The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.

Our Top Politicians Are Web Wimps

What do Belinda Stronach, Stephen Harper, Paul Martin and Jack Layton have in common? No Net savvy.

By Crawford Kilian 26 Jan 2004 |

Crawford Kilian was born in New York City in 1941. He was raised in Los Angeles and Mexico City, and was educated at Columbia University (BA '62) and Simon Fraser University (MA '72). He served in the US Army from 1963 to 1965, and moved to Vancouver in 1967. He became a naturalized Canadian in 1973.

Crawford has published 21 books -- both fiction and non-fiction, and has written hundreds of articles. He taught at Vancouver City College in the late 1960s and was a professor at Capilano College from 1968 to 2008. Much of Crawford's writing for The Tyee deals with education issues in British Columbia, but he is also interested in books, online media, and environmental issues.

Reporting Beat: Education, health, and books

Crawford's Connection to BC: Though he was born in New York City, one of Crawford's favourite places is Sointula, a small town off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island.

Twitter: @crof

Website: H5N1

The other night, I took my Web content development students at North Vancouver's Capilano College on a virtual field trip. We visited the sites of the Conservative Party leadership candidates, plus Paul Martin's blog and Jack Layton's site.

They were bad. Very bad.

First stop: Belindaland

We started with Belinda Stronach's site. Her just-launched campaign had sent the Globe & Mail into palpitations, as if a girl had sneaked into the dorm of a second-rate boys' prep school. What we found was a gaudy site that resembled a very old issue of Chatelaine. Her colours -- light green, avocado, orange -- can still be seen on 1970s kitchen appliances.

Worse, her banner was identical on all pages, and filled the screen. To see the difference between "Meet Belinda" and "On the Issues," we had to scroll down past the same big buttons (Join, Recruit, Donate). The trip was rarely worth it, since the site had nothing to say.

Moreover, the screen layout stretched the text across most of the screen, making it hard to read. Belinda offered a blog which that night totaled two entries. The most recent started "But," since it was a continuation of the first entry, which of course we hadn't read yet. (Her third post is a classic example of paragraphosis: a solid mass of text enlivened only by typos and grammatical errors.)

Every page also offered a pop-up screen of Java errors, and the hard-to-find link to the French-language version of her site crashed my browser.

Next, Harper Valley

Stephen Harper's site was more usable, and offered some content. He uses only a third of the screen for most of his text, making shorter, more readable lines than Stronach's. Whereas Stronach's site conceals the fact she has nothing much to say, Harper's is overcrowded -- especially the home page, where he tries to cram in too many links.

Looming over the Harper home page is one of the more ominous political slogans in recent history: "One Conservative Voice." One gains the impression that dissent will enjoy little tolerance under Harper's leadership.

On to sad, tiny Clementville

The third Conservative candidate, Tony Clement, offered a site so bad that it was almost a Zen koan in hypertext form. Clement's picture, crudely Photoshopped, loomed over a grand menu of three choices: an email link for those eager to join him, a two-page biography (available as either a Word file or as PDF), and his "remarks" announcing his entry into the race (also Word or PDF). He did offer these items in both official languages.

By the time you visit, some charitable grade-11 Web geek may have taken pity on Clement and upgraded his site. I hope not. In its innocent primitivism it's really endearing -- perhaps even a postmodern satire on Flash-rich, information-poor sites.

Forgotten city of Paul Martin Times

Well, "conservatives are not necessarily stupid," John Stuart Mill observed, "but most stupid people are conservative." Surely the Liberals, media-hip as they are, have more to offer. If so, it's not at Paul Martin's blog. The site lacks any eye candy at all. Text runs endlessly across three-quarters of the screen in long, heavy paragraphs. While not quite as old as the Dead Sea Scrolls, Martin's blog has been a cobweb site since last October 19, when he bravely criticized Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed's ant-semitic remarks.

Last stop, sleepy Jacktown

Jack Layton of the NDP has been getting some attention in the papers and on TV, and maybe he's smart to stick to cautious orthodoxy on his site. It's not a blog, just a routine meet-the-leader page on the federal NDP site. Its logo is downbeat, an autumnal-orange maple leaf. A much larger green maple leaf subliminally promises a new spring for the Left. Some of the photos are colourful, but like Stronach and Martin, Layton runs his text right across the screen.

My students and I reflected on what these Websites had told us about those who would lead 21st-century Canada. If these people can't even hire a good Web designer, how are they going to pick our next ambassador to the US? If they can't make their points in clear English on a computer screen, what can we expect from their laws and policies?

In fairness, these are sadly typical corporate Websites, the result of decisions made by committees ignorant of the way the Web works. (Tony Clement's site, by contrast, is clearly one person's deeply mistaken concept.) Such committees, and such decisions, have made most business and government sites unreadable and unusable.

Perhaps it doesn't matter. Howard Dean's presidential campaign has made much of his Web expertise and the millions he's raised through the Internet. Yet he lost badly in the Iowa primaries. Fascinating as the Web may be to some of us, it is still far less influential than its obese big sister, television. The next leaders of Canada won't be the Web-savvy ones, but those whom the camera loves.

Crawford Kilian is the author of Writing for the Web: Geeks' Edition (Self-Counsel Press, 2000) and a compulsive blogger.  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free


The Barometer

Tyee Poll: What Coverage Would You Like to See More of This Year?

Take this week's poll