Saturday, December 4, 2010

An eye on Public Eye

RossK makes excellent points in comments at The Gazetteer about the value of Public Eye Online and the entirety of Sean Holman's work.
Finally, a number of folks are slagging Sean Holman for taking advertising....That is just flat-out crazy...Unlike pikers like us, Sean is actually trying to make a living at what he does (even Paul's blog is, I hypothesize, a hobby)...If you want to keep Sean from taking ads, send him money (seriously)...And for those of you concerned that Sean has ads up for Kevin Falcon, I have to ask the following...."How come no one complained when the ad for Guy Guenter first popped up?"...Sorry to be so strident about this, but I honestly believe that Mr. Holman is the best of all the pro-reporters/commentators covering provincial politics right now....Finally, his archives are the best history of those politics in the not-so Golden Era....
Sean is unique and an important contributor to political knowledge in BC. He's at the front with his ear to the ground and very cooperative with independent commentators. He is honest in his approach and I support him with the small monthly payment he seeks. Those of us who care about free flowing information have to step up and do that. Like we do in supporting CBC, PBS and Knowledge Network, we must contribute to those who work for the public interest rather than vested interests.

That said, IMO, Public Eye needs to be vigilant about balance and the appearance of it. Recently, I grew uncomfortable with what seemed Public Eye's excessive focus on internal party matters of the NDP, particularly the Sihota hiring. I realized that insiders opposed to NDP leadership were leaking to Sean and it was appropriate for him to publish. We could argue about repetition but that's news judgement.

Along with the stream of negative NDP reporting, there was a steady and thick line of news about Liberals and the leadership jockeying, most of which was not negative in tone.  So, events occurred that made Public Eye look unbalanced. I went back through the archives and scored for each side - negative, neutral or positive - and judged an imbalance in recent times.

The day when Kevin Falcon's image stared back from three places on Public Eye's home page seemed a tipping point to many who contacted me. It is something I wish Public Eye had not done. While Falcon is not going to get better treatment by advertising at Public Eye, the appearance is not good to the image of neutral reporting. However, the Falcon people are smart enough to know that every pol in BC reads Sean's site regularly. That goes for members of every party that need to know what is going on.

However, to avoid the necessity of advertising, as RossK makes clear, readers have to step up and support Public Eye. Rather than pull my financial support, I'm going to double it and hope others join me. If many do, Public Eye can be more selective in who buys space. However, in the meantime, Sean Holman's got to eat.  If Holman didn't do this work, he could earn far more in other writing pursuits. We are fortunate that he feels a duty to serve the public as he does.

Go HERE, make your contribution and hang in. We contribute so Public Eye delivers unvarnished truth, not one side's version of it.
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11 comments:

  1. Sorry Norm, on this one I disagree. In taking money from those who he will be writing about, how can Sean hope to be seen as impartial? To me, this is akin to all those accusations that Palmer is profiting on the lecture circut by supporting the Liberals, or Gary Mason's participating in the Olympic Torch relay. If you want to be an honest journalist, and not be just a party hack like we complain about Baldry, Good, et al, you have to avoid even the appearance of bias. Like him or not, good reporting or not, this has tainted Sean.

    Warren White
    Gordon Head, Victoria

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  2. I disagree with the previous post.

    Sell advert space on ones blog is not an endorsement.

    Here is the problem, one needs money to live and if one has to sell advertising, then one must sell it as per the laws of the land.

    Holman can not refuse advertising lest he be censored for doing so.

    We need money to live and if Kevin Falcon thinks that spending money for blog adverts will win him an nomination or election, so be it.

    It is life - it is how we live.

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  3. Gordon, I understand what you say but Evil Eye nails it. Public Eye readers did not respond in large enough numbers to ensure its survival, with or without advertising. Sean Holman sacrifices opportunity to do what he does as a public service and, as a practical matter, the advertising is what it is.

