Sun buries reader critics

Craig McInnes is a member of the Editorial Board of The Vancouver Sun so I assume his column speaks with authority of the newspaper’s editors. Tuesday, he applauded the CBC’s refusal to correct the conflict of interest involved in Legislative Bureau Chief Stephen Smart reporting on the Premier while his wife is the Premier’s Deputy Press Secretary.

McInnes should be embarrassed by the weakness of his defence but I’ll leave detailed criticism to another blogger at Exiled.

I noticed an interesting element of the Sun’s online presentation of McInnes’ opinions. When the paper first posted the article, comments were allowed and very quickly, two readers effectively refuted the arguments.

The Sun’s response? They republished the article without reader comments and de-linked the original page. A reader starting at the Sun homepage and clicking through the OPINION header accesses this:

If one knows where to look, the original page can be found with its two apparently unwelcome comments:

In case the page with comments disappears from the Sun’s website entirely, here is the content of the reader comments that the newspaper is hiding:

3:15 PM on 1/24/2012

Mr. McInnes handily omits this important paragraph from Mr. LaPointe’s report:

“But just because there is no impropriety does not mean there is no conflict. Whether a
real or perceived conflict of interest, no amount of managing it can do more than
mitigate the impact on an impartial fulfillment of duties.”

and a bit further down…

“Smart can report with integrity, and CBC’s protocol can combine disclosure and recusal,
but the pervasive appearance of a conflict of interest will continually challenge their 5
reputations. It is hard to see how an arrangement with the potential to diminish the
effectiveness of CBC’s journalism and public standing serves an interest worthy of a
policy exception.”

Certainly adds context to McInnes’ above piece.

12:24 PM on 1/24/2012

MicInnes offers on behalf of Postmedia self-serving twaddle that redefines the accepted definition of “conflict of interest.”

This is not the attitude of real newspapers such as the New York Times The Guardian or FAZ, etc.

Then again, if the Vancouver Sun had a strong policy on conflict of interest, its editors would not have a cozy relationship with the Fraser Institute. Nor would its star political pundit charge speaker’s fees for appearing before industry groups about whose interests he writes. (eg: BC Chambers of Commerce and HST).

Nor would another columnist have been hired to guide Independent Power Producers Association of BC to gain better media access.

The Sun allows egregious conduct, without disclosure. How many of its journalists or their immediate families rely on business groups for regular earnings. Or is this an old fashioned questioned to pose?

Categories: Journalism

6 replies »

  1. Exactly why I rarely read the Vancouver Sun anymore, let alone registering my information in order to be able to comment.



  2. Extra clarification is much appreciated, Norm. Wouldn't put it past the guys who hold the purse-strings to be deliberately letting this flaw continue, a quick and easy blow against the Public Broadcaster who they seem to hate so much.


  3. Myself, I only read mainstream news to find what kind of PR strategies are being tried on the public each day. Otherwise, these publications are just ridiculous. It's such a shame. You'd think that when the public starts getting that cynical alarm bells would start ringing and somebody at the top would realize an Integrity Drive is in order – but no! The race to the bottom continues. Because it certainly wouldn't do to have an engaged and informed public now, would it?

    Good work on this story, Norm.


  4. How many of its journalists or their immediate families rely on business groups for regular earnings.

    You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. The BC Lieberal way, of course.


  5. “Contrary to popular opinion, journalists are not locked in a constant struggle to bring down the government of the day, exciting though that might seem. We also have a vested interest in the success of our politicians; we live in the communities we report on, we have homes, kids in school and aging parents.”

    So says Mr. McInnes. It’s interesting that he doesn’t mention the truth in there anywhere. That’s what journalists are supposed to be concerned with, isn’t it? Not whether a government falls because of it, or whether his “vested interests” are impacted. The truth is what we are interested in. And whether he likes it or not, WE decide whether we trust the messenger; the decision is not made for us by him and his wife, nor Smart and his.

    He claims the ombudsman’s decision was rooted in a 1950s sense of family life. No it wasn’t. It was rooted in a 1950s sense of journalistic standards and ethics, as reflected in the CBC’s Statement of Journalistic Standards and Practices. The one that Mr. Smart’s situation contravenes.

    He also says “No one involved in the Smart/Scott complaint has any examples of the perceived conflict between the two corrupting the coverage of any story by the CBC. Everyone is aware that there are potential difficulties created by their relationship and they are managed to ensure that both can maintain the professionalism that their jobs require.”

    Everyone is aware of the potential difficulties created by their relationship? Was it ever reported by the CBC before this complaint? How about the Vancouver Sun? How can “everybody” be aware if it isn’t reported and disclosed? As for examples of the relationship affecting coverage, read this hard-hitting year-end interview of his wife’s’ boss by Mr. Smart and make up your own mind.


  6. Excellent comment, displaying more thoughtfulness than McInnes could muster. I'm afraid that the Vancouver Sun editorial board member is a perfect example of why that newspaper operates so far below the standards of a good publication.

    In December, I took issue with another McInnes column and sent this message to him:

    While your column is undoubtedly worthwhile, relating to the now month old Cotter story, it seems a safe and distant choice given the current one unfolding at the Cohen Commission. You explore “lowering of the bar for ethical behaviour” and I think exposure of the DFO withholding evidence, consciously misinforming citizens, intimidating scientists and conspiring with industry is a far more important story of ethical behavior being scorned, by design.

    I searched the Vancouver Sun website today for reports on the Cohen Commission and find only one, a woefully inadequate report by Gordon Hoekstra. that gives voice to Mary Ellen Walllings partial defensiveness but none to such as Alexandra Morton, a driving force behind opposition to DFO policies. In my blog Northern Insights, I quote from Hansard a statement by Agriculture Minister Don McRae where he states misinformation to the Legislature over this issue.

    I'm not saying the Conservative Party dirty tricks are unworthy of comment, but why ignore a larger issue that has politicians, both federal and provincial, directing DFO, an important agency of government, to ignore, distort and suppress science while all parties consciously victimize truth in public communications.

    Where is the Vancouver Sun on these issues?

    Vancouver Sun and Gordon Hoekstra: FAIL!


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