Into the Fog

Real business news is good stuff. I say this as someone who used to read the Wall Street Journal regularly, after a co-worker gave me the sage advice to “throw out the op-ed section and focus on the articles.”

The quality of such articles is high because businesspeople, although happy to spin and color information themselves, require unadorned facts upon which to make their decisions and appreciate publications that provide such facts. I was reminded of this when I ran across the Financial Times article on private equity and veterinary clinics that informed last week’s Fast & Curious. The journalist, Barbara Crockett, allowed the private equity voices their say but not without questioning them thoroughly.

Too often, local business news omits the questions—instead, we get boosterism or press-release publication or some combination of the two in which businesspeople are given their say with no serious interrogation of what it is they’re saying.

The Cape Breton Post offered examples of both types of coverage recently and I don’t mean to pick on their business reporter (whose heart, I’m convinced, is just not in it) but given the way business interests have historically shaped our island, I felt the need to probe a little deeper, so this week’s edition is all business. (I will catch up on my council coverage next week.)


Bog Standard?

The first example is pure boosterism and I felt for the Post‘s reporter who went (or was sent) to Louisbourg to cover the arrival of the port’s first cruise ship of the season, which would have been the second cruise ship of the season had the Viking Octantis not canceled its April 21st call.

As it happened, the vessel scheduled to arrive on May 15, the Silver Cloud, wasn’t able to dock but “some” passengers (local cruise coverage rarely deals in hard numbers) came ashore by Zodiac. Full points to the Post for trying to turn this into a story, but the caption underneath the accompanying photo of two women sitting at a picnic table kind of says it all:

Mainland Nova Scotia residents Carrie Croucher and her cousin Sherry Hatfield visited the historic Cape Breton fishing village of Louisbourg on Sunday looking for the schedule [sic] Silver Cloud cruise ship. The 81-year-old Croucher, who was raised in Louisbourg, never sighted the ship as it was anchored in the offshore fog.

This notion that the cruise ship itself was the attraction was echoed by the woman who runs the Louisbourg Market, who told the Post that some locals were “coming out to check out the market and the cruise ship, which of course they can’t see today because of the fog.”

Carrie Croucher and her cousin Sherry Hatfield

Carrie Croucher and her cousin Sherry Hatfield in Louisbourg, Cape Breton Post photo.

Of the two, live passengers interviewed, one was a cruise line employee—the ship biologist who “travel[s] around on cruise ships giving presentations,” a position characterized as a “dream job” rather than a mid-range circle of hell—while the other was a “well-traveled resident of greater London in the UK” who said she liked to visit places like Louisbourg which were “more interesting than your bog-standard cruises.” (Don’t anybody tell her that literally every “bog-standard” cruise that docks in Sydney offers passengers the opportunity to visit Louisbourg.)

The story ends (inadvertently, I think) by illustrating why regular tourists are more valuable to the local economy than cruise tourists. The biologist, to his credit, had visited the Miners’ Museum, but it’s not clear the well-traveled Londoner did anything other than gaze at her surroundings while ashore. In fact, the Post‘s description of the Silver Cloud cruise suggests this was all she was expected to do while ashore:

Passengers can explore remote and remarkable places by day and enjoy the amenities, such as a heated pool, spa and fine dining while on board.

Carrie Croucher and her cousin Sherry Hatfield, on the other hand, were “preparing for another night at a remote lakeside lodge on Fiddlers Lake in Gabarus.”

You do the math.


Note: The featured image is NOT the Silver Cloud off the coast of Louisbourg, it’s an unnamed cruise ship photographed in 1992 by Commander John Bortniak, NOAA Corps and accessed via Wikimedia Commons)