This and That

The Third Way

I’ve had to print a correction with regard to a June item I wrote about The Third, a new weekly listings paper I had somehow understood to be a production of the CBRM.

The Third, it turns out, is a free, local, 16-page print weekly, published and edited by Michelle Coffin with the help of social media editor Leslie Medina and associate editor and designer Ashin Wilfy. It takes its name from the assertion (which the publisher herself admits requires a generous understanding of the concept of “thirds” and an ability to ignore the Bras d’Or Lake) that the CBRM occupies about a third of Cape Breton Island.

two tabloid newspapers

Two Thirds?

While I understand the urge to launch a weekly publication, I’m not sure I understand the decision to launch a print publication (The Third also exists in digital form but this seems to be something of an afterthought) funded (apparently) solely by advertising in 2023.

The Third, in promising “comprehensive event listings” while “facilitating discussions about important matters taking place” in the community follows the alt-weekly model established decades ago by papers like the Village Voice (which ceased publication as a print weekly in 2017 but returned as a website and a quarterly print edition in 2021).

It’s a model that has produced some fantastic journalism, as Alison Main recounts in this piece bemoaning the recent sale of one such alt-weekly, the LA Weekly, to a group of wealthy, conservative businesspeople:

There’s meaning behind the “alt” in “alt-weekly.” While a city’s flagship local paper covers the most prominent news in town, alternative local news sources are able to go beyond the mainstream, digging deeper into the fabric of the city to bring something new to its natives.

This is how LA Weekly covered the rise of famed Compton-born rapper Kendrick Lamar; how Eli Sanders won a Pulitzer Prize for telling the story of ‘The Bravest Woman in Seattle‘ in the city’s alt-weekly The Stranger; it’s how the Houston Press’s 1998 expose about police and prosecutors withholding evidence relating to the wrongful murder conviction of Roy Criner led to a pardon from then-governor George W. Bush.

But as Jack Shafer explained in this 2017 “eulogy” for the alt-weekly:

The record shops and bookstores, the ones that reliably advertised in alt-weekly pages, have mostly vanished, as have many local retailers and service providers. Once the lowest-cost advertising vehicle in many cities, alt-weeklies have lost that status to Web advertising, most notably in the classified ads and personals categories, where the mass migration from print to online has sapped all newspapers, alt-weeklies and dailies alike. Once the untouchable authority for what to do in the city, the alt-weeklies were long ago eclipsed by the mobile phone.

(In fact, The Third’s listings are taken from What’s Going On: Cape Breton’s GO & DO Guide, a website established in 2010 to replace a print magazine published from 1995 to 2003. This website, which can be accessed “by the mobile phone,” does an excellent job of tracking events, as I discovered when I made my own ill-fated foray into listings a couple of years ago.)

The Coast in Halifax started life as a free print weekly, priding itself on its “fact-based and fearless journalism” and its mission to “show up for local culture.”

But while it survives (and seemingly thrives), The Coast has not been immune to the changes that have claimed so many of its peers. As it explains in the About Us section of its website:

When the pandemic arrived and the local economy shut down, we stopped printing the weekly paper, a drastic measure that The New York Times reported on. But we are doubling down on digital, publishing our award-winning journalism at

Survival has meant both abandoning the print paper and finding a new funding model for the online version. For The Coast, that looks like “a combination of digital and print advertising, sponsored content, events like Halifax Burger Week, production services like Ticket Halifax and reader contributions.”

The Coast rejects the idea of a paywall, arguing that it constitutes “publishing for subscribers, not a community” and while I respect this view, I personally could not stomach the idea of publishing sponsored content and I’d rather be answerable to my subscribers than to advertisers, assuming there were advertisers to be had.

All to say that, for the 21st century publisher, there’s no right or wrong approach to funding your publication, just a bunch of difficult choices and, if I’m honest, when I was weighing them up myself, I didn’t think publishing an advertising-supported print weekly was one of them.

But maybe The Third will pull it off.

I wish Coffin and her team all the best.


Green Dream

Over at the Examiner, Joan Baxter is digging into the green hydrogen hype that has engulfed our province (and much of the world).

