Gary Mason

Agenda journalism

Black Press political reporter Tom Fletcher, whose wife is a Public Affairs Officer for the BC Liberal Government, occasionally recalls the nineties:

The dark decade, the dismal decade, the decade of destruction …when investment, jobs and people packed up and headed for the B.C. border in response to the NDP governments of Mike Harcourt and Glen Clark…

That is Fletcher’s memory and he reminds community newspaper readers throughout British Columbia whenever convenient. Many of us remember differently. BC Stats, a division of the provincial government, provides information to test Fletcher’s accuracy. First, we can determine if people were departing in unusual numbers. Here are the population numbers:

  • 1991: 3,404,049
  • 2001: 4,049,297
  • 2014: 4,657,947

The average annual population growth during the NDP era was twice what it’s been under the Liberals:

All-industries job counts provided by BC Stats show:

  • 1991: 1,577,500
  • 2001: 1,920,900 – Average annual job growth: 34,340. Jobs per 1,000 population: 10.4
  • 2014: 2,278,400 – Average annual job growth: 27,500. Jobs per 1,000 population: 5.8

Unfortunately, the situation is worse than it seems since many of the jobs created in recent years are McJobs: low-paying, low-prestige positions that require minimal skills. In the last generation, new service jobs are more than double the number of new goods-producing jobs. The following graphs show the number of positions in wealth creating industries at two particular points in time.

Obviously this information is contrary to the bill of goods being sold by Tom Fletcher. He’s not alone though. Gary Mason has referred to the BCNDP era as the “dismal decade” and various media members echo the concept. The late Ian Reid wrote that the Vancouver Sun had joined the BC Liberal militia and become “kind of their advance shock troops.” They do this mostly by controlling the opinions expressed in editorials and news pages.

BC Liberals have courted the media assiduously and they use financial and other rewards to ensure loyalties. In addition, they employ paid staff and volunteers to troll social media to advance Liberal talking points and denigrate opponents.

Liberal allies fund astroturfing initiatives. An example was Concerned Citizens for B.C., a creation of government supporters led by Jim Shepard for a year before the 2013 election. Here is an example of messaging from CCBC:

They [NDP] took us from having one of the richest provinces in the country, where we were one of the strongest economies, to the absolutely worst economy in the province… to the point where we were on welfare…

Of course, in politics today, negative advertising and controversial claims are standard procedure. It is unsettling though when journalists become partisans, shaping reports to favour one segment of the political spectrum. It is common for reporters to repeat statements made by politicians without concern for accuracy or balance. Lies go unchallenged as if they are truth. A particularly odious example was published in Kelowna’s Daily Courier, a publication owned by an ex-convict who was jailed for fraud in the USA.

One must not underestimate the destructive potential of publications serving cities and towns outside the lower mainland. Properties owned by Black Press, Glacier Media and Continental Newspapers are seen by more citizens than the big city dailies and generally, their pages reflect the interests of three very wealthy men: David Black, Sam Grippo and David Radler. Because there are few alternatives available and populations are spread widely, stories that are biased or inaccurate are more likely to go unchallenged.

Columnist/reporters like Tom Fletcher find a happy home in their workplaces. They are willing to pervert lofty ideals of journalism to serve the owners’ ideological purposes and to preserve their own places in the effort. Too often though, truth is the victim.


Georgia Straight editor Charlie Smith noted this article in Tom Fletcher, Norm Farrell, tax cuts for the rich, and Harperism

18 replies »

  1. I couldn't agree more Norm. Fletcher is very much a disgrace to journalism. Has he ever investigated a story ? From what I've seen he simply takes the Liberal media release and puts his name on it. What's really sad is that these local community papers print his junk and it's read by seniors from those communities (Vernon Morning Star) and that's all they see.
    Whenever I see his Twitter comments I like many others I'm sure just skip over his comment. Just for fun I googled his name this morning & here are some of the results:
    ” om, I do hope for the sake of the people of BC that the Liberals hire you as their official spokesman, because its not fair to the public or Black Press that you do it disguised as a journalist. “

    ” Why is there so much bullshit in community newspapers? “

    ” Another inaccurate and biased column by BC's worst reporter, Tom Fletcher. Please send a letter in response. “

    And it goes on. As I said earlier, a real disgrace to journalism. Tom Fletcher nothing more than an old tired worn out reporter trying to keep his wife's loyalty to a disgraceful government.

    Guy in Victoria

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  2. Columnist/reporters like Tom Fletcher, Sean Leslie, Vaughn Palmer and the rest have given TransLink a free pass for decades and even with the SkyTrain meltdowns, tried to blame the customer for TransLink's short comings.

