Thursday, April 10, 2014

No free lunches... ever

I published this article a year ago and repeat it because issues are little changed.  Recently, our promedia friends learned that BC Liberal chief Laura Miller was refusing to speak with Ontario police about possible crimes, without first getting immunity. They treated this as a non-story. Going further, Vaughn Palmer served as a Liberal water-carrier and tweeted that Miller had spoken to police seven months ago. His statement ignored the fact she was presently refusing cooperation.

April 9, 2013 Update:
I heard that CKNW's Bill Good responded on his April 5 morning show to selected critics, people he declined to identify other than through reference to hated bloggers. For a number of days, I tried to listen to the station's audio vault but the file for 8am to 9am was not available. Today, it was there and I listened. Mr. Good rants a bit, claiming again that blogs distribute "CRAP!"

He fails entirely to address the issues printed at this blog or Alex Tsakumis' blog. Perhaps because he cannot answer specific questions. Good repeats the tired old line that no management tells him what to say. Of course, the tired old answer remains, "No, they don't have to. They knew what they had when they hired you."

The issue remains that no legitimate or respected newsperson or news commentator should be pocketing cash or favours from organizations affected by their coverage. If they are taking benefits, those should be clearly disclosed, particularly whenever one lays claim to being unbiased in matters political.

Here is the article published April 3 that Mr. Good avoids dealing with.

* * * * *
Radio talker Bill Good received an award recently for distinguished service during his career in broadcast journalism. It came from RTDNA, The Association of Electronic Journalists. I surmise he heard about the award from his CKNW boss Ian Koenigsfest, who happens to be President of RTDNA.

I am a little confused by the award though. If Mr. Good is not a journalist, I wonder why the RTDNA is awarding him for broadcast journalism. If he is a journalist, Article 5A of the RTDNA Code of Ethics should apply. It says,
"Electronic journalists will not pay subjects or sources that have a vested interest in a story. Commentators or contracted experts are exempted.

"Electronic journalists will not accept financial compensation from those who seek to influence news coverage thereby compromising journalistic integrity and independence."
Some guests are paid to appear on The Bill Good Show, by Corus Radio or groups aiming to influence coverage of political, economic and other interests. Theoretically, that bias can be balanced by giving competing parties equivalent access, although neutrality is not universally observed at CKNW.

More problematic is acceptance by journalists of "compensation from those who seek to influence news coverage." According to their agents, the National Speaker Bureau,
"Vaughn Palmer, Bill Good and Keith Baldrey take their popular CKNW radio segment Cutting Edge of the Ledge to the platform, delivering British Columbia's political pulse to audiences, live and current."
The Edge of the Ledge roadshow edition appears before groups that have a vested interest in stories covered by the Bill Good Show, written about in the Vancouver Sun or reported on at Global TV. There are no better examples of apparent conflict than when the journalists are paid to appear before conventions of the BC Chamber of Commerce. The group is dedicated to exercising wide influence over public and political policies in the province. It was a leader in the fight to maintain HST and continues to advocate for:
  •  reduced business taxation,
  •  subsidies of mining and energy producers,
  •  long term tenures for aquaculture,
  •  decreased regulation of businesses,
  •  relaxed labour standards, reduced wages,
  •  limitation of union rights,
  •  voting rights for businesses,
  •  forced amalgamations of municipalities, etc.
These political issues are covered regularly by the Edge of the Ledge pundits during CKNW appearances and in their other works. Vaughn Palmer is regarded as the dean of the B.C. Legislature press gallery. The Chamber and its members, which include railways, banks, fish farmers, private power producers, law firms and other large industrial and commercial operations, have provided critical support to the government and have a particular interest in the continued success of BC Liberals vis-à-vis the opposition parties. It is not unreasonable to conclude that payments and hospitality given to journalists are designed to secure influence and partiality in return. Distributions of cash and favours create conflict for news people.

The Edge of the Ledge trio recently had a paid appearance at the Municipal Finance Authority of BC, a public body established by the BC government and subject to regulation by the BC Liberal administration. They also appeared before The B.C. Road Builders & Heavy Construction Association and the Certified General Accountants Association of British Columbia. Each group is directly affected by public policy and has vested interests in news reporting and commentary about political matters.

The Association of Professional Journalists publishes a Code of Ethics with a section "Act Independently" that speaks to the issue of conflict. It states that journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know and, among others, includes these specific clauses:
— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.

— Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
Award winning Canadian newsman Harvey Oberfeld spent his career in print and broadcast journalism and was a key part of BCTV's Bell/Bradbury team, widely regarded as North America's best regional news operation in its day. Successor Global TV enjoys benefits from BCTV's insurmountable ratings because The News Hour had become an ingrained habit. Oberfeld believes it wrong for journalists to accept any kind of remuneration or benefits from people or organizations they cover or may cover.
"When I was at BCTV, it was my policy not to accept any form of compensation or freebie from any person, any organization or any company I covered, or might even end up covering. I personally declined the free meals served reporters at events ...accepted only a coffee and, must confess, occasionally a muffin!

"At BCTV I and a producer led the effort that developed a written policy barring anyone in the newsroom from accepting freebies offered, like free ski passes, weekend car rentals, hotel stays etc.....and since we didn't want to be rude, any "gift" sent by fans or firms to an individual or the newsroom staff were just to be left on a table for all to share. That was then.

"So you can imagine, I would NEVER offer myself or accept paid speaking assignments from anyone or any organization I could have covered in the course of my reporting. Who could ever prove that payments for participation in an event isn't intended to soften coverage.

"It's not just a question of whether there's anything wrong with that: the fact that anyone reading, listening or watching could be concerned about it would be enough to put me off."
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  1. Well Norm all I can say is all three have failed miserably. Am I surprised? Nope. Do I care, yes. Do I think it will change unless there is legislation for fair and unbiased news? Nope. We truly need a house cleaning in Victoria and in the news rooms. It will only happen if we change the laws.

  2. I'm a bit of a cynic, and I believe if the laws were changed these (I'm at a loss to define them) would quickly determine a way to circumvent them.

    Norm, I'm amazed at your capability to ferret out the meat of the issue. And remodel your home. And take an extended vaction. Wow! I'm endeavoring to do one of those three, and it certainly isn't ferreting out elusive issues.

    Keep on with the Good work! And nail those other two sycophants as well.

    John's Aghast

    1. My most important job is babysitting the 6,4 & 2 y.o. grandsons sharing our home, which is partly why the hour I post things is often when most people are soundly sleeping.

      However, I've been a bit conflicted by this piece. While preparing it, I talked to writers I respect, wanting to ensure the piece was, as one said, "fair and fair-minded."

      This issue discomforts a few colleagues of the subjects and it should be discussed widely. As the contents of Northern Insight make clear, I believe that a purposefully inattentive press has facilitated bad government and economic fraud against the public. It should not be left to individuals (like Bob Mackin and Ian Reid have done respecting Pavco) to look into stories where incompetence or illegal acts and influence peddling have been obvious.

      A blogger like Tsakumis and an individual MLA like van Dongen should not be carrying the ball on the widespread corruption of BC Rail. It does seem that the pundits with potentially the loudest voices have grown comfortable serving the provincial establishment. No doubt it is good for their stations in life but it's not good for what should be a proud and respected profession of political journalism. Each of the pundits described here have been followers not leaders in the distribution of information in BC. Only in these dying days are they talking about ethical and political failures of BC Liberals. I suspect if the polls were close, they'd be dancing to the tune called by the BC Christy Party or whatever they style themselves today.

    2. Norm, you said "This issue discomforts a few colleagues of the subjects and it should be discussed widely."

      I'm curious, what specifically discomforted these colleagues about the issue?

      If they are "discomforted" because these people are their friends, well that's nonsense. If someone does something wrong, it must be acknowledged, not excused or hidden.

      These 3 amigos have considerable influence over what much of the public think and how they vote. The occupy prime real estate in the mainstream media. This is no minor transgression, their unprofessional conflict of interest.

      If they are discomforted because they disagree that accepting financial gains from special interest groups is wrong, well that's a mindset that ensures or leads to corruption of professional integrity.

      Let's not pussy-foot around these matters, and let's not allow pals to excuse inexcusable behaviour. To do that, is to be party to the wrongdoing.

      Great job, keeping us informed. Much appreciated.

    3. The press gallery is a fairly close knit place and, like other workplace and professional groups, self protective. People reporting on the government have had family members employed by the same government and/or caucus, but nothing was disclosed publicly despite that presenting a potential conflict. People who work in government communications laugh about how friendly relations with media assist them in getting out partisan messages.

      Remember when the BC Liberals decided not to present a throne speech and opted to go on the Bill Good show to make their policy announcements unchallenged by opposition members. Liberals use Bill Good frequently for messaging because they know if any questions are asked, they will be puffballs. Sean Leslie allows his many Liberal guests to make statements that he knows are untrue or misleading and he makes no challenges. Good people in radio roll their eyes and shrug but they know what management wants.

      It is the same at Postmedia newspapers. Writers have pulled their punches and I've heard from people that their stories have been spiked even when well sourced and well written. Media managers understand what ownership wants and that means many important stories do not get reported. Anyone recall an extensive discussion about BC Hydro's $60 billion in future energy commitments at prices that are way above market but still have inflation escalators?

