Category Archives: Media

Misquoting the Way to War

News stories with conflict generally stir more interest than those without. That’s why top news stories are wars, murders, scandals, intense disagreements and the like.

One problem with this is that news professionals emphasize, accentuate, exaggerate and even sometimes deliberately aggravate differences and conflicts to make their stories more gripping. In the end, we may see polarized perspectives that bear little resemblance to reality. This can be entertaining or upsetting, but it doesn’t help educate the public or solve any social problems.

Consider August’s raft of heated articles, letters to the editor, radio phone-ins and TV coverage about panhandling hurting Victoria tourism. All of that erupted from a Times-Colonist story about a man who’d written to the Empress hotel, indicating he’d never hold a conference here because of the “homeless people” constantly “hounding” him.

One catch: The letter had been misquoted. Continue reading “Misquoting the Way to War” »

When Money-making Meets News-making

The hushed firing and re-instatement of Victoria Times-Colonist columnist Vivian Smith was, in some ways, just juicy gossip to media insiders. But its significance echoes through every news story.

As reported blow-by-blow in 24 Hours journalist Sean Holman’s blog “Public Eye“, Smith penned a column criticizing the high cost of many local Victoria, BC tourist attractions. T-C publisher Bob McKenzie subsequently met with irate tourism representatives who spend many advertising dollars in the daily, and immediately fired Smith without explanation. T-C freelancers Janis Ringuette and University of Victoria writing prof Lynne van Luven quit in protest, and the Canadian Association of Journalists started probing. CanWest Global execs stepped in, reassuring everyone they “vigilantly” protect “unencumbered” journalism in their empire. McKenzie then assured his staff that “we do not allow advertisers to influence the content of this newspaper”, and admitted his “error in judgment“.

Fans of honest, independent journalism might find reassurance in Smith’s re-hiring; an unusual situation resolved appropriately.

Unfortunately, what truly makes this unusual is not reassuring: Unlike most similar situations, this battle was stacked in the writer’s favour. Continue reading “When Money-making Meets News-making” »

What Was that Minister Thinking?

alienabduction3.jpgHas anyone else noticed that news reporters, more and more often, stop short of asking prominent people the obvious follow-up questions any reasonable person would ordinarily ask?

Examples abound, but one recent BC news story was especially frustrating, because the issue affected local journalists-making it all the more striking they never asked the obvious questions.

First, a recap.

In April, the Liberals introduced radical changes to BC’s freedom of information laws. They held no discussion of innocuously named Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 2), simply slipping the FOI revamping in amongst clarifications to clerical procedures under Land Title Act section 168.722 and grammar corrections to the Utilities Commission Act.

Information and Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis poured his fury into a 4-page public letter (a letter since removed from the web, but Google thankfully made a rudimentary copy), protesting the amendments could drop an iron curtain of secrecy over the expanding public-private service sector. Other experts and opinion writers concurred, firing barrages of condemnation. Most suspected the government was surreptitiously and fascistically moving to prevent us from hearing any more about Maximus-MSP performance-target boondoggles, deadly forestry deregulation, or Olympics “not-really-the-Olympics-budget” budget over-runs.

For the government, Labour and Citizens Services Minister Michael de Jong repeatedly countered that the amendments, in fact, did the exact opposite.

Continue reading “What Was that Minister Thinking?” »