You might recall that, a while back, I really ripped into Moneyville.ca. Moneyville is the Toronto Star‘s personal finance website and newspaper section (the latter is carried in Monday’s paper). As I pointed out in my article, “Moneyville’s Junk Advice“, I swear I generally like the site — my sensationalist headline aside. I’ve read it on a daily basis (excluding weekends) since the website’s inception. But Moneyville had started devolving into something really awful.
Here were my three criticisms of the site in my highly-critical (but lovingly written) original post:
- Moneyville lacked regular content by Ellen Roseman who is consistently amazing (I finally met her and got a picture with her!);
- Moneyville pumped out puff pieces about Canada’s inflated real estate bubble (these often featured interviews with perma-useless Realtors and biased bank economists); and
- Moneyville ran some terrible advice articles by Madhavi Acharya Tom-Yew and Krystal Yee.
Speaking of Krystal Yee, I met her at CPFC 2012. Shockingly, she did not immediately/deservedly punch me in the face. She is a major sweetheart who dislikes photos:
I’m not the kind of person to retract legitimate criticism, and I won’t. It seemed like the perfect time, however, to talk about the ways that Moneyville has improved, because it has. (By the way, I’m not pretentious enough to think that my tiny blog swayed the editorial direction of Moneyville. It was just one small part of a large discourse.) Unlike writers in more serious mediums, I have the luxury of revisiting old topics to indulge my self-delusion of even-handedness.
Corresponding with the numerical order of my original criticisms, here’s how I think Moneyville has improved:
1) Ellen Roseman is writing for Moneyville much more often.
2) The real estate puff pieces continue, albeit at a slower pace. While Moneyville doesn’t attack Canadians’ hegemonic fixation on the ‘home’ as investment supreme, it’s on par with most of Canada’s slow-witted media (slow-witted in regard to real estate; I’m sure if Rob Ford brought a bucket of KFC to council, The Star would break the scandal before he could finish eating it — which is, by the way, really fast — despite the diminutive Star reporter’s presumably quick retreat from the all-consuming, blathering black-hole that is the Mayor’s mouth). If I want to risk seeing occasional, subversive thoughtcrimes against Canada’s HGTV Condo Jugend, the Granite Counter-top Stasi, or the Realtor SS, I’ll read The Globe and Mail (which is thoughtfully peppered with moronic real estate pumper pieces to, I assume, cloak the intelligent material written by folks like Rob Carrick). If I dare read unadulterated wisdom, I turn to Garth Turner’s Greater Fool blog.
Did I sound like Rex Murphy in the last paragraph? That’s what I was going for.
A general respect for readers does seem to prevail in the Moneyville real estate section — if not high-quality investigative journalism. When there was a “BUY NOW OR YOU’LL BE PRICED OUT FOREVER” article (typical of the press releases scrawled by Toronto Star “journalist” Susan Pigg), Nelson and I pointed out that the article was drivel. In fact, it was worse than drivel. Susan cited plummeting sales figures as proof that real estate was continuing on its eternal upswing. She checked her facts by interviewing a Realtor.
Then a Christmas miracle happened. I checked the article later (I was going to rip on it on Twitter again) and it was completely modified. It had a new headline that wasn’t stupid, the Realtor’s spew was buried deeper in the article, and it featured more balanced content. It was a puff piece, but it was different: it didn’t make me feel embarrassed for the profession of journalism. It was the kind of journalism where, in a misguided effort to give balance to a story, the side of the story that is completely stupid gets equal consideration from the reporter. It was biased, but not brain-melting. I could critically engage with the piece, rather than feeling numbed by its sheer stupidity. Think “CNN” rather than “Fox News” (or “MSNBC”).
The editor of Moneyville, Adam Mayer, briefly shared his thoughts about housing at CPFC12. He said he thinks that the Toronto housing market (or, at least, the condo market) is in serious trouble. I wish his intelligent opinions were reflected on Moneyville. They’re not. That’s fine — I doubt his analysis would be appreciated by major advertisers like CREA, the Big Five Banks, or the Guv’ment. I get it. He who pays the piper calls the tune. Speaking of which:
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3) Since I picked on Madhavi and poor Krystal, there have been significant developments.
Sometime after Madhavi’s “I bought a huge expensive house during a real estate bubble, dumped my cheaper two bedroom condo, consolidated yet more irresponsibly-acquired debt into my mortgage, spent $1000 to move 5 kilometers, and furnished my house with full-MSRP furniture on the Leon’s buy-now-pay-later loan“-gate scandal, her blog switched its focus to more innocuous topics. Subjects included “get a will”, “start saving early”, and “online personal finance resources”. Then, circa August, her Moneyville blog updates ceased. Mercifully. I notice that she’s writing articles for The Star, which is great. I never questioned her competence as a journo. There’s a massive difference between writing news stories and dispensing money advice.
Krystal, on the other hand, still writes for Moneyville. She also continues to write her own personal finance blog and she started a new one about travel. Her Moneyville articles have improved a lot. She doesn’t center every article on a piece of advice and, when she does, she no longer recommends tying a financial millstone around your neck. I will say that I am sorry for one line in the original article where I said she’s on…
a mid-life-crisis-esque romp in Euro-Utopia (presumably only second to her paradise home province of BC)
I’m not sorry because the statement was mean; this is easily cancelled out by its hilarity. I’m sorry because I was wrong. She’s turning her travel into a sustainable lifestyle using her travel blog and her incredible freelancing work ethic. Also I’m sorry I didn’t crack a Rumspringa joke. Note that in my conversation with Krystal I did my pretend-journalist duty by asking her about her car (see the original article). I verified that I was, in fact, correct on that point.