Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Stenographic journalism

Writing in Salon, maverick journalist Glenn Greenwald criticized news reporting that follows the stenographic model. It involves repeating what people say without any effort to judge the truthfulness of statements or the facts of the situation under review. Here's an example from this week:

In Ahem, indeed, the preceding In-Sights article, a reader left this comment:
Yet, over on the CBC BC website, there is an article about how school enrollment is booming due to the economic activity in the northeast. They attribute the economic activity to Site C and the anticipation of LNG. Is there any explanation for this apparent inconsistency?
The noted CBC item is Fort St. John school enrolment booming along with economic activity:
A boom in Fort St. John is fuelling growth in school enrolment across the city, bucking a province-wide trend.

"The northeast part of the province is booming, it's growing, and with that brings a lot more children, a lot more students," said B.C. Education Minister Mike Bernier...

Many B.C. school districts are coping with empty desks and decisions around which schools to shut down. Statistics from the province show enrolment in public schools in B.C. is down about five per cent from 2010/2011..."
In fact, the province's own statistics show enrolment figures for three school districts in BC's northeast is down about five per cent:

Peace River South (SD 59)
Peace River North ( SD 60)
Fort Nelson (SD 81)

As to the booming economic activity, according to BC Stats, the unemployment rate in Northeast BC jumped to 6.2% in October, up from 5.5 per cent in September. Even this figure is misleading because many of the workers employed in the region are Albertans who returned home after layoff. They now belong to the neighbouring province's roll of unemployed.

Words of Andrew Mitrovica:
Worst of all, the corporate media will never acknowledge that it ever made a mistake, ever took things on faith that it should have verified, ever owed it to the people making life-and-death decisions to shoulder some of the burden of the terrible consequences of errors.

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  1. The raw #s - Headcount by School District

    SD59-Peace River South: 10/11-4063, 11/12-3853, 12/13-3734, 13/14-3646, 14/15-3500.
    SD60-Peace River North: 10/11-5873, 11/12-5742, 12/13-5861, 13/14-5927, 14/15-6060.
    SD81-Fort Nelson: 10/11-898, 11/12-875, 12/13-878, 13/14-817, 14/15-768.

    p.31 [PDF]

  2. Six of one; a dozen and a half of the other...

    The only real bull pies in all of this is the statement from Fort St. John school district's secretary-treasurer Doug Boyd, who said; "several hundred extra students showed up for class in the city this year — a number that reached far beyond the district's projections."

    School District 60 Superintendent David Sloan, in his Nov. 8, 2015 blog said; "... district enrolment was up by 265 students."

    That's district wide, not just Fort St John and 265, to me, is not several hundred.

    On the other hand, your graph is a school term (2014/2015) behind the report and also encompasses School Districts 59, 60 and 61. The article refers to the current school year, 2015/2016 and only SD 60.

    If you can believe the current numbers from School District 60's website there are 21 schools in the district with a total enrollment of 6477 students. So, reverse engineer the numbers and last year's enrollment was 6212. In that case the district wide increase would be 4.27%.

    But...what does "enrollment" really mean? If I'm not mistaken, most districts have their headcount for the next school year pretty well establish by the end of the prior year; June.

    Even though by June 2015, things were not looking good up there, I suspect there would still have been a push by most (potential) parents to get the kids enrolled early, maybe even in more than one District. So, it would be interesting to know how many of those 265 (several hundred?) enrollees actually showed up.

    Numbers is a racket.

  3. Wow, my measly comment spawned an article of its own! Maybe CBC should print a retraction.

  4. The decline in Canadian journalism especially over the past thirty years, Norm, is lamentable. Part of it, I'm sure, is attributable to the predations of our corporate media cartel with the emptying of newsrooms and the collapse of editorial standards. Harper's funding cuts did something similar to the CBC. I recall a time when reporters were expected to look for the back story, conduct a modicum of research and know how to conduct an interview that was probative without being confrontational. Do you recall the CBC's Patrick Watson? I tried to emulate his technique. That sort of thing is over. News budgets don't allow the richness of journalism that can only be achieved by work and time. That's how we wind up with stenographic journalism, messaging in lieu of information and, ultimately, infomercials posing as news (often "canned" or prepackaged at that).

  5. The corporate media is in a major slide when it comes to doing its job and its getting worse. Just read on Harvey O.'s blog all the people CTV just axed while its stock is rising. So it can't be a money thing.

    The lack of news is not a good thing for a democracy. it is to be hoped the CRTC simply removed the licenses of some of those corporations who are not fulfilling their obligations.

  6. The north goes south.
    How can a company which receives a contract worth just under half a billion dollars be suffering from extremely challenging economic times?

    Oct 7-15
    Atco Ltd. secures $470 million contract for worker housing at ...

    Nov 26-15
    Meanwhile, pink slips continue to pile up. ATCO laid off as many as 400 employees on Wednesday.
    "ATCO is responding to the extremely challenging economic times," said Carson Ackroyd, ATCO Group vice president of Marketing and Communications. "We wish to thank all of the people of ATCO, past and present, for their tremendous contributions to our company."

    Merry Christmas.

    Somehow, I think the BC Government will take care of poor ATCO.

    1. BC-based Britco is having its own slow-downs, due to the depressed price of crude oil. A $470 million contract would have helped them a lot, with employee taxes coming back to BC coffers.



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