of Rehtaeh Parsons
  2. Saint Mary’s University frosh chant
  3. Smoking allegations ground Sunwing Flight
  4. A matter of taste
  5. Support for Scott Jones
  6. Rita McNeil, dead at 68
  7. Frankie MacDonald, amateur forecaster, viral video star
  8. Tragedy at sea
  9. Who was Harley Lawrence?
  10. Hope Blooms in north-end Halifax


“What stories in 2013 did you click on the most? We crunched the numbers and determined what the most popular stories were during this past year. Check out the list of the top 10 most popular stories below.”

  1. One dead in Regina crash involving stolen vehicle, two suspects in custody
  2. Wicked Sask. roads ‘the worst in 36 years’
  3. Heavy flooding taking its toll in southern Saskatchewan
  4. Family of missing Regina woman pleading for information on her whereabouts
  5. New face of Guess Ashley Diana marrying Sask. dentist
  6. Truck sinks into four-foot hole on Regina street
  7. Regina teens who rescued elderly woman from house fire heard cries for help
  8. Green Mile erupts in celebration after Roughriders beat Tiger-Cats
  9. Man arrested after standoff in south Regina
  10. Two Saskatchewan Roughriders players charged with aggravated assault


“The most popular stories were drawn from the worlds of crime, politics, celebrities and human interest…Perhaps curiously, the Saskatchewan Roughriders Grey Cup win did not hit the top 10. Here’s the full list of most popular stories on CBC Saskatchewan and CBC Saskatoon.”

  1. 3D printer by Sask. man gets record crowdsourced cash
  2. “Various stories about Sen. Pamela Wallin who, along with Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau, was suspended from the Red Chamber over questionable expenses, were consistently popular with online news consumers.”
  3. “A Saskatoon transgendered person living as a woman created a stir on the web and elsewhere when she tried to try on bridal gowns at a local store and was refused.”
  4. Families broken after 6 teens killed in Saskatchewan crash
  5. Picking your nose and eating it may be good for you
  6. Joni Mitchell wants no part of Saskatoon tribute
  7. “It was a shocking story, first when a six-year-old boy died violently at a First Nation reserve near Broadview and later when police said another young boy was responsible.”
  8. Wheat board’s cowgirl ad called offensive to women
  9. “An Amber Alert is a public alert issued by police in child abduction cases. One that took place in the Maple Creek area, involving a pregnant 14-year-old, was among the best-read stories of the year.”
  10. Idle No More co-founder uneasy with media portrayal of chief


“This list represents the single stories that were the most read. However, it is also a good indication of the most-popular topics for the year.”

  1. It’s not hard to make a substitute for soy sauce
  2. Telecom giant says shareholders don’t have the right to know about NSA dealings
  3. Ask Eric: Is it safe to eat imported bass fish?
  4. Cougar goes for fast ocean swim off Vancouver Island
  5. Downton Abbey’s Lady Mary actor dishes on life after Matthew
  6. Courtenay girl, 12, rescued from locked bank vault
  7. Ukrainian teen solves deep-sea mystery off Vancouver Island
  8. Island family recounts journey of a transgender child growing up in small-town Comox
  9. Couple who died in Victoria house fire ‘would have changed the world’
  10. RCMP find body of missing Langford mother


Coming on the Big Dog of Vancouver radio... (Graphic by CKNW)

Coming on the Big Dog of Vancouver radio… (Graphic by CKNW)

Why aren’t Canadians reading more political news? What does that say about us, our country and its system of government? I discussed some of those issues tonight on Global BC 1’s Unfiltered with Jill Krop. And I’ll be speaking about them tomorrow afternoon on CKNW’s The Simi Sara Show.


An example of how most Canadians don't react to stories about public policy. (Photograph by

An example of how most Canadians don’t react to stories about public policy. (Photograph by

By most measures, you’d think the readers of the Victoria Times Colonist — my hometown’s newspaper — would have at least a passing interest in politics.

According to the most recent data available from Statistics Canada, a plurality of the capital regional district’s labour force works in public administration, while a majority between the ages of 25 and 64 has some form of higher education. It’s also the seat of government for perhaps the most politically active province in Confederation.

But, even though it was an election year, none of the 25 most read stories on the Times Colonist’s Website had anything to do with politics. Instead, it was stories about soy sauce substitutes, imported fish and a cougar swimming off the coast of Vancouver Island that made that list.

It’s a phenomenon that appears to have been repeated to the same or somewhat lesser degree at major news organizations across the country. And that should be a concern for both journalists and Canadians alike.

In Montreal, for example, the 10 most read Gazette stories on the newspaper’s Website covered everything from restaurant etiquette to boil water advisories. But stories about the province’s public life — including a corruption inquiry and the government’s controversial Charter of Quebec Values — were nowhere to be found.

Even the Globe and Mail’s online readers showed comparatively little interest in the corridors of power — unless those wandering them were intoxicated.

Stories about Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s alleged drug video and his family’s past ties to the illegal drug trade made the paper’s top 10 most read list. And so did a column claiming many indigenous communities are “hungering for a return to a more separate existence.”

