Shining a light

Glenn Greenwald:

A key purpose of journalism is to provide an adversarial check on those who wield the greatest power by shining a light on what they do in the dark, and informing the public about those acts.

A BC political journalist:

edf0f-money1For sums paid to my agents at the National Speakers Bureau, you can engage my undivided attention and I will shine a light for you, enabling your organization to deal successfully with those who wield the greatest power. I won’t bother to inform the public about acts done in the dark.

From the Code of Ethics of the 106-year-old Society of Professional Journalists:

Journalists should:

  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
  • Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.
  • Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; do not pay for access to news. Identify content provided by outside sources, whether paid or not.
  • Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage.
  • Explain ethical choices and processes to audiences. Encourage a civil dialogue with the public about journalistic practices, coverage and news content.
  • Respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness.

An example of “civil dialogue” on CKNW by BC journalists:

Palmer Baldrey nincompoops

An old favourite here: Still ROTFL.

Categories: Journalism

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15 replies »

  1. Timely post. I just returned from the post office with a receipt for a registered letter to the publisher and CEO of the Globe and Mail. His organization is most certainly not living up to the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists, and my interactions with him and his public editor lead me to believe there’s only one flashlight available at the Globe and he’s got it locked away in his desk drawer.


  2. Lew, when your correspondence is complete and the Globe and Mail has revealed to you its ethical choices and processes, you're welcome to share the entire civil dialogue about journalistic practices here at Northern Insight.


  3. Truth…perception and the ethical interpretation thereof. For those engaged in the “propping up” of their political and corporate masters, a great dilemma, the reconciliation of the real truth, is totally opposed to the “truths” of their masters.
    Ethics are for those that have a conscience, integrity and a working,”social filter”. Sociopaths, do not, or perhaps choose not to, at “appropriate moments”.


  4. it is all about the money. some of these “reporters/journalists” whatever you wish to call them, have started to believe their own press and think they are important. It all about the money. Each of them ought to have a look at how the federal Cons treated Duffy, before they keep throwing in with their corporate/political bosses. Journalistic integrity? where, where, where…….


    • So very true. The lack of journalistic integrity and ethics has bled from our politicians to the reporters covering them. Shameful


  5. I was such a nincompoop ranting in my underpants that TransLink had me removed from being a guest on the Bill Good show (after Gordon Campbell had Rafe Mair removed). It happened when a certain spokesman for TransLink (now a Liberal MP) openly lied about ridership on the Calgary LRT and CKNW refused, after much evidence sent to them, to correct the lie. I finally got a half assed apology when Charlie Smith, in the Georgia Straight, printed a story on the affair.

    When Rafe was on CJOR for 2 1/2 years, I was again a regular on his program until Jimmy Pattison was so embarrassed about “fish farm” fish, which supplied his stores, that he cancelled Rafe’s contract.

    When Charlie Smith phoned me about TransLink’s estimate of the Canada Line was $1.3 billion I had a good laugh and my estimate of the time was “around $2.5 billion. It is now accepted through various FOI’s that the cost of the Canada line was over $2.4 billion and documents in the Susan Heyes lawsuit against TransLink indicated a cost of $2.7 billion, nary a word of the massive cost overruns on ‘NW or any other main stream media outlet, yet “Fast Ferry” was repeated ad nasseum.

    As to paraphrase Churchill:

    Some nincompoop;

    Some rant.

    Until the likes of Baldry and Palmer actually stop being shills for the BC Liberals, I will not buy a Vancouver Sun, and I turn the both off on the radio, as i rather listen to a nincompoop ranting in his/hers underpants, than a politically paid shill.


    • Quite incorrect, Malcolm. I did err in quoting Calgary’s LRT ridership…didn’t scroll down a web page. But I also issued an unqualified apology for doing so, which, contrary to your comment, was read on the air by Bill Good the following morning. I still have the tape somewhere. You may recall that Mr. Good suggested you had over-reacted to the situation and, if you were no longer welcome on the air, it was NW’s doing, not TransLink’s or mine. Quite frankly, I have always admired your passion for LRT, and I agree with you that the technology would do very well on some of our rapid transit corridors. You must be gratified to see Surrey’s enthusiasm for LRT – I think it will be great, and my focus on the Standing Committee is to see it happen.


    • Budgets and completion dates are flexible and best left until undetermined until after the project is completed. This would ensure that the phrase “on time and on budget” could be applied to stadia roofs, convention centres, transmission lines, transportation projects, Fraser River crossings, and quite possibly dam projects with some degree of credibility. As it stands now its meaningless politi-babble.


  6. Actually Ken, it was very well timed indeed, with the TransLink types (Jane Bird, ect.) echoing your comments in unison on Good’s program and the apology did not happen until after Charlie’s item went to press, about two days later. The damage was done.

