Even though masks are no longer legally mandated in B.C. malls and stores, many businesses continue to encourage mask use for the safety of customers and staff – and that decision is getting them named and shamed on a social media blacklist.
In the private Facebook group Whitelist Blacklist BC Only, users derisively describe masks as “face diapers,” and call the people who advocate for their use during the COVID-19 pandemic “maskholes.”
They also spread the word about which businesses are still requesting that customers cover their mouths and noses in the absence of a province-wide mandate to do so.
Targets include everything from massive casinos to the Wedge Cheesery, a small cheese shop that Matt MacLaren and his wife run in Vernon, a community of about 40,000 people located in the province’s Southern Interior.
The couple learned about the blacklist a few days ago after a barrage of rude comments and anti-masker memes started showing up on the Wedge Cheesery Facebook page.
“We found out about this group where they were posting about people and blacklisting their businesses and saying a whole bunch of nasty things while they’re at it – really childish things, childish behaviour from fully grown adults,” MacLaren told CTV News.
The shop’s website boasts cheese offerings from around the world, cheese tastings with wine, and a goal of bringing “outstanding service, cheese and smiles” to the community.
So what drew so much negative attention? A Facebook post from Wedge Cheesery that said staff would “greatly appreciate” if customers continue to wear a mask for the time being.
MacLaren said none of the shop’s employees are fully vaccinated yet because of their age, and he wanted to make sure they were protected.
“We weren’t in full agreeance, I think, with the mask mandate being lifted,” he said. “We also wanted to make sure our workers felt safe, and so we had a discussion with the manager and we decided that we wouldn’t make it a mandatory thing, but we would appreciate if people still did wear masks in the shop.”
The response in the blacklist group, which has about 2,100 members, was swift.
“Go to hell!”
“Everyone needs to stop shopping there.”
“True colours shining through.”
“I’ll be sure to #boycottwedgechersery” (sic)
“No cheese is good enough to make me wear a mask to buy it.”
The cheese shop’s Facebook post, which has since been deleted, said management would keep encouraging mask use until federal officials declare the COVID-19 crisis over, or until “everyone” is vaccinated, including children under the age of 12.
Several members of the blacklist group were aghast at the suggestion, though manufacturers are currently studying the use of COVID-19 vaccines in younger children, and just this week chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam warned that outbreaks among unvaccinated children will be “a reality going forward.”
Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization already recommends that everyone age six months and older receive the annual flu vaccine, with a few rare exceptions.
MacLaren said the meaning behind the shop’s message was misconstrued – they never intended to imply that every single person has to get the COVID-19 vaccine – but it was too late. Before anyone reached out to clarify the shop’s position, the pile-on began.
Beyond the comments, some people left one-star reviews for the Wedge Cheesery online, which MacLaren said is the last thing businesses need after enduring the last 16 months of the pandemic.
“To say I don’t agree with a business’s policy – which is, I feel, a relatively normal policy considering the times we’re in – and blacklist that business because of it, that’s just insane. That’s ridiculous,” he said. “You’re hurting local businesses, the local economy.”
Some of the blacklist group users are under the impression that it’s now against the law for B.C. businesses to require masks, given that the Ministry of Public Safety replaced its mandate with an indoor mask recommendation on July 1.
That’s not the case. Asked about the legality of requiring masks, a ministry spokesperson directed CTV News to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s website, which states that “private businesses have a right to refuse entry to customers not wearing a mask,” and can instead provide curbside pickup options or advise people to shop online.
Businesses do have a responsibility to accommodate customers who can’t wear a mask for reasons related to a disability or medical condition, according to the BCCDC. The Ministry of Public Safety also recommends businesses that choose to require masks make some exceptions, including for children under 12.
Failure to accomodate people with legitimate medical conditions can result in a human rights complaint, though a ruling from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal earlier this year cautioned that anyone claiming discrimination over mask policies will be required to prove they are unable to wear one.
Some of the blacklist group members do cite health conditions for their inability to wear a mask. Many others consider mask use the behaviour of “zombies” and “sheep.”
In the end, MacLaren said his business ended up getting a minor boost from the online attacks. He shared their story in a local COVID-19 information group, also on Facebook, and received a heartwarming outpouring of support.