Baxter traces the evolving promises of Australian born/New York-based private equity dude Trent Vichie of EverWind, whose Point Tupper proposal involves building four wind and one solar farm to generate electricity to catalyze water to produce “green” hydrogen for conversion to green ammonia for shipment to Germany.

One of those wind farms, slated for the Municipality of the District of Guysborough, is being billed as the largest in the Western Hemisphere.

Baxter finds these plans as dubious as I do myself (we even stumbled across the same green-hydrogen skeptics, Michael Liebreich and Paul Martin, in our research) and her August 8 article (Part 1 of two) tries heroically to pin down just how much green ammonia Vichie is proposing to produce in Point Tupper and how much electricity (and therefore, how many wind turbines and solar panels) will be required to produce it.

The numbers, as Baxter documents, don’t really add up.

EverWind CEO and founder, Trent Vichie (centre), at the signing of memoranda of understanding with Uniper and E.On. Credit: EverWind Fuels Credit: EverWind Fuels

EverWind CEO and founder, Trent Vichie (centre), at the signing of memoranda of understanding with Uniper and E.On. Credit: EverWind Fuels Credit: EverWind Fuels

Throw in another green hydrogen proposal at Bear Head (one with no publicly announced source for its renewable electricity) and you get the kind of nonsense only a politician could take seriously (and sadly, politicians at both the provincial and federal levels are taking this green hydrogen stuff very seriously, as Baxter details in Part 2 of her series).

There’s a light at the end of this tunnel, though, and it’s not from a hydrogen explosion: it comes from Julia Levin, associate director national climate, with Environmental Defence Canada, who tells Baxter that the idea of a province that hasn’t managed to wean itself off coal for power generation using its renewable electricity to produce ammonia for Europe “seems ridiculous.”

If you’re shipping ammonia overseas, then we’re subsidizing fertilizer in Europe, or if you’re transitioning back from ammonia to hydrogen [in Europe], then we’re talking about less than 20% energy savings from end to end.

Levin then accentuates the positive:

[I]f this impractical project doesn’t work out and the economics don’t make sense, hopefully the end result will be a build-out of wind power, which can be used to transition Nova Scotia’s grid off of coal.

Cheers to that! Baxter’s articles are behind a paywall (Tim Bousquet also prefers subscribers to advertisers) but the monthly subscription is well worth the price given the quality work done by the Examiner team.


Sartorial splendor

I hadn’t seen that photo of Vichie before today and I found myself thoroughly distracted by his ill-fitting suit.

I know the suit is ill-fitting because I’ve become a devoted follower of Derek Guy’s Twitter account (@dieworkwear). Guy is the editor at Put This On and the man behind the Die, Workwear! website. A recent Guardian article described him as a “menswear writer, critic and prolific Tweeter based in the San Francisco Bay Area” who “hides behind his Twitter avatar – a drawing of Nixon’s debonair attorney general Elliott Richardson – and describes himself ‘a guy who lives alone with a cat.'”

Guy uses his Twitter account to explain the finer points of fashion and tailoring and to critique the suits of the rich and famous. In doing so, as the Guardian puts it, he manages to be “censorious without being mean.” He always punches up, telling the paper, “I would never do it to some guy on the street.”

The Guardian article was sparked by Guy’s take on British PM Rishi Sunak’s oddly short pants, about which Guy tweeted:

Vichie’s problem is just the opposite—his suit pants are too long, as evidenced by the fabric pooling around his ankles. (It’s also badly wrinkled, which Guy says is the first sign of a poor fit.)

Mind you, Vichie is in good company in his too-long pants. In a thread about what a sharp-dressed man King Felipe of Spain is, Guy noted:

What I particularly appreciate about Guy’s takes is that he stresses (repeatedly) that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get yourself a suit that fits properly:

Which makes Vichie’s suit doubly baffling. Maybe once he starts harvesting all those clean energy subsidies the Canadian government is standing ready to provide him he’ll find himself a decent tailor, although I actually hope he doesn’t. If he gets to enrich himself by leading our province on a green hydrogen goose chase, pointlessly delaying a necessary transition away from fossil fuels, then I get to make fun of his suit.

It’s not much of a trade off, but it’s something.