REPLAY, first posted Sept.15, 2011
This piece below from months ago came to mind when I thought about certain prominent reporters who are travelling this week. According to Bill Good, it’s their way of learning concerns from around the province. An example of keeping one’s ear to the ground, no doubt.
Mind you, it’s a rather limited survey of issues and people since they’re on another paid appearance before the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce AGM, an event not open to ordinary citizens.
The issue is obvious. When paid appearances by journalists depend on goodwill of the province’s businesses, that brings into question the bias, or lack of bias, in their regular work.
Within the article you’ll find words that need no change, including these:
It was widely known that Bill Good, Vaughn Palmer and Keith Baldrey had taken their “Edge of the Ledge” silliness on the road, not to high schools and universities but to well financed industry events of proponents that happened to be at the centre of public controversies over issues such as independent power production, fish farming and HST.
When taking aim at individuals on this blog, I try to avoid false assertions. Readers may argue with my analyses and opinions but I intend those to be based on verifiable data. In comments, fairly wide range is allowed because readers know to be wary of mostly anonymous statements. However, I block contributions that are indefensibly crude or libellous.
Public figures are due minimal protection from justified disrespect, for obvious reasons. If a person chooses to be in the public eye, they can hardly expect absolute privacy although judgement and denunciations should relate only to public lives and public business, not private.
I don’t want my efforts or opinions to be readily tossed aside by thoughtful and reasonably objective people so that means extensive research and consideration goes into what I write. Usually, anyway.
Lately, I’ve written harsh criticism of certain journalists and it’s been too easy. Yet I have terrific respect for the profession. I cry to see it so abused in the these days of corporate managers focused more on economic performance than on quality journalism and public interest. Passion and idealistic vision are too often absent. In this quote from my article Truth is not subjective, Mark Heisler, pushed out of the LA Times after 32 years, gives a picture of newspapers in modern times:
…it was harder to work there daily, as if Someone Up There was saying, “You’re lucky you’re still here—and here’s what else you’ll have to do to stay.”
Of course, that Someone Up There had Someone Even Higher, telling him the same thing.
Unfortunately, compromising what we did was so entrenched as a way of life, we barely remembered things were ever different, while learning we would be making new, bigger compromises.
In this day and age, a corporation troubled by examination seldom plans to have the brass stand before the public to be accountable. No, they hire fixers and PR people. The first to ask the highest levels of media companies for shielding and the second to organize spin campaigns.
I don’t know the full extent of compromises demanded of journalists in B.C today but I hear stories of them being substantial. With a tame media serving mostly puffball inquiries, the business hierarchy has grown soft and overly sensitive.
Many years ago, I knew an industrialist whose organization had come under scrutiny of broadcasters and the press. Senior executives feared the questions that were inevitable but no one thought to call a publisher or the manager of a broadcast “cluster” to have the examination stopped or controlled. Management knew the media was not an ally there to promote business, it was a formidable agent of public interest, hungry to expose wrongdoing.
In 2011, when a business leader is asked an uncomfortable question, he suffers annoyance and anger. How dare such a question be asked!
Here is a sample from my experience this week.
It was widely known that Bill Good, Vaughn Palmer and Keith Baldrey had taken their “Edge of the Ledge” silliness on the road, not to high schools and universities but to well financed industry events of proponents that happened to be at the centre of public controversies over issues such as independent power production, fish farming and HST. Since I planned to connect the BC Chamber of Commerce with this roadshow, I thought I’d seek a reaction from John Winter, CEO of the C of C. Here is the email exchange with no content edited:
N. Farrell to J. Winter, Sept 13, 2:01 pm
Do you agree there is a potential conflict of interest involved when professional journalists receive fees and expenses for appearances at closed meetings of the Chamber of Commerce? I have in mind examples such as Bill Good, Vaughn Palmer and Keith Baldrey attending the 2008 and 2011 AGMs of your organization.
J. Winter to N .Farrell, Sept 13, 9:30 pm
No conflict. These journalists/commentators have been a part of our Annual Conference for several years to help us understand the political landscape. We are an advocacy organization and our efforts are enhanced (we hope) by the insight they provide. And by the way, not all of those you name are paid to appear. And, they appeared in 2009 and 2010 Conferences as well. Hope this helps.
N. Farrell to J. Winter, Sept 13, 10:30 pm
If you offer a categorical statement that Good, Baldrey and Palmer are not remunerated for appearing at Chamber of Commerce events by the Chamber or a sponsor, I would be happy to publish your statement at Northern Insights.
J. Winter to N. Farrell, Sept 14, 8:08 am
Please don’t publish anything of mine. Most journalists of a reputable nature would have identified themselves at the outset. You will not be hearing from me again.
N. Farrell to J. Winter, Sept 14, 9:24 am
I look forward to hearing from you again. Look at my earlier messages. The ID is exactly the same on each; you have not been blindsided or treated unfairly. I have not quoted you publicly and even gave you opportunity to consider and clarify what you were saying to me.
Your response now seems a little strange. How have I treated you inappropriately by doing no more than politely posing a question?
Mr. Winter claims I should have identified myself at the outset. This is the look of my first email to him. I did not misrepresent myself in any way.