“A ton of people left five-star reviews on our Google page after reading what happened – and they’re actual supporters of our shop, people who have been inside,” he said. “Actual customers.”
DeFiance Media Launches To Cover Blockchain-Based DeFi Business And Culture – Forbes
DeFiance Media, a video-news startup focused on coverage of the business and culture of the fast-growing decentralized finance (”DeFi”) sector, has launched with a presence on OTT and digital broadcast services reaching 65 million homes in the United States and abroad, and a new website providing enhanced coverage.
“We’re not taking the ‘Bloomberg for crypto’ approach” of some competing services covering parts of the blockchain world, Scarpa said. “None of them went on TV. We’re only streaming (video). If you look at mass media, and the way they’re portraying the decentralized narrative, there’s a real hole (in coverage) there, for covering it in a positive way.”
The 24/7 channel will feature a mix of original programming from notable personalities, third-party creators such as Hardcore Finance, news from across the world of blockchain, cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens and related areas, as well as related areas such as biotech, the artists and creators using NFTs, artificial intelligence, “connected living,” alternative energy, and “regenerative culture.” Other programming will come from partnerships with high-profile blockchain and cryptocurrency conferences.
“Our job is really more akin to a Huffington Post in terms of curation for these contributors,” Scarpa said. “We enable them to goose their personal brands. That’s our job, to increase carriage, to amplify their voice, promote what their doing.”
Scarpa said he was “adamant” about including cultural coverage of the blockchain space, particularly with NFTs, where many musicians, artists and other creative talent are eagerly jumping in.
“They’re in the space now, they’re artists doing really interesting work,” Scarpa said. “They’re really the cultural fabric of the community. If we were only a financial network, DeFiance wouldn’t be broad enough to be something providers want to carry.”
Scarpa, whom I’ve known socially for many years, served as New York bureau chief in the early days of CNET, which undertook in the 1990s to cover the emerging internet and tech industry in a focused way. Scarpa said he is taking inspiration for DeFiance from the approaches CNET took to industry coverage back then.
Services carrying the startup’s content include aggregators such as Local Now, Select TV, NetRange, Glewed TV, as well as Twitter and Amazon
-owned Twitch. The services reach a combined 50 million U.S. households and another 15 million outside the country.
Initial shows include Bitcoin: Culture Conversations, whose episode feature interviews of former Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary, venture capital stalwart Tim Draper, actor Adrian Grenier and skateboard icon Tony Hawk, and musicians Blond:ish and Fab Five Freddy. Weekly programs will be hosted by Patrick Tsang, Sarah Austin, Matt McKibbon, Ted Moskovitz, Mike Matsumura, Alex Chizhik, Shimon Lazarov, Steve McGarry, Siraj Raval, and Freya Fox.
The company hopes to make money several ways: with ad-revenue shares from carriers, branded entertainment/sponsored content, events, content licensing to Getty Images and similar outlets, and transactional markets, among other potential opportunities.
DeFiance is based in Puerto Rico, and has a studio in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles, Scarpa said. But in keeping with its core subject matter, the operation is heavily decentralized, with contributors and programming coming from numerous cities.
The company has been raising a seed round of about $2 million, Scarpa said.
It counts among its investors and advisers a number of notables in the blockchain world and related areas, including investor Brock Pierce, who is long-time chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation; Eric Pulier, founder of Vatom; Doug Scott, founder of gaming culture company Subnation; Hong Kong investor and podcast host Patrick P.L. Tsang; Good Human co-founder and former Warner Bros. Entertainment VP James Glasscock; and Craig Sellars, co-founder/CTO of cryptocurrency services company Tether. Sellars and Pulier are credited as pioneering creators of the technologies behind NFTs.
NASA Invites Media to Next SpaceX Cargo Launch to Space Station – NASA
How HuffPost Canada's digital impact and untimely demise changed Canadian news media – Poynter
Mel Woods found out they no longer had a job from a group chat.
