15 October 2015


There are times you read stuff and you just have to wonder what brought that on.

There’s Telegram editor Russell Wangersky explaining how newspapers are still relevant in the world today. He starts bitching the old bitch about how radio stations in town used to read Telegram stories on the air word-for-word without crediting the folks at the Telly who did the work.

Then he starts in on bloggers for some reason.  Russell tells us the “dirty little secret”, namely that “they depend on us more than anyone else. They couldn’t do without us. They are building their sometimes-flimsy logical constructions on the rock-solid work of front-line reporters. The bloggers aren’t working the phones or holding the digital recorders — as much as private radio used to, and still does, rip and read, online commenters grab and gab.”

Yes, b’y Russell and we all live in our parents’ basement, never get out of our pajamas, and rock and roll music is the spawn of Satan.

What Russell calls a dirty little secret isn’t any of those things.  It’s just not true. The irony – or is it the hypocrisy? – is astounding.  There you have someone from the conventional media basically making shit up, which always was the other great bullshit claim about bloggers right after the basement and pajamas thing.

As for ripping copy,  Russell seems to have forgotten the number of Telly-torials over the past decade based on the superb research by labradoreThe Telegram and other outlets in the conventional media have come to rely on blogs for stuff their reporters don’t do or don’t have time to do. 

Russell has also forgotten the number of times local bloggers have explored aspects of stories that – yet again – the local conventionals either won;t touch or don’t have the time or inclination to bother with.  We aren’t talking insignificant stuff here. 

SRBP and Uncle Gnarley have been pounding away at the government’s tragically flawed hydro policy since before we started down the Muskrat Falls route.  We’ve challenged the official statements by checking with experts.  In the case of the failed Rhode Island MOU, for example, SRBP contacted the RI governor’s office to find their side of the story.  Turns out it had nothing to do with regulatory issues, as Kathy Dunderdale claimed. The problem was Nalcor wouldn’t be able to get electricity to Rhode Island at a price anyone was willing to pay.

What’s most telling about the Muskrat Falls story is that by avoiding the official scrums and hand-outs,  the bloggers and other dissidents have been proven right time and again about the project.  The grunt work done by reporters is important. It documents the official statements. 

But you aren’t going to find the in-depth analysis on issues like water power anywhere but on blogs.

The official line, dutifully transcribed by the conventional media was that water rights and water management weren’t no thaing.  The official line, again dutifully transcribed by the conventional media, was Steve Kent’s unprincipled attacks on the 2041 group.

It all proved wrong, time and time again. The conventional media did their job and did it admirably.  No fault.  No criticism, unlike Wangersky’s broad smear.  The problem for the conventionals is that when people want more depth and detail they have a hard time finding it in the much thinner pages of the Telegram these days.

We can easily run through a litany of issues:  public overspending, massive increases in public debt,  the impact of shale oil and gas,  and CETA.  You won’t that the conventional media either in its news or editorial spaces have plumbed their depths.  CETA is like the Regie decisions on Nalcor appeals or the 2004 offshore row or Equalization and ABC.  Even with the evidence in front of them, the conventionals  ignored any sign of a more nuanced story than the one in the scrum or news release or pin message on the Blackberry. That story is one you found on blogs that are still around or some, like nottawa or Offal News, that have ceased publication.

Back when he was a mere newspaper editor, Ryan Cleary used to bitch about blogs.  Word from his old newsroom is that he banned people from reading one of them in particular. But truth be told he got a few story ideas from blogs and,  in the perfect irony started writing one of his own.  When he wasn’t bitching about blogs he used to write editorials about the evil crowd at the Telegram who were controlled by “Quebec.” 

Ryan was full of shit on both points and, frankly,  it’s sad to see Russell spouting the same sort of nonsense.  Over the past decade, the world has accepted conventional media and the unconventional media like blogs.  Both can survive and have survived each in their own niche.  There’s no competition.   Never has been.

But frankly if someone wants to pretend there is a fight, then by all means they can fill their boots.  It won’t change what happens on a blog like SRBP or Uncle Gnarley.  But it sure will make people wonder what is going on at the conventionals to prompt a column that flings around so much imaginary crap that it seems frantic to prove to its own author that newspapers still matter.