Toothless media accommodates political fraud

In 2006, Rafe Mair wrote News Media, Defanged for The Tyee. It included the headline:

Politicians, not too long ago, feared the press.

Of course miscreants particularly feared Rafe Mair during his post-politician days. Rafe had been a successful lawyer and a capable cabinet minister in Bill Bennett’s coalition and service on both sides of the firing line gives Mair an unusual perspective. He remembered his time in government:

mair1Let’s go back 30 years. Every morning we ran a gauntlet of reporters and broadcasters who analyzed everything we did and reported it or commented, usually adversely, on it.

The day started with the late Marjorie Nichols and Allan Garr and Dave Todd whose articles invariably dealt with government policy with which they disagreed, the airwaves had Gary Bannerman, Pat Burns and Ed Murphy as resident attack dogs and Jack Webster did a morning talk show on BCTV. Allan Fotheringham weighed in from time to time and Jack Wasserman…

I hated the media in those days. I thought they were unfair, which they often were; ill informed, which they often were; and just plain nasty, as they always were. But somewhere along the way I had an epiphany.

I was reading a horrid article by Marjorie Nichols and the light went on: this was the same Marjorie Nichols who was always on NDP premier Dave Barrett’s tail. This was the same Marjorie Nichols I used to enjoy so much when I was campaigning to get a Socred nomination in Kamloops. What’s happened to Marjorie? I asked. And I realized that nothing had happened to Marjorie; the change was in the government.

Now, what we get, with surprisingly few exceptions, is journalism that serves and promotes corporate or personal interests. Of course, we don’t expect the monopolist Shaw family of Corus & Global or the vulture capitalists behind Postmedia newspapers to promote a just society so we’re not surprised they give prominent voice to their own right wing social and financial agendas.

We also shouldn’t expect reporters like the infamous trio — Alex Tsakumis called their Friday morning work on CKNW ‘Cutting the Cheese from the Ledge’ — to report negatively on industries and business groups that pay them inducements through appearance fees and “training and consulting” compensation.

I doubt that Marjorie Nichols took fees from any group who was keen to gain positive treatment in her commentaries. LIke Marjorie, ethical journalism is but a memory in British Columbia.

Just last week, Vaughn Palmer was writing this in the Vancouver Sun:

Why is Christy doing well in overall polls? I think she is picking up some of the softer NDP supporters.

A harmless recall of a partisan’s opinion? Or, a message to badly informed readers to continue trusting the moribund Liberal Party?

Robert Lewis, Allan Fotheringham, Marjorie Nichols, Jack Webster, 1986

Rafe Mair wrote regularly at The Common Sense Canadian.

10 replies »

  1. Boy that photo goes back a ways…..

    I have had this crazy thought for a while…it is actually crazy enough to work….

    When A. Dix has the win under his belt the very first thing he needs to do is contact every MSM outlet and tell them that the present long time press reporters will not be given an opportunity for media scrum. Palmer, Baldry, and any of the others are out.

    This would be the result of their inability or outright refusal to bring forward any balance in their stories.

    Tell the MSM they send new people or they get the stories second hand. The invite the local media bloggers for scrum…… like yourself Norm and others…. Tielman, Yuile, Holman, Tsakumis,etc etc………


  2. The shift of readers toward alternative media is remarkable. When I began as an unknown blogger almost three years ago, I told SWMBO, “The number of readers may not seem all that impressive but if they all gathered in the cul de sac outside to hear me speak, you'd be impressed.”

    Well, after 1,364 published articles, if this month's readers gathered outside my house to hear my opinions, they'd fill the cul de sac and the entire street from my house to the highway almost a mile away.

    Alex Tsakumis has had even more remarkable growth. So too at The Common Sense Canadian with Rafe Mair and Damien Gillis, RossK at The Gazetteer, Ian Reid at The Real Story, Laila and many other legitimate commentators in the blogosphere.

    I don't know their stats but The Tyee is indispensable journalism in BC too.

    The Postmedia papers are largely a waste of space.


  3. ” When A. Dix has the win under his belt the very first thing he needs to do is contact every MSM outlet and tell them that the present long time press reporters will not be given an opportunity for media scrum.”
    Alex Tsakumis said the same thing the other day and I commented that for some time know that if I was in the right position I would advise Dix to do the same.

    Guy in Victoria


  4. It might seem like natural justice but it would be destructive. Dix I think understands that the media has a role – and not a role as cheerleader – like that Rafe Mair talks about in the linked article.

    I guess it's the old line: “Two wrongs don't make a right.”

    I hope that media holds the feet of Adrian Dix, John Horgan and company, or John Cummins and his bunch, to the fire, honestly and fairly but diligently. Those guys don't need special treatment, just fair treatment.


  5. The media was totally biased and not fair to the BC citizens. What kind of a farce is CKNW?

    I for one, will not be taking my newspapers back, that I had cancelled.


  6. I agree Norm it would be destructive in some ways…but…one of the best options is to have the MSM “thinking” about the fact that people are actually musing about this. Perhaps members of the NDP are good muses too…

    Doesn’t have to have a ring of permanency to it; deny access to a couple of important scrums. Overnight the cooperative turnaround will be a shocker I’ll wager.

    Imagine the whinging and hand wringing of the old boys club in Victoria….

    Why it would be a tragedy of Shakespearian proportions… “alas we are not allowed to enter because we are un-worthy”( oh the poor dears….;)


  7. You are correct to call out Palmer. He's a crafty partisan, serving not so much the Liberal Party as the maintenance of a right wing big business supporting coalition. Palmer was a frequent and harsh critic of ruling politicians before the BC Liberals formed government but in those days, journalists didn't accept bribes, inducements or favours from the people they covered. The idea of accepting rewards worth tens of thousands a year from business groups didn't seem right to news people until fairly recent times.


  8. It's not just the biased or lazy reporting in the MSM these days that gets my goat; it's the overall lack of serious content (i.e., other than fluff, roughage and advertising). I can remember a time when “reading the paper” might actually take concentration and 40 – 60 minutes of reading. Now, on a good day it probably takes less than 5 minutes – and of that, it often seems like much of the content is press release-type stuff.

    I miss real news so much. We're so lucky bloggers have stepped into the breach to keep us informed. Norm, the work you and your colleagues do is very much appreciated!


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