Saturday, April 3, 2010

British Columbia blog scene

As Canwest Newspapers and television news faded from legitimacy, alternative news sources became vital for any reader aiming to be informed about politics. Voices from all parts of the spectrum are available on the web, from legitimate philosophical conservatives and right wing partisans to similar types on the progressive or left wing side and of course people in between.

I like to read viewpoints from all persuasions, as long as thoughtful considerations are expressed. Silly people (most loyal supporters of specific parties) are pointless reads if they simply repeat partisan talking points prepared by whichever central authority they follow.

It's easy for a reader to identify web sites worth regular visits. Some of those are amateur commentators who enjoy the exchange of ideas and web interactivity. Others are writers with a purpose, perhaps commercial, perhaps philosophical.  This is an open marketplace of ideas and that is good for everyone. Each of us should value strongly the right to free expression - it's not that common in the world - and add our own voice to the conversations.

Bloggers are commentators who often rely on first hand information gathering done by others. I don't suppose there is one of us who doesn't regularly read the professional pundits, the people directly interacting with politicians.  Whether or not you agree with thoughts published at an information source is irrelevant, if it is honestly informative. If you judge the site worthwhile, support it financially.  For example, Sean Holman at Public Eye Online invites readers to contribute $10 a month, or whatever you can, to enable continuation of his valuable work. I encourage you to do so.

The Tyee is an important voice as well. Sure, it leans left and usually provides progressive points of view but, remember, it's only one of your sources.  You shouldn't miss Sean Holman at Public Eye, nor should you fail to read Andrew MacLeod and Will McMartin and others at The Tyee. These writers provide political detail and backgrounders that main stream journalists are not allowed to tell.

The Tyee experimented with a special fundraiser this past year to fund new levels of investigative journalism. No doubt, that opportunity will come around again or you can simply offer a voluntary contribution. Also, please be aware that advertisements that appear may provide a modest income to the website but, probably, that depends on reader click-throughs. If you see an interesting product or service advertised, clicking on it may help continuation of the site you are visiting.

Of course, one of the most original blogs is that of RossK, AKA The Gazeteer.  I think Ross works professionally in the world of science but that his real passion is music, cycling and family and the blog is an excuse to reveal a little of those elements. However, when Ross bites into a news subject, as he is doing now over the miasma surrounding  Paragon, Turner, BCLC and, of course, our friends in the BC Liberal machine, he requires full attention. Ross enjoys word games and expects readers to come armed with knowledge or be prepared to search for meaning in occasional references.

Most blog readers are probably aware of Alex G. Tsakumis, Rebel With a Clause. I've written elsewhere that Alex, while a conservative voice, is an unpredictable one likely to have an original take on most issues. Plus, his style is fun to read so that makes him a can't miss writer.

It's hard to list worthy web writers without missing important contributors. I assume that people who follow Northern Insights are already familiar with:
  • BC Mary at The Legislature Raids, the single best repository of information about a major ongoing theft of public assets.
  • Laila Yuile, where you find wide ranging commentary on public affairs, always with logical humanity and usually accompanied by excellent reader participation. Laila's been on assignment and doing research lately so she's temporarily quiet but we all anticipate a quick return.
  • David Berner at David Talks / The Berner Monologues, is a polymath with something to say about nearly everything, particularly politics, the arts, health, addiction rehab, and most everything else. Berner's life has gone in so many directions that it is impossible to describe him with a single word such as actor, counselor, teacher, writer, broadcaster, etc.  David shows signs of heading for cranky old man status because he tends to be impatient with stupidity and there is so much of that around.
  • Harvey Oberfeld at Keeping it Real, is another blog on temporary hiatus. H.O. is different from most of us because he actually knows what he writes about, having spent years as a fine reporter and TV news man. Harvey has dealt directly with Prime Ministers and politicians and everyone up the social scale from there.
  • Paul Willcocks at Paying Attention (also on break) is a senior working journalist who presents his own views with what I consider is near infallible judgment. Paul is unlike most bloggers and I don't simply mean that he is a fine writer, which he is. Obviously, he is well informed but he also believes in studied fairness, often reserving his own opinions while inviting readers to decide issues for themselves, based on (egad!) proven fact. I've argued directly with Paul that examining a public figure's actions allows you to attribute motivations. Paul thinks that imprecise and fraught with error. I know, as a professional, he is correct but I believe the blog scene allows a little bias toward our passions and I admit to it.
  • Another web participant worth following is David Schreck at Strategic Thoughts. This former NDP economist is certainly a progressive voice but his expertise, combined with lengthy public service, gives him qualifications to speak clearly on political economics. You find his words at The Tyee periodically. David's recent article at the Tyee was accompanied by this drawing of the wonderful BC artist Ingrid Rice.