    We each make our own judgement about fairness and balance but my examination of the archives at Public Eye satisfied me that variations in short runs were balanced out over time.

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  4. I have no problem with Sean accepting advertising, though perhaps ads for porn sites would bring in cleaner money and not be promoting anything as harmful to the social fabric of the province and even children as Premier Kevin Falcon would be likely to be.

    My beef was the constant recent stream of NDP critical pieces but even more the Gary Mason like warm and fuzzy, frankly promotional material like "articles" (or should that be press releases?) about Falcon and Christy Clark. In the case of promoting Christy Sean even goes to the extent of playing word games at best or lying at worst in denying Clark's mouth at CKNW hasn't led to any complaints (or demanded retractions/apologies on air).

    Comes off as a typical PAB wannabe to me lately, promote Carole, the BC Liberal's secret weapon and only promote Kevie and Christy slightly more favourably so you seem "fair and balanced" just like Faux News!

    Sean can praise, denigrate or worship anyone he pleases, but he can't expect me to call him objective then - I neither claim to be unbiased, though I am not necessarily an NDP supporter, especially today's hapless version, nor solicit money for my opinion, nor get gigs from CKNW and such EVER! Right now it appears to me that Sean is getting money to help support his site from the very same people his site is supporting currently....no foul, no money from me!

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  5. Norm, how is what Sean is doing any different than what CKNW, Global, and the Sun/Province/Times-Colonist of the MSM are doing by letting their financial interests dominate any shred of journalistic integrity? They all have made the decision that they need the $$ from the Liberal government to survive finacially too, so are you arguing it's OK for them not to bite the hand that feeds them? Why can't Sean find advertisers who are outside the political sphere, but have cross-over appeal to his readers? Maybe ethical investment houses, financial planners, foundations, etc? How can you be sure Sean won't decide NOT to spill that juicy rumour he hears about Falcon because of these ads? You won't know he didn't, so you can't judge whether he's biased.

    Warren White
    Gordon Head, Victoria

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  6. Koot and Gordon make worthwhile points and of course each of us will make our own evaluation. Again, I wish there was a true independent agency that could fund public interest journalism. I know Holman would prefer that but a person must live on what is, not what they wish for.

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  7. Some day, perhaps Canadian philanthropists will step up and fund the beginnings of a non-profit investigative news agency the way Herbert and Marion Sandler did with ProPublica.

    I see that as the preferred model.

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  8. Sorry Norman, I'm with koot and gordon on this one - Sean shouldn't be taking cash from either side if he's meant to be an impartial commentator; in fact, I don't believe he is - impartial, that is.

    I like a lot of what he does and I might well consider throwing a shekel or two into the pot from time to time...but not so long as he posts the ridiculous ads of poppa Falcon and his kiddo.

    Everyone has to have some standards and folks who claim to be fair commentators need to look to their standards - even when it comes to accepting advertising.

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  9. Norm, re your lament for a propublica option, the labour movement through Working Enterprises ($300,000) and philanthropist Eric Peterson ($150,000) have funded The Tyee. It looks much more like a life-style magazine, but does provide some political commentary. It would be interesting to do an analysis of their coverage similar to the one you've done of Sean Holman's site.

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  10. Agreed, The Tyee does good work. I've repeatedly linked to McMartin, MacLeod, Geist, etc. and I visit the site regularly to read commentaries. The Tyee though is an online magazine with rather broad objectives, including arts and culture, entertainment, literature and lifestyle. By comparison, the American non-profit states: "ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Our work focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with “moral force.” We do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them." Additionally, ProPublica invites others to republish most of their work with attribution but without charge.

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  11. Sean has to pay his bills and I see no problem with him accepting advertising as long as he can maintain his objectivity. I am concerned about the repeated posts on blogs suggesting that he posted something that reflected poorly on Lana Popham and then yanked it for reasons unknown. That kind of tomfoolery, if true, would worry me more than him accepting ads - from Kevin Falcon or elsewhere.

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