Guest lecture from Andrew Laing of Cormex Research at McMaster

My 4th-year News Analysis class had a special treat today. We had a guest lecturer – Dr Andrew Laing, president of Cormex Research.

Cormex Research is Canada’s leading media content measurement and analysis firm. Here’s an example of the sort of work Cormex does.

Andrew is a unique and admirable person. He took time out of running his company to go back to school to complete his PhD (thesis advisor, Dr. Fred Fletcher) in the Communication and Culture Graduate Program at York University in Toronto. His thesis is on developing a new research methodology – the “media-centric model” – for studying agenda setting effects. He defended his thesis three weeks ago – congratulations, Andrew!

Today, he described for the class how his company conducts content analysis research – what the process is, the types of people he employs and the types of clients that he works with. He also described two case studies that his company has developed – one about genetically-modified foods, and another about satire in the Canadian media. After his presentations and a 10-minute break, Andrew workshopped with each project group in the class. The students really benefited from his advice and mentorship.

One more thing – we had an excellent student presentation on the article “Agenda Setting and the ‘New’ News” by Althaus and Tewksbury. A classic article describing a set of content analysis and audience research experiments comparing agenda setting effects in on-line and paper versions of the newspaper. The findings are interesting: the regular paper news readers showed an agenda setting effect and the readers of the electronic newspaper didn’t. The student presenters did a great job – congrats to Michelle Woodruff, Laura Braun and Darryl Spong.

Afterward, Andrew and I went for a late lunch at Maccheroni Cucina Al Fresco in Westdale, near McMaster.

An excellent day.

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My first MCM student defends his thesis.

Today was a truly a happy day. I woke up early and met my thesis student in the Master of Communication Management program, an executive MBA program offered by the DeGroote School of Management at McMaster University, in which I am an adjunct faculty member. We rehearsed a little and drove into McMaster for the presentation. He did a fantastic job – no nerves, no fear. Just a great speaking style, a great defense of his ideas and, of course, great data and analysis. I was so pleased to see him succeed. It was just excellent – very insightful and full of humour. He even included a clip from the Beatles song, “The Taxman” and a clip from “Corner Gas.” Excellent job, Don! Congratulations. After that we went for a celebratory drink at the Collins in Dundas and then a long walk out to see Webster’s Falls and Toews Falls in the Spencer Gorge. So beautiful. The leaves were aflame with colour and seemed to glow as the fading light of the evening gave way to crepuscular gloom. Then dinner at the Bean Bar, where we tried the most decadent chocolate cake I have ever had – I think it was called Utopia. Highly recommended.

An evening at Rosewood Estates Winery

I had a beautiful day today. First, my parents surprised me by coming over and helping me clean my house in exchange for a lunch of couscous with tilapia, red bells, tomato and garlic that I prepared. I love cooking and it was my pleasure to whip something up for them. They left at about 5pm, and then I drove over to Rosewood Estates Winery in Beamsville, Ontario, where I joined the MCM students (Master of Communication Management, in which I teach) for a case study about the winery by Eugene Roman, who is also the owner. It was fascinating.

Eugene explained how he has applied the same sort of innovative thinking that led to his success at Nortel, Bell and now at Open Text. He focused on how thinking differently has always been the key for him. The winery is just stunning. Château Rosewood is beautiful – I was struck by Eugene’s comment that “I wake up every morning overlooking the Riesling vines.” These words took me back to the time that I lived in Montpellier, in the Languedoc-Roussillon in France when I was 17. I spent many happy hours both on the seaside near Palavas-les-Flots and also at a winery owned by the father of a close friend. I too remember waking up to see the clear morning Mediterranean sun spill its soft yellow light over the vines. We would sit and drink espresso, and sometimes play pétanque – that lazy version of bocci that has filled countless quiet afternoons for southern French men.

Eugene served us an extraordinary dinner of butternut squash soupe aux poires accompanied by a scrumptious venison stew with gnocchi so light that they floated in the  russet broth like little cumulus clouds. Dessert was a crème brulée with blackberries and blueberries. What a wonderful feast – just right for a brisk fall evening. Many thanks to Niagara Gourmet for catering the tasty fare. It was a nostalgic experience for me to dine on heavy, rustic, French-style wooden tables, surrounded by the oaken casks containing the vineyard’s wines.

I took home a wonderful Sémillon and two bottles of Ambrosia honey wine, which I particularly loved during our tasting. I also took home one of Rosewood’s cherry-honey wines to experiment with. I look forward to enjoying them with friends.

Honey wine over vanilla ice cream, anyone?