      I know its late in the game, and I'm guessing it results from Ian Haysom's May departure, but Global TV seems to have awakened. I think Keith Baldrey had done good work recently and strives to be fair. Jas Johal would be a credit to any broadcast news staff; he's certainly willing to ask questions that cause difficulties to the targets.

  3. Well done! Another sad chapter in what has become media in the province of BC. But I guess you emulate what you see and what they saw was the Golden Decade! Too close to a 1000 year thing back in the 30s.

  4. Norm, hats off to you on this subject. Bill good keeps claiming that he is not a journalist, they why did he win an award?. Maybe his time is coming and he needs a few baubles before he is awarded the big plum, the "Odor of Canada" or the biggest plum of all, to be appointed to the Senate.

    On a slightly different topic, a national newspaper called me about a subscription special and I declined.

    "Why" asked the chap on the other end of the phone?

    I proceeded to tell him that a certain reporter fabricates the news and even lies. I would never subscribe to a newspaper that allowed this.

  5. Ah, but it's not over.

    These types of reporters will still be around well after the election and their successors and the tight knit, self protective workplace will always be with us (much like our poor).

  6. Norm; a very "to the point" and easy to read article. Sad you had to consider the opionons of your peers in regard to fairness. If you could be proud of only one thing it could easily be your fairness. The other sad point is that the public at large are plodding along with no clue of the journalistic hookers.

    As I read this piece, I thought what a great segment or series for The Fifth Estate and wondered if they could investigate their own.


  7. Some years ago on a segment on "Edge of the Ledge", I poised a question that mega projects such as the Canada Line (and SkyTrain in general), the South Fraser Perimeter Highway (it certainly not a road) were grossly over designed as to give friends of the government a whole lot more money.

    Example 1: The Canada Line subway into Richmond and YVR cost about three times more than LRT, yet have no operational advantage.
    Example 2: The SFPR and the new Port Mann Bridge cost about $3 billion more than it should, if we twinned the present P.M. Bridge with a smaller bridge and scaled back the highway and truly made it a truck road.

    I have elaborated more here, but the answer I got from the three amigos, was "there is no evidence of wrong doing or bid fixing".

    The point was deliberately missed, there was no bid fixing as the projects were designed to be as expensive as they could so all the governments friends and insiders could share the wealth.

    Mega projects = mega tax monies to be divided up!

    And just wait, the NDP, including Meggs and Moonbeam are salivating over the 44 billion plus, Broadway subway.

    By the way, has anyone noticed the strange coincidence that every time we build a new rapid transit line in Vancouver, schools and hospitals are closed around the province?

  8. Oops I meant $4 billion.

  9. On the other hand, the Three Amigos have probably done more to swell the number of hits to alternative news sites (ranted underwear and all) than anything else other than the technology itself.

    Recent evidence some journalists are aiming criticism where it is due (after a long hiatus) is actually doubly indicting: the fact that the BC Liberal regime will almost certainly smoulder to the end of its coil soon still presents the possibility journalistic favour merely goes whichever way the wind blows. Soon we'll see if they be convicted of that indictment.

    1. You think Fazil Mihlar and friends at Postmedia will switch and support the next party holding power? Based on current polling?

    2. Like I said: "we'll see" and "doubly indicting."

  10. I remember reading I F Stone, one of the most respected journalists in the US. He said he would not interview politicians because they always lied. When he wrote, he analyzed what they did , not what they said. He wrote a successful independent newspaper called the IF Stone Weekly.
    Too many of our journalists just repeat what politicians tell them. The journalists think they are great because they have close contact with the politicians in power and they don’t realize they are being used to spread the politicians’ propaganda.
    They could ask them the right questions, but they should do an honest and rigorous analysis of what they have been told.

    I F Stone would have a lot of fun with the internet.

  11. I miss Webster on the radio.

  12. NORM; re a purposely innatentive press.
    The media gave the Liberals a free run for ten years, only in the last year have they questioned Liberal actions.
    Baldrey Palmer & the rest of them are complicit in the failure to hold this government accountable.
    My goodness the same media held a three week vigil over Glen Clarks deck!!

