Spec Poll Fans Flames of Sensationalism

By Ryan McGreal
Published September 21, 2009

The online poll at for Monday, September 21 asks, "Who is most to blame for road conflicts between cars and bikes?"

Notably absent from the list of selections that follows is the real cause of such conflicts: the absence of a comprehensive cycling network where cyclists can safely ride on the street without getting in the way of motorists.

Cities that build bike networks do not suffer from sensationalistic "road conflicts". Instead, they enjoy the benefits of increasing ridership, falling bicycle casualties, improving air quality, and more transportation choice with a balanced road network.

Instead of shining a light on the underlying issue here in Hamilton, the Spectator's online poll - like recent op-eds with similar themes - merely fans the flames of shallow sensationalism. Hamilton deserves better from its daily newspaper than FOX News-style fear mongering.

Transforming the growing public demand for safe cycling infrastructure into some kind of 'war on drivers' might sell newspapers, but at the cost of a grave disservice to those citizens who are trying to make better economic, environmental and health choices by riding a bicycle.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By synxer (registered) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 12:22:04

When I first came to RTH I basically had a pretty ignorant understanding of the relationship of bikes vs. cars.

It is easy for some to get caught up in the idea of a "republic of bicycles". Until you're riding a bike yourself.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 13:24:04

keep trying Spec. Something's gotta get readership back up at that tired old medium. I'm still happily "unsubscribed".

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By Really? (registered) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 14:49:09

Also happily unsubscribed and only visit their website when directed from a friend/family member towards a certain article.

I've emailed TheSpec with suggestions on how they can improve readership, both traditional and online, only to be met with negative-type feedback ('if you don't like it, don't read it').

So you Win, Hamilton Spectator-- I will not read you, nor will I recommend you to any friends/colleagues/family members.

Jason's right... keep that tired old, Fox News'esq, style!

I mean, your publication won all those great awards in the past for negative, sensationalist articles/stories, right? Right!? ;) Ya... didn't think so!

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted September 21, 2009 at 14:54:39

I left the Hammer a while back and picked up a paper on a visit last year. I was amazed at the changes to the Spec. The font size is bigger, articles appear shorter - it looked like an idiot rag. They have gone into full tabloid mode.

Shame because they have so many talented writers who could be tackling important issues in depth (maybe they still do, just with bigger text?). Clearly the paper serves a specific demographic (25-35 year old females I've been told). Either way a lot of Hamilton's citizens don't appear to be well served by the current product.

Like the Spec says - if you don't like it, read Raise The Hammer!

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By frank (registered) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 15:23:26

I recently had someone knock on my door offering a subscription for 2 dollars a week...which I refused. Definitely not a place to get information...

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted September 21, 2009 at 16:04:43

I concur in the negative evaluations of the Spec, but I just can't help but feel sorry for the old rag.

When it had proper editorial and executive leadership it was one of the finest papers in the country, the crown jewel of the Southam empire.

It's decline in standards all too vividly mirrors the decline of the city more generally. Just sad.

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