24 February 2010

Paths of Glory

Geoff Meeker does a bang-up job, as always documenting an episode in the local media world, in this case, the bizarro blacklisting of CBC locally for something an on-air guest said.

A few quibbles/observations:

Pull the other one, Geoff:  If Liz Matthews actually had any say over government comms policy or if she actually disagreed with anything asinine the government has done since 2003 – like blackballing reporters -  then she wouldn’t be carrying out the policy so regularly on behalf of the person who really directs government comms policy.

Politically correct?  Try Politically Safe.  The Premier’s martial status was covered first by mainland media and then repeated by only a couple of locals.  There are certain types of stories that will only get covered by mainlanders first. As with the MUN presidential fiasco, someone on the mainland had to run that one first. it still hasn’t been touched by any locals and never will be.  There are some other stories in the same category, ones that fly against the current official narrative.

Reality?  What a concept!    What makes the CBC blackballing in this case so bizarre is that CBC  - collectively or individually - hasn’t really done anything to deserve it.  If you look at the totality of CBC political coverage it has been fair, accurate and generally along the lines of other local outlets. It should be as trusted an outlet for fair and accurate coverage – and certainly not for any sort of anti-government bias – as all the other local media outlets. 

Mind you, CBC cannot hope to match the shameless sycophancy of Danny-vision, d.b.a. “Out of the Fog” where one suspects they ship questions over to Danny for approval before they interview either government or opposition members.  Nor could CBC ever hope to compete with a radio station run by a guy who gets a patronage appointment to the Premier’s pet offshore oil company.  That fellow even calls his own station on air to run down the media in exactly the fashion of a planted partisan caller. 

But not being able to press ones nose to the political nether-cheeks with that sort of Olympian enthusiasm doesn’t mean that Ryan’s been slipping subversive messages into the nightly weather hits.

The best theory to explain the current spat with CBC seems to be that they are being shot pour encourager les autres, as the French generals used to say.

If nothing else, blackballing the entire corporation might play on any internal policy divisions within the Corp’s local crowd.  In the process, the potential might be there so that any future bits of CBC coverage that resembled the Ceeb of Wakeham’s day might be finally eliminated.

So while NTV actually did the dirty deed a couple of weeks ago, they have the one thing that no other media outlet has in Newfoundland and Labrador:  the biggest audience.  The Premier’s Office can’t afford to blackball them.

But overall, the relationship between the media and the current Premier is fundamentally different from the one Meeker describes at the end of his post.  There used to be a balance.  There used to be the potential that the media would resume its job of revealing government “mishaps and mistakes.” 

These days when one outlet is set upon as irrationally and incomprehensibly as in this case, there’s more likely to be talk of hair styles and how there was never much of anything to talk about anyway.



Peter said...

Two things:
The Telegram's Pam Frampton wrote at least two columns about dirty dealings at MUN before the Globe "broke" the presidential search story. But they jumped the gun, and got a couple of key things wrong.

And if you're referring to me at the end (I can't tell because you never name me) you are twisting the facts. I contended there is no big story in the premier's choice of health care. I have consistently concurred that the poor communications strategy and ministerial hysterics were news.
If you were referring to The Telegram editorial, the same applies.

Oeter Jackson

The Archon Eponymous said...

Media in Newfoundland and Labrador is a joke.

Too many so-called journalists are not trained journalists and it shows in the coverage and examination of stories they cover.

Case in point - NTV. Charming, colloquial, pretty things - but no hard hitting or investigative journalism.

It is unfortunate that the golden panacea for too many of these so-called journalists is to rise to role of communications director of assistant with the provincial government.

Give the government enough complimentary coverage and you get a shot at the brass ring - a government job.

The Telegram, NTV, Out of the Fog and VOCM have all provided their share of syncophans who have been rewarded.

The book has yet to be written on Elizabeth Matthews. That is for another time.

Ed Hollett said...


1. Pam's columns, as good as they were did not tell the story. What facts did the Globe get wrong?

2. You have gone farther than merely suggesting there is no big story in the Premier's choice of health care. For example, your comments at Meeker's space about the surgeons who have been quoted misrepresents them entirely and ignored an angle on this story which has not been reported locally at all (to the best of my recollection).

3. To take it a step further, you ignored entirely the point I have made here and elsewhere. If they weren't clear let me do that now: not only has CBC been set upon irrationally and without foundation generally, you actually went a step farther in your column the other day when you laced in Wakeham for what amounts to an entirely trrivial suggestion.

I note that a couple of days later not a single one of his colleagues or former colleagues has stepped forward to take issue with you.

That should tell you more about the current state of the local media than any of your wondering why the public seemed to rise up spontaneously and smite you all as demons.

If you do wonder why the media are a target for the irrational callers and e-mailers, you might consider the extent to which you and others have not only given them free reign but flat-out encouraged their assaults.

Archon: I will disagree with you about NTV completely. There is a misperception out there about NTV News and the people who work there just as there is a complete misperception about CBC. Both date from around the same time: 20 years ago.

There are lots of competent, professional and thorough journalists in this town and they are spread out over the four outlets.

Peter said...

I listened to and read most of the tirades. Some were clearly Danny fans (a category you toss around far too liberally as a way of explaining away such things). But many of them seemed quite genuinely upset. I encountered similar sentiments outside the office.

Maybe no one came to Bob's defence because they agreed with me? No? Too left field? Of course, Gilhooly did put him on air again, and I respect him for it. I'm not condoning bans or censorship. I'm talking about news judgment.

We give everyone free rein to rant away, sometimes reluctantly. And that includes the Danny is a Dictator folks (whom you oddly never seem to take issue with). The comment sections and letters pages are rife with both sides. You are imagining things.

Ed Hollett said...

Peter, I bow to your ability as a spinmeister. As I said in Meeker's space, I think you are in the wrong job.

You referred to Wakeham's comments as "contemptible." This is not a judgment of news value but an ideological or moral judgment. I'd venture that most editors would appreciate the radical difference between the two.

Thanks, though, for reinforcing the concern not about the comments and letters sections but what people in editorial positions might be censoring from the news page based on views like yours.

I'd venture that if someone had gone to you with the surgery story as opposed to NTV, we'd all still be living blissfully ignorant. Why you find it strange that your callers and e-mailers actually agreed with that sort of approach is a mystery. It is after all, a form of censorship.

Mark said...

Peter's right - you should be taking issue with people who throw the word dictator around too much.