It was a fool's game to start describing participants in the online commentary world because I've failed to include ones that I value and read regularly. For example: smart transportation writer Stephen Rees, long time blog participant Bill Tieleman and photographer Doug Pyper who communicates with words and images.  He'll be returning soon from months in South America with, I'm sure, much to tell us.

However, on the left sidebar, is a more complete list of blogs I follow. Create your own list by establishing a blogger profile or add your favorites here. Share all the good stuff.
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20 comments:

  1. I am educated and entertained on many of the Blog Sites that you list.
    I would like to sneak in one more EXCELLENT Site: Northern Insights, a must read!

    Cheers
    Gary L.

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  2. Your comments and participation are always welcome. You are even allowed to be off-topic and un-civil.

    Norm

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  3. Norm--

    What Gary L, above, said!

    _____

    I have two additional suggestions for your list....

    1) Frances Bula - In my opinion she is the best of the civic-centric voters in Lotusland - and I really, really like how she wades in with her readers and even runs with commenters' suggestions on occasion. She also lets her own life leak in sometimes. In other words, it's real blogging going down at her place, and it is being done by someone who is a longtime proJourno turned freelancer who can still dig.

    2) Mr. Beer 'N Hockey...He is never going to be favoured by the well-heeled or the well-behaved for all kinds of reasons, including the fact that he is a rabid roller derby rooter. But for my money he is the best wordsmith in the local bloggodome, bar none. In addition, he has an eye for the real thing, no matter what it is or where it might take him, which is a quality that one of his heroes, Bukowski, had in spades.

    .

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  4. Not sure how I missed Frances since I have her RSS active on my home page and I read the blog regularly and occasionally add a comment.

    Mr. B. 'n H. is a new one for me but I'll give Dope City Free Press a regular read. Which city he talkin' about anyway?

    Both sites are added to the sidebar.

    Thanks Ross.

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  5. Hi,

    Love your blog - have followed it for close to a year now.

    I'd like to recommend Stephen Ree's blog, who write with great insight on transportation issues in the Lower Mainland: http://stephenrees.wordpress.com/

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  6. Thanks spartikus. Good addition. Stephen Rees is another I subscribe to so nothing of his is missed. I added a link into the text.

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  7. Norman - I just wanted to thank you for giving Public Eye a boost. Right now, there is much call for investigative journalism by advertising-supported corporate media outlets. So unless readers step up and financially support sites like Public Eye, we just won't be around anymore. And, if that happens, who will be left to dig up information on the province's public institutions?

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  8. Good words, Sean. I value the work you do, particularly the willingness to ask questions of politicians and senior bureaucrats. Your short videos often explain more than the words uttered by subjects.

    I continue to be amazed by how Ministers are supervised in the scrums by minders who record every word they utter. I think the executive control is so centralized and paranoid that almost every underling is intimidated. When I was active in politics decades ago, I knew a few ministers that would have borrowed the minder's recorder and caused it to disappear, permanently.

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  9. Friends, a few readers confirmed they took the subscription step at Public Eye Online. The result is modest so far but blog readers should be at the front line, enabling Sean Holman to carry on, even expand, his valuable efforts. Think of it. Other agencies have budgets far larger but many are involved in self-censorship, keeping the full news from you. Holman pulls punches for no one and if each of us subscribes, he will be able to carry on. Please act and let me know.

    Sincere thanks.

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  10. Thx for the plug Norman. you are, of course, on my blog roll, but rather than "raise my blood pressure" by hailing the insane ramblings of the unbalanced one in Powell River, you simply give flight to inaccurate and often defamatory commentary that really has no place in civilized discussion. Twice I have threatened him with lawsuits, and twice he has retracted and removed comments. If more people did that with Grant, he'd have next to nothing on his blog.

    As an example, he was recently upbraided by Dr. John Meech of UBC for lies Grant had printed about his "understanding" of my former ownership of Britannia Beach. He was condemned by Dr. Meech for, among other things "making it up."

    No printing of the letter and no clarification.

    Please do not condone insanity. It is VERY disappointing and does nothing but tarnish your own exceptional brand.

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  11. Thanks Norman..No,I have no intention of starting a pissing match with AGT...