    Here lies the problem with the transit debate, the mainstream media has been shoveling so much 'horse-pucky' that the populace believes it.

    The problem for the YES side, is that 1), the taxpayer has had enough paying more taxes; 2) the taxpayer wants to make the unaccountable TransLink board, accountable. Of course, no where in the upcoming plebiscite is any vehicle to reform TransLink.

    The fate of the plebiscite, I feel is sealed with a NO vote.

    But here is the problem for the mainstream media, they are still shoveling 'horse-pucky' , yet it seems the majority of the population do not believe them. The MSM, in fact has become the worst enemy of the YES side trundling out doom and gloom stories almost on a daily basis, which reporters/columnists are hoisted on their own petards, with their utter ignorance of transit, TransLink and transit issues.

    The public, especially the No side of the plebiscite, is seeing TransLink and the mainstream media for what it is, yellow journalism – the King has no clothes, no morals, and no ability to tell the truth.

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  3. Norm
    Here is a letter I sent to “Less” Leyne of the TC in Victoria. Re: His stories on Mr Allan (The Saviour !) and the “balanced” budget. Touched on some things that were left out of the articles.

    Les

    Good God it did get worse! In my opinion of course.

    I can now only write a response to your latest missive, re Mr Allen. I can now add the budget.

    I think the only thing you did not say was “You are my hero”. I am sure Mr Allen is capable. But you did not examine his works very deeply, did you?

    BC Ferries, he reworked them alright. What we ended up with was a semi-detached, totally politically controlled corporation with over inflated salaries and a
    structure that ensured failure. That is already proven. I guess you don’t mind the highest rates ever, the fastest raising rates in their history, off shore purchase of ships and the most reduction in service. Great work.

    The Canada Line, a no brainer from the beginning. SNC-Lavalin could have built it , maybe they did. Canada must be one of the only countries they can do business in now.

    I would also like to point out that you don’t need to be an apologist for the Liberal’s LNG policy. The facts are there. Who could have predicted the fall in the price of oil? Really, is that all you could think of to say? There were indicators from the very beginning of this poisonous thread of lies. One trillion dollars? The fact that Australia already has plants on line. Russia has huge contracts to sell gas to Asia. Japan was known to be going back to nuclear power, so greatly reducing their need for LNG. I thought that maybe the mention that the greatest investment from LNG was building plants in Korea. You must have read about that? If this idiot plan goes ahead, there will be trillions of dollars on the line, but BC tax payers will be the ones paying.

    Your latest apology is really disheartening. Praising the Liberals for doubling the provincial deficit. Shameless. How can one produce balanced budgets and yet fall so quickly in debt? No mention of the half a billion dollar roof on the stadium, when the budget started at 100 million (govt emails) only to balloon as time progressed? No mention of the doubling of the convention centre budget? No mention of the ghost tolls (vehicle usage payments)on the Coq? No mention of the IPP over payments? No mention of BC Hydro deferral costs accounting? No mention of the folly of the site “C” project? No mention of the bloated salaries at BC Investment Corp and every other board? No mention of the 10 percent loans to build the ferries in Germany, when interest rates were about 3 percent? No mention of the cost overruns on the Sea to Sky highway to a ski resort? The waste of money on the fake Bollywood awards? There are more.

    Balanced coverage is what is lacking.

    Jamie MacDuff

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  4. The summaries of the 1990's and the 2000's by the 'Progress Board' of British Columbia tell the same story as Norm's graphs.

    And the Progress Board was not a commie-pinko, loosey-goosey cannon-firing group led by either the CCPA or Rafe Mair.

    Instead, it was a group set up by Gordon Campbell and it mostly consisted of captains of industry.

    It was also killed by Christy Clark almost immediately after she took office.

    Those summaries can be found …..Here.

    .

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  5. Unfortunately, this strategy for winning elections works. I moved to Victoria in 1992 and I don't recall the BC economy being that bad, nor did I see a convoy of moving vans leaving the city. My parents moved to BC in the late 1990' or early 2000's, can't remember when exactly. During the last election, I pointed out what was wrong with the Liberals to my father, and all he said was “I'm just afraid of what the NDP will do to the economy”. He's my father, so I didn't push the issue, but I was thinking what did he know about the BC economy under the NDP. In fact, all he knows is what is in the newspapers.

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  6. One of the biggest issues in outing Fletcher for what he is is getting a Letter to the Editor past the deer in the headlights “editor” that is employed by Black Press. Can you imagine how long that poor schmuck would last if they printed too many discouraging words?

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  7. CKNW is no different, and maybe a whole lot worse, if that’s possible when talking about Fletcher.

