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John Geiger, Globe and Mail Editorial Board Editor

Tibor Kolley/The Globe and Mail

John Geiger, the chair of the editorial board at The Globe and Mail, wrote an editorial about the redesigned newspaper and website in Friday's newspaper, the first issue in our redesigned look.

"Today, the history of The Globe and Mail meets its future," he wrote. "Today, this newspaper, with deep roots in Canada, its founder a Father of Confederation, takes up the question that George Brown put during the 1865 Confederation debates: 'Shall we then rise equal to the occasion'?"

Mr. Geiger answered your questions about his editorial and the new paper in a live discussion Friday at 12:30 p.m. ET. Mr. Geiger did not take questions about the new globeandmail.com. If you wish to comment on the new website, please do so in here. Our editors will be watching and responding to your comments.

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Mr. Geiger won a 2008 National Newspaper Awards Citation of Merit, and is the bestselling author of The Third Man Factor: Surviving the Impossible, which has been published in 14 countries. His four other books of non-fiction include the international bestseller Frozen In Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition. Mr. Geiger has lectured widely, including presenting talks at the Wellcome Centre for the History of Medicine - University of London and the 2009 ideaCity conference. He is a Senior Fellow at Massey College, University of Toronto, as well as being a Governor of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.



Natalie Stechyson: Welcome to today's live discussion. I'm Natalie Stechyson - an online editor at globeandmail.com. I'll be hosting today's chat with John Geiger, the editorial board editor at The Globe and Mail. Also joining us will be editorial writer Karim Bardeesy.

We'll be getting underway in a few minutes. In the mean time, please start submitting your questions about today's editorial, the new newspaper and the future of The Globe.

Natalie Stechyson: Thanks for joining us today, Mr. Geiger. To get things rolling, can you tell us what inspired this first, lead editorial?

John Geiger: We on the Editorial Board have been talking about David Cameron's idea of the Big Society since his election. It's obviously not something entirely new, it echoes Kennedy's call to service in the 1960s, and we've noticed in our own reporting a lot of stories about people making change in their communities. It's time to draw attention to that and to inspire debate about what can be done to assist them. Obviously government has a role there, part of which involves getting out of the way.

Natalie Stechyson: Can you explain why The Globe is now running some editorials on the front page?

John Geiger: First another thought about your first question. It seems like every now and then we need to remind ourselves about the importance of individual and community action, and the need avoid such great reliance on government. Snow clearing for the elderly is just one example. Why should municipalities be using paid workers to do the job that neighbours should be doing?

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John Geiger: The Globe and Mail has always sought to provoke debate on important national issues. This is what Globe editorials have been doing since 1844. The idea of bring those debates to the front page of the newspaper from time to time is an exciting one. It sends a strong message to our readers that this is a forum of ideas, ideas which we all have a stake in.

John Geiger: Front page editorials have traditionally been very rare. Before this past year I think there have been only perhaps two in the previous 30 years.

Karim Bardeesy: For instance, before yesterday, we've run two editorials on the front page in the last year. One was expressing concern about the prorogation of Parliament; the other was about the press ban in the Tori Stafford murder.

Todd: How will the Globe choose which issues it feels are sufficiently important to warrant an editorial discussion on the front page?

John Geiger: Thanks Todd. Obviously it isn't an easy decision. Some subjects are important, but don't easily lend themselves to a pithy, provocative 200 words. Those editorials will continue to appear on the editorial page. But there are subjects that are 'talkers', water cooler subjects, that are well suited to the front page. Other subjects, like today's, beg to be more fully developed, which we can do in the editorial column.

Philippe: What other changes are in store for us readers?

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John Geiger: In terms of the editorial board, we plan to do some on-line only editorials, to response much more quickly to news events as merited. We have just started live tweeting editorial boards, as a way to bring readers right into the room when we meet politicians and others. It's a very exciting time at the newspaper, there's great energy at The Globe, we are reinventing our business.

Hieu: Hello Mr. Geiger. I am wondering if the Globe consulted with the readers about the new design. I am a relatively young reader (38 years old). The new (print) design, to me, has lost a classy, grounding feel to it (I kept thinking about the Calgary Herald- looking at it). Words looked more compact. I found myself giving up reading after a while, mostly because of feeling a bit dizzy. I am not sure if I am still adjusting to this new design. Did the Globe consult with its readers? This move seemed to be bold, but not thoughtful.