    I heard from a Calgary Transit type who was given a tape of the episode and he was shocked that you could have made such a blunder. But, hey that was 15 years ago, a lot of water has gone under that bridge.

    It is not the passion for light rail, rather it is my passion for the truth, something that greatly lacks today.

    Just for your interest, it now seems BC Transit knew SkyTrain was inferior to light rail from the start but government diktats and close relationships with both the UTDC and later Bombardier forced more of the obsolete SkyTrain upon us. TransLink just continued this unprofessional planning, as the very existence of TransLink was due to the NDP’s flip-flop from LRT to SkyTrain for the Millennium Line.

    As for Surrey’s LRT or poor man’s SkyTrain, it still tells me no one gets it and sadly is planned for failure. One Canadian consultant told me that it was not planned “to best Canadian practice” and the Broadway subway will be very grossly overbuilt for what it will do.

    You might find this of interest being on the standing committee: our consultant on the Rail for the Valley/Leewood study, actually had investment monies looking for a transit project and TransLink (well after you retired) didn’t even want to know about it! I bet that would be handy today.

    As for regional transportation planning, it has gone plain nuts, with the premier offering her back of an envelope $3.5 billion bridge; which seems to have discounted years of regional planning; its a crap shoot out there with demographics changing due to massive housing costs. An expensive mess, trying to be fixed by a one arm paperhanger. I think we will be singing “Gridlock Forever”.for a very long time.


  7. I don’t think it serves our purposes today to spend more energy on conversations that took place years ago. As Ken Hardie says, Mr. Johnston has put much passion into the transit conversation and I’ve most often agreed with his opinions.

    However, readers must be aware that Ken – now an MP – was in earlier days paid to be a spokesperson for TransLink. He was not a policy maker; he was a voice for those who were.

    On one occasion that I had questions about TransLink, I got full cooperation from Ken Hardie as I sought answers. Too often, public sector PR people ignore critics and refuse meaningful interactions. Additionally, in his new role Ken moved quickly to assist Alexandra Morton get access to the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans.

    It was an example of a professional doing what he was supposed to do: representing the people to whom it owed a duty.


  8. Norm, the comments on this post from a year ago include a commitment to provide details of my travails with the Globe and Mail when completed. They are not yet completed, but perhaps I could provide a brief update. Much more involved than I can relate in the comments here, but for what it’s worth I’ll provide a short version.

    My issue with the Globe concerned inaccurate statements published December 18, 2013 regarding the Auditor General’s audit report on the Basi/Virk payoff to end the BC Rail trial. Three statements in particular troubled me.

    1. “The two men pleaded guilty only after the government waived the repayment requirement, but Mr. Jones said the waiver and the plea bargain were handled separately.”

    This statement is not chronologically factual, legally factual, or logically factual, and the statement attributed to Mr. Jones deliberately conceals the fact the waiver was an integral part of a second plea bargain not disclosed to the court, and which represents the core issue in the whole affair. The public was misinformed.

    2. “The audit team found consistent evidence that decisions were made by public servants, independent of elected officials, and that ministers were informed of decisions only after the decisions were made and implemented.”

    This is a direct quote from the audit report, but the statement is inaccurate and the Globe and Mail knows it. It is contradicted by an Oct. 20, 2010 public statement issued by the Deputy Attorney General. The newspaper has a responsibility not to publish the quote as fact without informing its readers on balance that much contrary evidence exists. The impression given the public is that no elected officials knew about or had any opportunity to act in this matter and that simply is not true.

    3. “Under the deal, the government not only forgave the $6-million in legal fees, initially advanced as a loan, but also gave up any claim to the personal assets of the accused, valued at $400,000 and agreed to release 25 per cent of defence fees that had been held back.”

    The audit report itself and testimony before the Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts reveals the 25 per cent holdbacks were released and discontinued in 2008 part way through the trial. They were not a part of the deal. The public was misinformed.

    Incredibly, the Globe and Mail asserts that the statements are accurate and need no correction. Despite several attempts I still have not received a response from the reporter involved, who otherwise does good work. I found the Public Editor especially intransigent, and therefore was compelled to engage the Publisher and CEO, who for my trouble twice wrongly accused me of mischaracterizing his Public Editor’s response.

    I then submitted a lengthy complaint to the Ontario Press Council, including a request that the inaccurate accusations of the Publisher and CEO be addressed. In December I received a letter with no return address or contact information from the former Executive Director of the Ontario Press Council informing me that the council wound up operations last summer, had not considered my complaint before doing so, but would not have entertained it in any case because they had a policy of only considering material published within a six month time frame while the matter was still “fresh”.

    I am currently attempting to have the Publisher and CEO retract his incorrect statements impugning my actions and will proceed based on his response.


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