Opening Notes

Tanya Davies September 27 1999

Opening Notes

Tanya Davies September 27 1999

Opening Notes

Tanya Davies

There is no literary place like home

The fifth estate co-host Linden MacIntyre has made the world his beat during his acclaimed 35-year journalism career.

But when he decided to write his first novel,

MacIntyre stayed close to home. Not Toronto, though, where he lives with wife,

Carol Off, a reporter with CBC TV's The National Magazine. Instead, The Long Stretch is set in rural Cape Breton, where MacIntyre lived until 1980. The journalist, whose father, Dan, was a hard-rock miner, grew up in Port Hastings, a small village three kilometres from the real-life section of

The book, written largely in earthy, Gaelic-tinged Cape Breton dialogue, is, by the authors own admission, bleak.

rural road from which the novel gets its tide. “We lived close to the elements,” says MacIntyre, 56, a four-time winner of the Gordon Sinclair Award, which goes to Canadas best overall broadcast journalist, “with a tactile awareness of what birth, death and suffering were all about.”

But the pre-publication buzz—the novel will be released on Oct. 2—couldn’t be brighter. MacIntyre has already been asked to read at the prestigious Harbourfront Reading Series in Toronto next month. Of course, MacIntyre knows the real verdict will have to wait until he returns to Cape Breton next summer to visit family, when he finds out how his first fling at fiction went over back home.

Word for word

Bennett on books

Canadian publisher McClelland & Stewart threw a party last week at the Art Gallery of Ontario to celebrate the launch ofits fall books. But that didn’t stop Avie Bennett, chairman and president of the firm, from startling many of the 800guests with some dire warnings about the book business.

A few of his comments:

“The overall picture is daunting. The corporate world in 1999 has two overriding concerns. The first is bigness and the second is globalism, a world

without natural borders.

Earlier, we saw Penguin and Putnam merge, then Random House swallowed by Doubleday to become part of the German-based Bertelsmann empire. This concentration inevitably means fewer independent publishers making independent publishing decisions, and that’s bad for any society.

“Concentration in the bookstore trade is another worrying trend. In what everyone tells us is a buoyant economy, our book sales should be flourishing. That’s not what we see. In fact, the returns of unsold books as a percentage of sales are up 12 per cent this year, and

that, we hear, is the same as other trade publishers.

“Canada as a separate market continues to erode. We pay for the exclusive rights to develop, publish and then sell, for example, Alice Munro’s The Love of a Good I Woman, in Canada. Yet our experiments proved that if you, from your Canadian address, ordered a copy of that book online from Amazon.com, you would receive the American edition. We conclude that we and other Canadian publishers are losing millions of dollars in sales that way, whenever Canadian consumers use a Web site outside the country, which I strongly urge you not to do.”

Distinct drive-ins

News that Cineplex Odeon was shutting down its 10 remaining drive-in movie theatres provoked much nostalgia last week—except in Quebec, where drive-ins continue to flourish and will remain open. Industry insiders find the decline—in 1961 there were 238 drive-ins—far easier to explain than the success. “State-of-the-art megaplexes,” says Marci Davies, vice-

president of marketing and communications at Cineplex Odeon, “have diminished the drive-in experience.” But the real killer has been urban growth, which has seen drive-ins occupying land worth far more to developers than to a seasonal business. But Davies couldn’t say why things are different in Quebec, where her company’s 19 outdoor screens “remain very profitable.” Quebecer Claude Chabot, a senior vice-president with Cineplex Odeon in Montreal, is accustomed to the question. Studio heads in Los Angeles, says Chabot, “are always asking me, ‘What is going on in Quebec? We’re shutting down drive-ins around America and you’re making miracles with them.’ ” His answer? Quebec is simply, well, distinct. “The tastes of the Quebec population have often been different than the rest of Canada,” says Chabot. “So it’s the same for the drive-ins.”

The unfriendly skies

Timely reading as millions of Americans fled Hurricane Floyd, Skies of Fury (Simon & Schuster) offers eye-popping accounts of the power unleashed by even routine storms. Among the stories of human encounters with the elements provided by writers Thomas Svarney and Patricia Barnes-Svarney is that of USAF Lt.-Col. William

Rankin. Forced to eject from his jet above Norfolk, Va., in 1959, Rankin began a 40-minute tour of the inside of a thunderstorm.

Winds repeatedly shot him up and back down, while

metre-thick sheets of lightning flashed all about and so much water engulfed him that Rankin feared he would drown in midair. Miraculously, made it safely to earth—more than 100 km from where he bailed out.

Where have all the readers gone?

Since the National Post began publishing 11 months ago, the question in everyone’s mind in the newspaper business has been: are there enough readers to support four Toronto-based dailies, two of them aiming for a national audience? A readership survey, obtained by Macleans, indicates that the Post has secured a beachhead, being read by one in 12 adults in Toronto. But the validity of the data compiled by Newspaper Audience Databank Inc., the main research arm of the Canadian newspaper industry, is being challenged by some of the papers. Despite Toronto dailies spending close to $30 million in advertising, giving away upwards of 100,000 copies a day, and maintaining a rock-’em, sock-’em fight

for months in the media, overall newspaper readership in the city has apparently declined by four per cent.