    This morning Jon McComb had the Liberals’ PR guy Vaughn Palmer on and he told the folks listening that Bill Bennett was following the established tradition in BC of asking the Conflict Commissioner for a written opinion about any perceived or potential conflict of interest about the latest issues with the guide outfitters. Not a word about the fact that the Commissioner is an old family friend of Christy Clark who is so conflicted himself that he couldn’t make a ruling on her conflictions, that Commissioner’s son is also a close friend of the Premier who worked in private industry with her, played a key role in her election campaign, and is now by complete coincidence the best person in all the land to run the government’s PR division. Also not mentioned in Palmer’s full and complete report on the issue was the fact that the guide outfitters are regular and substantial contributors to the Liberal war chest.

    Later McComb had on none other than news guy Gord Macdonald, who tells him that the Mayors Council has duped McComb, they actually have full authority and funding mechanisms to run Translink, and by the way TransLink is not as bad as they say. He then goes on to agree with Christy Clark that the school boards should accept further cuts because everybody is accepting cuts. Strangely he doesn’t mention the recent tax give-back to high-earners, or point out examples of where the subsidies have been cut to industry.

    So now CKNW doesn’t even bother to try and hide the fact their senior news department staff are biased and regularly withhold facts in discussions of daily political happenings, but highlight it on what is to be a regular segment on McComb’s show.

    Brilliant.

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  8. Ah yes, the 1990's. Our family lived in a cardboard box, and we were darn lucky to have that. Cardboard was cheap, so at least we ate well.

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  9. Hi Norm……sent a letter to Fletcher with my comments…..here is his response…….

    Here's the problem, Dave. Farrell selectively quotes from a column I wrote in April 2011, in which I made exactly the same point he makes. That is the BC Liberals' “dismal decade” routine is not supported by the facts.

    Here is my original column, written during the NDP leadership campaign of that year. See for yourself.

    http://www.bclocalnews.com/opinion/119283359.html?mobile=true

    On 2015-02-23, at 8:59 AM, wrote:

    http://northerninsights.blogspot.ca/2015/02/agenda-journalism.html

    Wow, that explains a lot…….I didn’t realize your wife worked for the BC Liberal government……..

    Well typically Norm let you have it again…..with actual facts…….

    Dave Olson
    Nanaimo Bc

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  10. Fletcher's positions are apparent and obvious. He's left a long trail, available to anyone with access to the internet or a library. What you probably won't find though is any disclosure that, through his wife, his household benefits financially from an Order-in-Council relationship with the Liberal government.

    He is right; I selected a quotation from his work that illustrated my point. Did he expect I should republish his entire catalog of work or just stay silent?

    What I haven't written before is that there is a pattern designed to conceal bias and obfuscate the work of many in the Press Gallery. (Andrew MacLeod is an outstanding exception; there may be one or two more.)

    Certain reporters and commentators use techniques of stunt actors participating in a movie fight scene. Puffing themselves up, they will appear to strike furious blows at important moments but these end short of the supposed target. Other times, they’ll actually land a few light jabs but never at a critical time. The jabs have no affect except for appearance. Casual observers don’t realize that fakery is involved and the true objective is to put on a show that hurts no one.

    Palmer is a master of this technique. He does not aim for the crux of an issue; he tosses light jabs at the extremities of government but not its guiding hands. About the Health Ministry, Palmer wrote negatively about wrongful actions by people who were already gone but was rather easy on people that remained.

    He was careful to note that Marcia McNeil, the lawyer who “investigated” a part of the scandal, had taken steps to ensure her independence. What he didn’t write, although he knows the fact, is that Marcia McNeil’s husband is Scott Sutherland, another Order-in-Council appointee of the Liberals working as a Senior Public Affairs Officer, at almost $100K a year.

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  11. Rafe Mair is also “a master of this technique”. Even now, he never misses a chance to crap on the New Democrats. Anyone remember back in the day when he said the IMF was poised to come in and rescue BC from the Glen Clark government?

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  12. I believe another factor that affected the MSM, esp. is that they were bought by big companies. They lost whatever independence they had, and the journalists had to tow the line. What happened to Marjorie NIcols, who used to work for The Vancouver Sun? It is thought that she left to work back east to work because she was too critical of the BC provincial gov't. We don't have the analysis that we need, we just have quoters. One of the first independent journalists, I F Stone, started his own newspaper, because he wanted to publish what was happening, not what one was told. We need more independent journalists who will tell us and analyze what is happening. This seems to be happening with many sites on the internet that are giving us an independent analysis of what is happening. Thanks Norm and all of you out there who give us an independent view and analysis.

    Like

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