An ongoing labour dispute between Globe & Mail management and staff took a drastic turn this week when a chain-link fence was erected outside of the newspaper’s offices in Toronto.

The fence went up on the same day that a strike vote was held, and over 92% of Unifor (the union representing the Globe‘s staff) rejected the company’s contract offer.

A key issue in the labour dispute stems from the fact that management will require editorial staff to produce custom content, that is content paid for by advertisers. The issue of custom content in Canadian newspapers is not new and has been covered well by Jonathan Sas over at The Tyee. As he succinctly describes the process,

A business agrees to buy pricey ads with the assurance those ads will be accompanied by stories that fit desired themes but which seem to have sprung straight from the publication’s newsroom. Indeed, custom content often runs under the bylines of staff reporters and without any disclaimer. Naturally, though, it’s understood those stories aren’t going to be muckraking extravaganzas targeting the ad buyer or their industry. “Custom” is inevitably a euphemism for “soft.”

Other issues leading to the dispute include reduced salaries to sales staff and lower job security, according to iPolitics. On Monday, many stories ran without a byline, as reporters carried out a “byline strike,” the second to hit a major Canadian daily in the last three months. Roy Greenslade writes that reporters seem prepared to launch an alternate publication, or at least take their writing to personal websites, in the case of a lockout.

As we’ve seen recently with an unfinished pedestrian bridge in Ottawa and a disgraced mayor’s luxury SUV, people are finding that one of the best ways to help spread awareness of an issue (while inserting your own opinions on the issue) is through a parody Twitter account.

The Globe‘s labour dispute is no different. Enter the “Globe Fence.”

Like its predecessors, Globe Fence specializes in delivering some witty criticism, currently accepting submissions for a more appropriate name. (Crawley’s Clôture appears to be an early front runner.) The fence has also had some playful interactions with Eric Atkins, a business reporter at the paper, seen in the exchange below:

Still, as with the other examples mentioned above, the point of the account isn’t to solely exist for witticisms. It’s to provide awareness on the ongoing dispute, in a way that’s potentially more accessible to the public than more traditional means. At the time of this writing, the account has a decently-sized 569 followers in less than 48 hours. It’s also had a bit of a ripple effect, as well, as it’s been featured in media coverage from a slew of outlets, including the CBC, Poynter Institute, The Guardian and the Huffington Post.

The novelty of such accounts is obviously still fresh enough that big media will pick up and offer coverage to these types of accounts, helping further the messages the person responsible is trying to express.

So far, this newest trend has been successful in reaching its potential goals. But surely it will eventually become too mainstream to garner coverage and attention, so if you’ve got a cause to take up, be sure to tweet as an inanimate object before it’s too late!

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