But the remaining stories on that list — which included reports on whether green coffee bean extract will help you lose weight and how Blackberry “blew it” — had little to do with politics.

Of course, given that local online news can now have a global audience, we shouldn’t assume such lists say something about us. But, looking at other predictors and indicators of political engagement, we shouldn’t assume they don’t either.

For example, during the Canadian Election Study‘s post-2011 campaign survey, respondents were asked how often they discussed news and politics.

Over 32 percent said they don’t generally talk about those subjects with either their friends or family.

Almost 83 percent also said they don’t generally exchange political news and ideas on the Internet.

And a comparable number of respondents said they have never joined a federal political party.

Against this backdrop, which includes historically low voter turnouts, the major media’s most read story lists looks like further confirmation of a politically disengaged country.

Of course, there may be some journalists who say this has nothing to do with them. And there are others who will say journalists should just give the people even more of what they apparently want, as defined by these lists.

But this “see no evil, do no good” attitude could have ramifications for the rights, privileges and freedoms journalists exercise on behalf of their audience and the public.

The most defensible rationale for such access and protection doesn’t come from the news media’s power to communicate with the masses — a power the Internet is making more diffuse by the day.

Instead, it comes from the supposed content of those communications, which are meant to discuss public policy and allow for the criticism of government — the very bulwark of liberty.

But if the masses are not consuming such content, the rationale and existence of journalistic access and protection may be undermined — compromising the news media’s capacity to discharge its societal responsibilities.

Indeed, we are already arguably seeing that happen as public officials, acting on the advice of political and communications advisors, increasingly circumvent or ignore journalists.

That puts accountability, transparency and, by extension, democracy at risk.

As such, it is incumbent on journalists to figure out why Canadians aren’t consuming more political news and what the news media can do about it.

Perhaps it has to do with how journalists cover politics — all sound and fury but too often failing to demonstrate it means something?

Perhaps it has to do with how journalists can’t cover politics, restricted by our limited access to public records and officials?

Perhaps it has to do with how little influence Canadians have over our political system, conceivably decreasing their need and desire for news about it?

Perhaps Canadians just aren’t very interested in influencing our political system, being subjects of a culture that has historically favoured deference over rebellion?

Or perhaps it’s something else entirely?

Regardless, these are questions journalists and Canadians should be asking, answering and, most importantly, doing something about.

Because when a cougar swimming in the ocean bests news about the political future of an entire province something is amiss in the newsrooms, living rooms and legislatures of this nation.


Transparency is the beginning of a solution for government's problems, not the end, argues researcher Andrew Mayersohn in the Boston Review. (Graphic by Boston Review)

Transparency is the beginning of a solution for government’s problems, not the end, argues researcher Andrew Mayersohn in the Boston Review. (Graphic by Boston Review)

• Transparency is often proposed as a cure for much of what ails government, states Centre for Responsive Politics researcher Andrew Mayersohn in a column for the Boston Review. But data released to the public won’t cure anything unless there are individuals and interest groups who use it. Moreover, according to Mayersohn, transparency advocates often don’t explain how that data will lead to good results. The reason: because many of those advocates are nonpartisan, “discussing theories of change is uncomfortable terrain; it means talking explicitly about politics and power.”

• The Nation’s John Nichols blames the United States’s “exceptionally low level of voter participation” on how difficult it is to cast a ballot in that country. But only a few of the difficulties cited by Nichols exist on this side of the border. So what’s Canada’s excuse for our voter participation? After all, according to the Conference Board of Canada, our country’s turnout during elections is better than the United States but worse than 13 other peer countries?

• Northwestern University communications professor Pablo Boczkowski predicts economically strapped news organizations “will pay more attention to the public in the year ahead.” That could mean those organizations will be “stuffing our news diet with sports, weather and crime stories” that “give us engaging topics of conversation.” But that could also mean a decrease in the public affairs reportage that fuels public deliberation and political participation.

• At the same time, senior advertising executive Rob Norman argues online advertising dollars should be spent placing ads adjacent to hard news rather than soft features. In a column for Advertising Age, Norman writes, “advertisers have no obligation to support the public service of news, but doing so would not only be good for the world but good for business.” His rationale: the “authority, timeliness and relationships” news organizations have with their readers “are worth a premium over some other digital-inventory types.”

Have a news tip about about the state of democracy, openness and accountability in Canada? You can email me at this address.


The Canadian Open Data Summit will get underway in Vancouver next month, organized by Open Data BC. (Graphic by Open Data BC)

The Canadian Open Data Summit will get underway in Vancouver next month, organized by Open Data BC. (Graphic by Open Data BC)

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be speaking to the Canadian Open Data Summit.

The summit, which will take place at the Simon Fraser University Segal Graduate School of Business on February 21, is a forum for discussing how to use, connect to and access open data.

My talk will focus on the political and cultural barriers to that process in Canada, the Unknowable Country.

Other speakers will include Vancouver Sun data journalist Chad Skelton, Open Data Institute technical director Jeni Tennison and Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat open government director Sylvain Latour.