The Vancouver-based journalist was working as HuffPost Canada’s only worker in the western region of the country, covering viral and trending stories as an associate editor, up until the outlet’s unceremonious March 2021 demise. BuzzFeed bought HuffPost in November 2019 and, just two weeks after the newsroom’s decision to unionize, closed HuffPost Canada and left 23 staff without their jobs.
It’s another data point in a long list of recent closures and contractions on the Canadian media landscape.
Many of those laid off have landed positions elsewhere. Woods now plies their trade at Xtra — a Toronto-based outlet focused on 2SLGBTQ+ perspectives — and others have surfaced as staff at The New York Times, CBC and Politico, among others. Some left for public relations gigs, and others are currently working as freelancers. The announcement of the closure just one week from the meeting, Woods said, left some staff scrambling.
“For somebody who was suddenly unemployed, it was a very, very busy week because we had to sort out what happened and when, and what the unionization played into it, what severance played into it and why it had happened because it caught all of us by surprise,” Woods said.
HuffPost’s union, CWA Canada, had never faced a closure in its history. President Martin O’Hanlon said the ceasing of operations points to BuzzFeed’s lack of understanding of the Canadian media landscape.
“I don’t think it says a lot about the Canadian media industry, per se, I think it says a lot about BuzzFeed. And I think it tells you that BuzzFeed is just interested in America, and in making as much profit as possible,” O’Hanlon said. “… They don’t give a damn about Canadian journalism is the bottom line.”
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for BuzzFeed said: “BuzzFeed announced a restructuring of HuffPost in March in order to break even this year and fast-track its path to profitability. As part of these changes, we made the difficult decision to close HuffPost’s Canada and Quebec operations. The incredibly talented teams there have made enormous contributions to the political and news ecosystems in Canada — from extensive, award-winning coverage of the federal election, to relentless reporting on how COVID-19 exacerbated a long-term care crisis, and a powerful investigation of how mental illness is responded to as a crime. We know this decision was painful for everyone affected, but we are confident that these journalists will continue to do powerful and impactful reporting in the years to come. We continue to do everything we can to ensure their transition is a smooth one.”
The announcement certainly wasn’t easy on the staff of HuffPost Canada. The all-hands meeting in which the closure was announced, which Woods said was predicted within the staff to be announcing a new U.S. editor-in-chief, had the password “spring is here.”
But the closing of HuffPost Canada is more than another sad story to add to the layoffs seen at other newsrooms in Canada, most publicly at Global and Postmedia. HuffPost’s Canada’s coverage won awards posthumously. Woods won an award from RTDNA Canada for examining gender and transphobia more than two months after the outlet officially closed.
The skill and success of the staff was partially due to the culture and the diversity of the newsroom, Woods said.
“The fact of how quickly folks have been snapped up by other places is proof of the respect that was had for our newsroom,” Woods said. “We kind of sprinkled our seeds everywhere.”
Woods likened the HuffPost style that they have taken to Xtra as “serving (readers) their vegetables, but in a good way,” through a metrics and service journalism-focused approach.
Some of those seeds appear to have taken root elsewhere. New approaches to digital journalism in Canada, including what service looks like to staff and readers, is a common thread in discussions with Canadian newsroom leaders.
The Canadian Association of Journalists recently completed data collection for their first diversity survey, modeling their work after the News Leaders Association in the U.S. Meanwhile, CBC made the decision to turn off all Facebook comments on news stories for a month beginning in mid-June, which editor-in-chief Brodie Fenlon attributed to a data-gathering exercise mixed with a want to protect the mental health of journalists. It is a policy that they have since extended to the end of October.
HuffPost Canada’s digital impact, and its dismantling, points toward a future for Canadian journalism that must consider the health of its readers and staff while acknowledging the changing needs of digital media.
CBC’s decision to direct the tenets of service journalism toward its own staff hints toward an industry that is understanding (at a glacial pace) just how worn down it is and how building back means doing so with care. At this year’s Michener Awards, a ceremony dedicated to public service journalism and its impact on society, APTN journalist Kenneth Jackson acknowledged what it means to sit with the impact your work makes, on subjects, readers and staff.
“If you want to do service journalism you can’t fly above it,” he said, “you gotta get down and wear it.”
BuzzFeed appears to have worn its decision, as have the journalists who had to face the consequences.
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