  13. No kiddin'! I think Boyce Richardson nailed it years ago (forgive the long quote - its worth reading): "I had also come to some conclusions about my profession. I had a strong distaste for the myths that most journalists seemed to believe about their importance. I had found journalists motivated more by vanity than by a lust for public service, and they tended to be childishly susceptible to flattery from men of power. So far as they believed they were free to write what they wanted, and that they were the first line among defenders of freedom of expression, I thought they were suffering from a massive occupational delusion. I had concluded that freedom lies only with the rich men who own the media, who hire sycophants to do their bidding.
    The idea of journalists being better informed than your average citizen is a big part of the myth. A daily newspaper, written by these supposedly super-informed people, gives at best a sketchy view of what is really happening; and that view is fatally deformed by the interests of the media owners, and by the intimate relationship that journalists maintain with men of power. In addition, I knew that journalists do not have the influence they pretend to have. The media at large do have a huge influence in setting the political and social agenda, and they form one of the main barriers to improvements in the quality of human life. But individual workers within the media have limited influence on anything, in my experience. My opinion of the profession I practiced had become, then, slightly anarchistic."

  14. Media manipulation by governments, is still the prime method of propaganda in the communist world.

    Now it seems corperate entities have enlisted the same agency, along with subversion of governments, in order to sell their own version of propaganda...

    Communism has long been the ideological scourge of western political ideology.

    Perhaps the public now has a new enemy from within, the capitalist kleptocrats.

    The methods and conclusion are the same, the public pays, big time.

  15. The stuck pig squeals the loudest. The barbs from the bloggists have found their mark and Bill Boring is squealing loud because his job (from what I have heard) is now on the line. The very hands that once fed Bill boring are now threatening air-wave oblivion as the almighty god of ratings is turning away.

    Instead of squealing and blathering, try something new, try telling the truth.

  16. Let's give Bill some credit where credit is due. He's the only on air host that can stretch out a sentence that consists of more dead air than spoken words without his bosses or audience noticing or caring.

  17. I forwarded a link to this piece to Vaughn Palmer, and asked him whether he was a journalist or a promoter. He replied that the link didn't work. So I clicked the link in his reply email -- and it brought me right here!

    So I guess that answers my question.

    Interesting stuff you publish here, Mr Farrell!

    1. Bill Good and Edge of the Ledge readily talk about "bloggers" as if they are all the same, each and everyone spewing thoughtless, unverified dreck. They claim to know that generic content of the blogosphere is worthless but never admit to reading any particular sites. If they did name the pages that offend them, you would be able to decide for yourself whether the complaint is valid or invalid.

      Bill Good's Liberal Ladies Auxiliary also claim they never read blogs but, despite that handicap, they know that all of them are reeeely, reeeely terrible.

  18. not...true...Paisley. I have...mocked Bill Good...on occassion...regarding his...fragmented delivery...for I...can't the only two...who have...noticed...and...find ;-)

  19. "National Speaker Bureau" link is broken.....

    As to the photo of the "Cutting Edge of the Ledge...." there's an old twitter from Rob Mackay-Dunn (former MA to BC Minister of Transportation), just prior to the 2009 provincial election ... a Screen Shot .... Following: E-Cube Media Synthesis was the communication company behind your 2012 photo for the CGA "Peering into The Electoral Future"

  20. It's been a year now and what's transpired? Harper continues his vendetta against the CBC prolonging it's death by 657 cuts, while Chorus Radio continues to prop up Vanilla Bill and their cadre of partisan puppets.

    How does CKNW's morning programing manage to survive?

  21. Last night on Palmer's show, Baldrey stated rolling back the tax cuts Gorgon brought in was off the table. Later he added that why did some people have this fixation on raising taxes when people were yelping about MSP premiums, hydro rates, fees of all types?

    Let's see, maybe because income taxes are based on ability to pay and the ones you mentioned aren't?

    But what else should we expect from a lapdog for the BC business community??

  22. Just turn it off and support alternative media.

  23. Your mention of blogger Tkasumis jogged my memory. He seems to have disappeared. Does anyone have any information?

  24. Does anyone have information on blogger Tsakumis who seems to have disappeared?

    1. Check comments in preceding article

    2. This from comments over at RossK's place. It was an interesting interview wherein he explains his absence and hints at a return.
      Listen to Alex Tsakumis discuss Christy on @CKNW audio vault April 10 @ 9pm 6:22 mark

    3. If you check out Alex's facebook page, as Norm suggests, there is no information there to enlighten the general public as to what the status of Alex's Blog is. From my understanding his Facebook Page is private and only accessible to those that he gives permission to view it. This is fair enough. He is a private citizen, as we all are. He does not owe us an explanation. Also, if he has requested that his colleagues, (Norm, Harvey, Bob Mackin etc) not disclose his current status, that is his right and they should be respected for not doing so. However, as a fan of his blog, the abrupt change has been frustrating. For those of you who share this frustration I created my own little blog on the subject, "We Miss You Alex T". It is accessible through my blog profile. Thank you Norm for allowing me to post this.

    4. The CKNW audio vault item noted above is to 'The Shift with Mike Eckford' where Alex explains his decision to focus on family and business matters and talks about current political matters.



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