That perplexing discovery led Toronto-based NADbank to re-exam-

ine its data. An external audit “didn’t turn up anything to indicate that the numbers aren’t representative,” said Susan Ellsworth, a NADbank technical committee member. Even so, NADbank postponed its usual Oct. 1 delivery of the figures that media buyers use to determine where they will put their clients’ money, especially for the busy Christmas market. Ann Boden, president of OMD, the largest ad-buying agency in Canada, said everyone in the business is “anxiously waiting for the numbers. We’re expecting a few little surprises that will have a major impact on where we place most of our dollars.”

NADbank’s big loser is The Globe and Mail. According to the data, which now are to be officially released on Oct. 29, the Globe has lost 30 per cent of its share of the Monday to Friday audience in Toronto, falling from 14.2 per cent of adults in the Toronto region to just over 10 per cent. The Toronto Star has dropped from 36.2 per cent to 33.7, while The Toronto Sun, the splashy tabloid read by one in five Toronto adults, remains unscathed by the newspaper war.

And the donnybrook promises to get worse. Globe publisher Phillip Crawley wrote NADbank to say the “current high-pitched buzz” in the industry means someone is leaking the confidential report. He told Macleans-. “Don’t expect me to stay quiet over the

next six weeks if the other people aren’t playing by the Marquess of Queensberry rules either.”

The whispering campaign about the numbers has already begun. The Post has been visiting some advertising agencies, boasting about the paper’s prowess—without divulging its own single-digit Toronto readership (eight per cent)—and it used its news pages to declare that the Globe is afraid of the

survey results. Crawley dismissed the Post story as a “hatchet job” and instead refers to an Angus Reid survey, which indicated the established Toronto papers had maintained their market share, despite the upstart’s muchballyhooed arrival last October. Gordon Fisher, the Post’s assistant publisher, says other research points to his paper edging out the Globe in every major market except Winnipeg and

Toronto, with the two papers tied in Ottawa. When told what the Post was saying, Crawley crowed: “Toronto is the one that matters. We will come out of NADbank as being the No. 1 paper at the top end of the Toronto market. We will have a bigger readership number than the Post, and we’ll have a bigger reach across the country.” NADbank plans another survey for release in February, meaning Torontonians can expect the donnybrook to rage on.

John Nicol

Explorer

A smashing sales pitch

ACE/ClearDefence Inc.’s security laminate window liner resembles a paperthin, transparent sheet of plastic. But it is strong enough to defeat a thief with a baseball bat or minimize the damage caused by terrorist car bombs. Ottawa businessman Peter Fabian, president of ACE/ClearDefence, acquired exclusive manufacturing rights for the liner from its German inventor in 1991, and spends about $1 million a year breaking windows and blowing up automobiles to prove its strength. Last week, at a demonstration held at a quarry 80 km north of Toronto, Fabian began by shattering an ordinary sheet of glass with one swing of a bat. Fie then took three powerful swings at a pane lined with his company’s product, leaving it badly cracked but intact. When a 3.6-kg bomb ripped apart an automobile, two windows lined with security laminate just 4.5 m away from the car sustained only a single crack. The high-strength liner—which costs $10 to $15 per foot—contains titanium flakes and acrylic and polyester resins, all compressed according to a patented process. ACE/ClearDefence currently sells $30 million worth of the liner annually to security-conscious governments and military establishments in 15 countries, including the United States, Kuwait and South Africa. And the company has re-

cently achieved a domestic breakthrough: the federal government has awarded it a contract to install the product in the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.

Click and save

It is the old retail concept of the clipand-save coupon adapted for the digital age. Vancouver-based SUMmedia.com has signed up 2,100 businesses in the greater Toronto and Vancouver areas to post their discount coupons—3,000 as of last week—on the company Web site. Consumers digitally clip the coupons by printing them and presenting the printouts to merchants. The retailers, who pay $40 a month for each coupon, are divided into 21 categories and 85 sub-categories, such as automotive and entertainment, and SUMmedia will soon add Edmonton and Calgary to the service. It also has its sights set on the United States and Australia.

Monitoring a baby’s movements

Sudden infant death syndrome is a medical mystery that has long baffled doctors, and frightened parents. It has also led to the popularity of electronic monitors that capture the sound of a child’s breathing in the crib and transmits it to a portable receiver. Now, Angel & Co., a Montreal-based designer and manufacturer of childrens products, has developed a monitor to detect motion, as well as sound, and to alert parents of potential trouble. The Angelcare system comes with a standard transmitter and receiver, and costs $130, compared with regular monitors that retail for approximately $50. But the Angelcare is also equipped with a 25-by-40-cm motion sensing pad that is placed under the crib mattress. It is capable of detecting the smallest movement, even an infant’s breathing. The portable receiver makes both a ticking sound and flashes a green light each time the baby moves. An alarm bell sounds if the infant stops moving for 20 seconds.

D’Arcy Jenish