    For the record,I have retracted nothing from my blog,Mr.Meech and I had a good debate on my Britannia beach story...It appears that I schooled the dear proffessor...As for AGT,he wasn`t mentioned on my Britannia story..Why would I mention him,he is nothing,a little fish with a wide mouth...

    If AGT wants to sue me over for Millennium development story...As I told AGT in many emails,"Bring it on" Quote un quote...

    I have caught AGT manipulating comments,skewing facts,if Meech or AGT has got "the Goods" bring it on...

    My "meet premier Coleman" story, after AGT emailed me pouting and crying over my reference to him as the developer type,I tweaked the story to shut him up,my mistake,well two mistakes actually,the first was to tweak my story(the first and last time) the second mistake was to call AGT a developer, I should of refered to him as a failed developer,that would be far more accurate!

    But as for AGT coming here to dig at me,I wouldn`t go after AGT on my site,he`s a waste of time,maybe one day when AGT`s site gets close to my stats....

    Until then AGT,eat my dust!

    Thanks for the plug Norman,keep bringing us your insights.

    Cheers-Eyes Wide Open

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  12. And, that completes all the conversation we need about this conflict. Thanks, let's move on.

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  13. Actually, it doesn't...but I did warn you, as I was warned about Grant by several of his NDP brethren, but I chose to ignore.

    I think Grant Gough's "response" above really speaks for itself. More lies, more deceit.

    Frightening...

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  14. Norman, I read your blog often. I find it informative, balanced and civil. I have taken many links at your suggestion and we share many blog favourites. Thanks to you all for keeping me informed in so many ways. I would love to support your efforts financially, however, sadly, I cannot. When I can, I will. Meantime, I pass on my favourites to friends who enjoy reality. I hope some of them feel it worthwhile and have the ability to contribute. I hope people here get over their tendencies to litigate. Not all of us can afford the same justice.

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  15. Kim, thanks for being a loyal reader. I'm not asking for financial support here at Northern Insights where I produce commentary largely based on original research done elsewhere. One of the sources I rely on, as do other bloggers, is Sean Holman's Public Eye Online. He has his finger on the political pulse of Victoria.

    I hope we can encourage financial support for Public Eye, from those that can afford it. Sean Holman is an independent full-time journalist, doing real reporting, unrestricted by special interests and corporate objectives. To keep doing it, he has to develop a better income stream. One of those is a monthly report "The Brown Envelope" that is emailed to people who volunteer a $10 monthly subscription.

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  16. If one would like to enter the world of local LRT/SkyTrain politics, my friends with Rail for the Valley have an interesting blog.

    http://railforthevalley.wordpress.com/

    If it is rail related, they comment on it.

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  17. Kim--

    You give the amateur bloggers 'round here the best kind of support there is, which are your thoughtful comments that spur true discussion.

    Thanks.

    .

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  18. Evil Eye, good link. It is now on the sidebar. BTW, I like the streetcars I saw recently in Portland. They seem to add to the community whereas Skytrain just shoots through/over. I guess the dealers prefer Skytrain for the way it concentrates people in one spot for each neighborhood.

    Also, if you get a chance, listen to Melvyn Bragg's 'The City, Part 2' at BBC Radio4. They describe how railways changed English cities, particularly how they put formerly unseen slums on regular display. That happened because estates of the Lords were untouched and the rail lines cut through the poorest communities, with no compensation paid, of course.

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  19. I just to chime in with Norman and thank all those readers who have contributed to Public Eye. It really makes a difference. Because if British Columbians want to have media that's done differently, they need to help those outlets that are doing the investigative digging that's really needed in this province.

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  20. Thank you Norman for the list of must read blogs. BUT,AGT, what a waste. .. . . edited

    Kam Lee

    NF response:

    One thing about blogs. There is something for everybody and no one forces us to read anything.

    As for Britannia, I know quite a bit about problems there - my late mother-in-law even lived at the old townsite long, long ago. I also spent considerable time studying land use in the region.

    We're not going to gain by flinging insults based on incomplete understanding. The company Alex was associated with did not create the pollution. Copper was first discovered in 1888 and Alex is not quite that old.

    The last serious mining at Britannia was done by Anaconda Mining and they stopped in 1974. Like previous operators, they walked away leaving pollution as the main residual. Same thing can happen today in the northeast and elsewhere. The producers take the revenues immediately and leave the long costs to the taxpayers.

    Believe me, the complete story of Britannia is long and complicated and it is silly to lay the blame on people who tried to find solutions in modern times.

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