Even if you have never stepped through the sparkling entrance of Honest Ed’s, as a Torontonian, you know the iconic building and its 23,000 lights creating that famous sign. Honest Ed’s was named after its original owner, “Honest” Ed Mirvish and opened in 1941. Ed Mirvish ran the store until his death in 2007. The Mirvish family is quite known in the City of Toronto and especially in the Theatre business for owning such theatres as the Royal Alexandria, Princess of Wales, Pantages and Panasonic theatres. Known for good deals, turkey giveaways and fantastic street parties, Torontonians will be sad to see Honest Ed’s go.
Ed Mirvish’s son, David Mirvish, has sold the property to a land developer based out of Vancouver. This story was covered by every major local Toronto news organization as well as the main Canadian national networks. I particularly wanted to look at the coverage of the Toronto Star, a nationally distributed, Toronto-focused newspaper. I specifically wanted to look at the differences between the article published in the Oct. 28th, 2013 edition of the newspaper (seen in the pictures) and the official website’s coverage of the same story.
The Toronto Star started out as a published newspaper forced into getting an online extension to “keep up with the times,” so it is interesting to look at how they treat the two mediums differently for the same story. It is also important to note that through the online medium, the writers and editors have the ability to edit stories throughout the day, which the Toronto Star did. While the stories are quite similar, there are small differences that stick out to me as important.
So, what do we see first in an article? It plays a big part in whether or not we keep reading. The headline. The headline of the newspaper article, printed on the front page I might add, reads “Honest Ed’s site sold to luxury developer” and the tagline reads “Discount store to be rented back to Mirvish for 2 to 3 years before famous lights finally go out.” The headline on the website article however has the headline, “Honest Ed’s site sold to Vancouver developer” with the tagline “David Mirvish confirmed Sunday that he has sold the Honest Ed’s site to Vancouver-based Westbank properties which built Toronto’s Shangri-La Hotel”.
The headline in the newspaper article highlights the fact that this new developer is from “luxury” which sometimes has negative connotation, as if these rich business people are coming in to steal our landmark. The print tagline reassures readers that Honest Ed’s will stay open for another 2 – 3 years. In contrast, the headline on the website article however, uses “Vancouver developer” instead of “luxury” and the tagline reiterates that they are not from Toronto, but have done work here before.
This could be because the national audience for the paper would visit the website more often, while the physical paper would circulate more easily around the Greater Toronto Area. Maybe they wanted to appeal to the larger national audience by targeting two cities in one title, or maybe they re-decided that telling the public where these developers are from is more important than they type of structures they build. Either way, Fowler, Hodge, Kress and Trew showed us through their work that word choice does matter. Kress said, “At each point in the text choices are available to the speaker/writer… Why was this form chosen, rather than one of the other available ones? Why was this linguistic process applied and not these other possible ones?” These are questions the Toronto Star writers and editors inherently answered by choosing “luxury” over “Vancouver” and then changing it to the latter.
Another interesting difference between the website article and the printed version is the addition of two paragraphs in the former:
“I have faith the city councillors, the politicians, will support it. I have less faith in the city planners,” Mirvish said Sunday.
“My feeling is that Frank Gehry has an enormous amount to contribute to this city… It would be a tremendous way of establishing our identity.”
Just before this first paragraph was one stating that one of Gehry’s projects, backed by Mirvish, was facing resistance from Ontario politicians. I found it interesting that the Star edited the story with the addition of Mirvish essentially praising those same politicians and restating his support for Gehry. Maybe the Star just wanted to add in more words from Mirvish himself, but it read to me that maybe they were balancing out from the paragraph before (don’t want to offend the G-men too much).
The last difference I noticed was the use of a picture in the online article where there was an absence of one in the printed article. This might speak to the different mediums themselves. Those who still subscribe to reading printed newspapers do not expect a picture with every article because there has never in history been a picture printed with every newspaper article. The internet however has always been a very visual medium. If there was no picture, there would be no icon for the story and no accompanying picture when shared on social networks, which has actually proven to reduce engagement. The picture is simply of the outside of Honest Ed’s, but it is there.
It’s clear that the online medium has allowed the Toronto Star to be less committed to their original publishing and gives them leeway to edit throughout the day when they change their mind about word choice and content inclusion.
Why do you think the Star made these changes for publishing to their website? Let me know in the comments!