Karim Bardeesy: I'll just speak to the editorial page, but the breathing space the words get in the print edition give the editorial a bit more authority.

Karim Bardeesy: I was a bit of a skeptic at first, but part of the design "dizziness" may be just the shock and the surprise of the new.

John Geiger: That's right. In answer to Hieu, The Globe and Mail spend months consulting with readers, conducting focus groups, trying our new designs and ideas. John Stackhouse, our editor-in-chief, is the best one to speak to the process, but from my standpoint as editorial board editor, these are exciting changes that make clear our faith in the future of print while seizing on the enormous potential of on-line.

Reader: I think the paper deserves a lot of credit for making changes when the rest of the industry is standing around watching their ships sink. Do you think more papers will follow suit?

John Geiger: I think more papers will follow suit, and others will not and will suffer accordingly. The Globe has changed a great deal from 1844. No business can survive as long as The Globe has by clinging to a set idea, there have to be adaptations, there has to be a place for new ideas, yet there needs to be respect for our heritage too. I think The Globe and Mail you see today accomplishes both objectives.

Natalie Stechyson: We've had a few questions about the Chief Magistrate - first of all, what the phrase means, and where the blurb went?

Karim Bardeesy: Here's the full quote: The subject who is truly loyal to the Chief Magistrate will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures.

Karim Bardeesy: It's attributed to Junius (incidentally, the inspiration for our new Twitter handle @globejunius)

John Geiger: Yes, that's Junius, and the quote remains at the top, now, of the Comment page. We will not let that one go. It was chosen by George Brown, our founder, and in a few words eloquently sums up The Globe's mission.

Vanessa: Could you provide me with insight, not record, on what that phrase actually means?

John Geiger: The idea is that the loyal subject not submit to arbitrary measures, nor advocate for them, as an expression of the freedoms we hold dear. The Globe expresses its loyalty by its willingness to stand up for rights and freedoms.

Todd: And a thought on one of your earlier comments. My guess is that Canadian workers already feel overworked, underpaid, and over-taxed. That leads to a feeling of "why should I do something nice for somebody, when it never gets me anywhere". Perhaps that has led to the degradation of the traditional community

John Geiger: Todd, that's a very good point. In fact we've got a big project in the works on work-life balance. But I don't think anyone is so busy they cannot look out for their neighbour's well-being. Obviously some can do more than others to look after themselves and to build their community. But now and then we need to pause to reflect on how much we truly can expect of government. Is it the job of government to wipe graffiti off walls in our towns and cities, to pick up litter from the sidewalk, to shovel snow for our elderly neighbours. Probably not. Every now and then, as a society, we need to step back and take stock, and ask how we can make our communities better places. Many, many people already do that. Many more should join them.

Natalie Stechyson: We have time for one last question

Alan Burke: Mr. Geiger I hope that we'll see better representation of science and science policy recommendations preferably from writers who can act as ambassadors between the often difficult to probe scientific writings and interpretation of what that means, or should mean, to our policy makers.

Karim Bardeesy: Thanks Alan for the comment. We try to play that role in part as an editorial board -- taking new scientific reports that are in the news and really scrutinizing them.

Karim Bardeesy: On science policy, we've been critical of the federal government's unwillingness to fund clinical trials for the so-called liberation treatment for MS by Dr. Zamboni.

Karim Bardeesy: But as you point out, it's a job that's tough to do right.

John Geiger: Thanks Alan. As a newspaper we have invested heavily in the coverage of health research, it's one area that touches everybody, and explaining advances in the area of health is an important part of what we do. Obviously science policy in other fields is something that the editorial board follows, and we will weigh in where needed, as we have with Arctic science policy, for example.

Natalie Stechyson: That's all the time we have today. Thanks to everyone for submitting so many varied, thoughtful questions. And thanks to Mr. Geiger and Mr. Bardeesy for joining us.

Karim Bardeesy: Thanks very much for joining us, and thanks Natalie.

John Geiger: Thanks very much. It's always fun.



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