Spokesgayte 2012

It’s a tempest in a teapot in one sense, but did you know that TPL’s Spokesgaysian, Ab “Six-Pack” Velasco, wrote an entire article for a city blog about a tenant of the Toronto Public Library without disclosing that he too is linked to the library?

I didn’t know, either – until cherubic Hebraic gadfly Goldsbie Twitted about it. So that gives you an indication of just how much impact Velasco’s article, grandly entitled “Why Balzac’s and the Reference Library are a perfect fit,” really made after it was published a month and a half ago. I’m sure that had something to do with the fact the publisher was the near-irrelevant BlogTO. (They’re Number 1 at being Number 2.)

Just to remind you what conflict of interest means

It is an ethical violation for a paid employee of an institution to write an advertorial for a paid tenant of that institution without a disclaimer. (It might still be unethical even with a disclaimer.) Not only wasn’t a disclaimer included at time of publication, one still isn’t visible now.

Guess who doesn’t see a problem with any of this?

  1. BlogTO editor Tim Shore:

    We are aware of Ab’s role at the TPL, but we didn’t feel this was a conflict. We don’t feel the reporting was biased at all by his position at the TPL, nor was Balzac’s or the TPL portrayed in a way that we feel would not have been done by any other writer on our team.

    In other words, we would have published a rave anyway.

    If you have specific issues with facts or details presented in the story, please let me know.

    I wanted to believe that Shore was pretending not to understand that conflict of interest is a structural issue, not one of New Yorker–style fact-checking. Since Shore wouldn’t comment on that issue at all after I brought it up, I think he really is unclear on the concept. He later insisted “We are more vigilant than most to keep a strict separation between editorial and advertising.” Those less-strict publications would be which, exactly? And besides, this isn’t about paid advertisers.

    Like so many Millennials, Shore exhibits a fatal combination of ignorance and entitlement. He isn’t just acting this stupid.

  2. Spokesgaysian himself: “When I pitched my piece and before I wrote it, I checked first with both the library and BlogTO. Both didn’t feel there was/is a conflict.”

  3. Spokesgaysian’s boss, the generally level-headed and sensible Linda Hazzan: “Ab made us aware of his interest in writing this article, and he checked with the library before pitching it to his editor to see if we felt there was any conflict. We didn’t feel there was, as it was a profile of the Balzac’s owner, rather than a piece on the library.” Except that a TPL employee is talking up a TPL tenant.

The punchline

Neither the Toronto Ombudsman nor the Integrity Commissioner has purview over the library. (At all!) The city auditor probably doesn’t, either.

That leaves the pols, hacks, seat-fillers, apologists, and registered lobbyists on the TPL Board – the same Board that wants advertising plastered hither and yon on date-due slips, library vans, and elsewhere. I can already hear Mike Foderick’s boisterous defence of somebody who doesn’t even work for him, delivered in a tone of disbelief that anyone would dare bring this up.

All the best libraries print watermarks and benedictions on their date-due slips

Well, Perth/Dupont does. It was already my second-favourite branch.

Date-due slip with TPL watermark and footer reading Perth Hopes to See You Again Soon!

How do you do it? Symphony receipt-printing preferences. For footer text, you have to produce a picture of text (don’t use Arial and don’t capitalize every word, please) and import it.

Symphony Receipt Printer Printing Preferences

Now that I – especially I – have documented this little dollop of unsolicited delight, some mandarin downtown will try to ban it. You can safely ignore any such instruction.

Paul Ryan pre-election party at Jason’s house!

It’s here!

‘Atlas Shrugged’ DVD on iPad showing previous entry

The public library, an institution Ayn Rand would have liquidated on her first day as elected despot, has finally delivered my copy of Atlas Shrugged (“Part 1”). True to the spirit of rugged individualism, the item is equipped for rational self-checkout.

I had previously suggested that gay Objectivist speed-dater Jason Holborn hold a superfun teetotaler viewing party for this chef-d’œuvre. Let’s make it a twofer! We can now pre-celebrate Paul Ryan’s inevitable victory as “next president of the United States.”

Everyone’s invited (NO FATS – NO FEMS – NO ASIANS).

Pricing yourself out of the market

Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride is a Canadian documentary by Bob Christie (trailer). It’s rather obscure, but so is any gay or lesbian documentary that isn’t The Times of Harvey Milk.

Of course I suggested the library buy it. It appeared to be impossible to purchase in commercial quantities. But in show business, “no” means “maybe.” So I mailed the director, which went nowhere. Then I sent a message on Facebook, which eventually put us in touch via E-mail.

And here are the terms of sale Christie proposed (not initially clear on the fact that I was not the library):

I would sell you the first copy for $150 and each additional one at $10. That would be $150 + 190 = $340 + HST + $20 shipping. I would even include Blu-Ray should you want to host a [screening]…. I have enough copies so I could ship this anytime.

He wouldn’t budge. “Libraries that purchase copies for loan to multiple viewers are quite used to paying prices that reflect and include an licence agreement appropriate to their institution, oftentimes hundreds of dollars.” Yes, I told him (using inside knowledge I didn’t tell him I had), the library pays institutional rates for things like magazine subscriptions, but not for (small Canadian) documentaries. In fact, look closely at a lot of the NFB documentaries in the library’s collection. They’re often DVD-Rs burned in small quantities; sometimes the library has exactly one copy. (I know there are outlier cases. Glenn Gould on Television lists for 90 bucks, for example.)

Obviously I’m not going to resubmit my suggestion under these terms. Instead of netting, say, $30 a copy for a likely six to 15 copies, Christie walks away with nothing.

Did you know the only public library that actually stocks this movie is Vancouver’s? A few university libraries also do, even down in Guadeloupe, but the biggest city in Canada, the busiest public library anywhere, is shit out of luck.

Your move, Bob.