29 February 2008

The lowest common denominator

If you have spare change in your pocket, it is sometimes amusing to pick up that upstart weekly newspaper, The Independent.

Paul Daly's photography is worth way more than a twonie so even if the rest of the paper doesn't enlighten or edify or stir up anything else besides a yawn, you can always be sure you have helped keep employed one of the finest news shooters on the planet.

This week, Ivan Morgan eschews his package of jam jams to take issue with Richard Raleigh, the new columnist at the Business Post. Raleigh, you may recall is the local writer who publishes Serious Business, a blog on local politics. The Business Post you may recall is the local paper owned and published and everything-elsed by Craig Westcott.

Seems that Ivan Morgan has some issues. Well, issues in this case with Raleigh who criticizes the Premier or his administration from behind the cloak of a pseudonym. This is apparently not on in Morgan's world and Morgan uses all the high moralizing dudgeon he can recall from his days as a New Democrat to curse Raleigh for his sins.

None of this should come as a surprise.  The Indy is full of not just holier-than-thou but holiest-of-all public onanism when it comes to journalism and ethics.  Its radio ads on VOCM always draw attention to the fact the paper is locally owned, as if that actually has any positive impact on the quality of the stuff on the pages. [Hint:  it doesn't.]  Indy editor Ryan Cleary likes to slag off the province's major daily, The Telegram, mostly about its being owned by a mainland company which therefore means  - to those who think that way - that the Telly's content is negatively affected.  [Hint:  it isn't.]

To add to the moral outrage at the Indy, Raleigh had the temerity to put his stuff in the Business Post.  Westcott, you may recall, left the Indy suddenly after a very short stint.  While the story may not be widely known, the parting wasn't necessarily the friendliest of all.  it didn't sink to the way Hydro Queen departed, but there weren't a lot of kisses and hugs going around.

Morgan claims his columns are superior because as a journalist he doesn't slag people off in an opinion piece and then go and try to interview them on another subject for a news piece.  That isn't what Raleigh does incidentally.  That's what editor Westcott has been accused of by those who felt that his being blackballed by the Premier's Office was okay because Westcott slagged the Premier in his opinion pieces and then wanted to interview the Premier on other subjects.

As you may have gathered, the ethical pedestal onto which Morgan climbs exists entirely in his own imagination. Raleigh isn't Westcott, as near as anyone can determine. Raleigh only writes his opinion pieces online and now in print.

Now he does use a pseudonym and around these parts, the view has been that if you are going to make a stand, then you should have the courage to stand behind your convictions.

That said, Raleigh is an equal opportunity slagger, taking the piss out of a wide variety of public figures and even himself on occasion. He writes well and his observations are forcefully presented.

It's a bit hard to take Morgan's attack seriously, though. As he well knows, people who do write critical opinion pieces and use their own name are also slagged off by the Indy.  For several weeks running last year, Morgan's paper tried to smear four individuals with nothing more than a bit of venom and some old fashioned personal innuendo. They did so in the opinion spaces where the defamation laws apply a little more loosely than otherwise. In other cases, the paper has slagged people off in its news stories not in the opinion spaces but on the basis of a minimal amount of research and damned little context.

More often than not, and for all the claims to the contrary one is more likely to see an homage to backside of the Premier and his cause du jour in the Indy's editorial and opinion spaces than not.  There's really no surprise in that. After all, his world view aligns with the world view of the Indy's editor.

So go figure.

Criticize Danny from behind a cloak and you get told off.  Criticize Danny without the cloak and you get personal smear and innuendo or the little jabs of the type we see in Morgan's latest column.

It's not hard to find the lowest common denominator in all that.

Update:  In which Mr. Raleigh himself turns his guns on Comic Book Guy, in detail.