Journalism

Piled higher and deeper

This item was first published in January 2011 and is brought forward again because its subject has particular importance in the next eleven months.


baldreytweets

A regular reader’s comment stirred my interest.  He  directed me to a community newspaper whinge by Keith Baldrey, the Global TV reporter I sometimes refer to as a BC Liberal spokesman.

First, examine the comments by Spartikus HERE then consider this recap of Baldrey’s lament for Craig James, a Liberal favourite who was then head of Elections BC and is now the Clerk of the Legislature:

A lot is being said and written about the decline of civility in our political culture these days. It’s time we confront this disturbing problem.

…one doesn’t have to dig very deep in our own political culture to find rhetoric that is beyond “overheated” and inflammatory attacks that go well beyond what is acceptable in a fair and just society.

…the fact he [Craig James] needed security was actually reported some weeks ago by the Globe and Mail… More than 150 comments were posted. Almost none of them expressed any kind of sympathy at all for James…

This brings us to a key part of the growing problem: the anonymity of the Internet, which allows anyone the chance to smear another without having to be held accountable for his or her actions. If I (or any other reporter or editor at this newspaper) were to libel someone, the consequences would be harsh. The aggrieved party would sue, and there’s a good chance the offending writer would pay a significant financial penalty.

But on websites and blogs, people are allowed to post the most outrageous, libelous, threatening and inaccurate comments and because they do so under the cowardly cloak of anonymity (or pseudonyms) they face no consequences.

Yet, their comments hang in the air and get traded back and forth… no matter how much evidence shows those views to be wrong or inaccurate or based on hate or prejudice.

Newspapers and other media outlets should return to the days of the rigid letters-to-the-editor policies that took steps to ensure all published comments were accurately signed.

…don’t think for a moment the extremists who have poisoned political debate in the U.S. don’t also exist here. They can be found in Canada, on the left and right, and they are mostly on the Internet. If you don’t believe me, just ask Craig James.”

Notice again that Baldrey says,

. . . on websites and blogs, people are allowed to post the most outrageous, libelous, threatening and inaccurate comments and because they do so under the cowardly cloak of anonymity (or pseudonyms) they face no consequences.

Keith Baldrey has been a professional journalist for the better part of 30 years. He is aware that if people make death threats in any fashion to Craig James, including by email, they will be investigated by police and charged. Punishment would be severe.  Baldrey’s universal statement about blogs and websites is wrong, pure and simple. Criticism and impolite comments are not libel. Also, it is inconceivable that he so misunderstands the law that he would honestly make untrue assertions regarding libel.  I think his statements are considered and purposeful but the intention is not what he claims.

There is no cloak of anonymity provided by the Internet to a blogger or any online journalist. The people responsible for offending sites, even those using pseudonyms, can be determined through identification of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and a bit of gumshoeing. Most bloggers make it easy by using real names, honest email addresses and even pictures. Does anyone imagine that I am not subject to libel laws at In-Sights? Only ignorant fools.

Baldrey knows that I can be sued for damages and/or specific performance if I publish libelous content. I explain this occasionally to would-be contributors whose comments I block because of inappropriate content. Additionally, I recognize also a moral responsibility to not assert as true information that I know to be untrue. Regular readers know that I might make ironic assertions but that should be obvious to anyone exercising thought.

In social media, a wayward fringe will always been with us but who gives them credibility? Blog readers are often sophisticated news junkies who want commentary based on fact, not on fantasy.

Mr. Baldrey wants people unfamiliar with online journalism to imagine the Internet largely provides “outrageous, libelous, threatening and inaccurate” commentary. One reason he might want to sell that false image is that he worries about mainstream media losing readers to the online world. Baldrey also may not like to be criticized and held accountable for his expositions.

Keith, if you aim to be respected, don’t be an extension of vested interests, treat all sides with doubt and wariness and don’t only advance interests of the powerful. Be prepared to make them uncomfortable, if deserved. Be transparent about potential conflicts involving you or colleagues, be knowledgeable and impartial. If your employer won’t allow this, go public, force change. Your employer once had a reputation for outstanding work, it does no longer.

Global BC, for whom Baldrey is the chief political reporter, was caught demonstrating partisan bias during the 2009 election campaign. They’ve been accused of prejudice repeatedly but the responses have usually been denials. This important case could not be denied. It was confirmed by court documents that reveal Global news reporter Catherine Urquhart worked with a BC Liberal’s senior advisors to promote the politician’s public profile. This is from the a media report of the correspondence between Kash Heed’s backroom operator Barinder Sall and the Global reporter:

“I can honestly say Kash would not be SG [solicitor-general] today if it hadn’t been for some key people behind the scenes,” Sall wrote to Urquhart on June 10, 2009.

“There were only truly 3 people that played a major role: Me, Peter Dhillon and yourself and Kash knows this,” he added.

“Peter was the money guy, I’m the brown tanned James Bond strategy girl-chasing guy and you were like the communications director . . . your stories, coverage and timing gave Kash a lot of profile and built him a following from day 1 at West Van and then leading into the election.”

In response, Urquhart wrote: “Hey…that’s really sweet of you…”

However, Urquhart did not prepare and broadcast Liberal friendly material by herself. It passed by all the others working in the Global studio whether editors, reporters, technicians or management. Approval was explicit and implicit. That it was aired demonstrates Global was taking care of business as usual, promoting BC Liberals.

I suggest that trust is a major issue for Global TV. Keith Baldrey, as chief political reporter, should have known about the campaign to raise Kash Heed’s status.  Should we have confidence in any statement by Baldrey or Global or assume they generally report that which pleases their favorites?

A further test of Global TV came from their treatment of the issue. The company response was not admirable. Only Catherine Urquhart was disciplined and that involved a short suspension. She is still employed at Global News.


For additional information on this subject and a Twitter exchange I had with Keith Baldrey, read the 2014 article:

Good questions


 

Categories: Journalism

Tagged as: , ,

15 replies »

  1. The decline in readership amongst the MSM speaks for itself. You cannot expect anything else from Baldrey but to defend his piece of the pie. He should be intelligent enough to figure out why though, and not continue to delude himself that it is because people are wacko's. The demise of the newspaper medium is their own making!

    Like

  2. Norm – the same content analysis should be applied to Sean Holman over at PublicEyeOnline. You can`t use the excuse that he`s just publicizing stuff that “happened to fall into his lap“ when the content is so one-sided against the NDP. At some point, Sean has to take journalistic responsibility for what he`s putting out there if he wants to be seen as credible and not just a tool being used by others. I don`t see any effort on his part to dig into what is happening with the Liberal new member sign-up issues identified by Harvey Oberfeld, for example. Wouldn`t that be a natural place to go with the sign-up story? Challenge the Liberal brass or a candidate or two on their sign-up books in short supply, say?
    I don't have confidence that Sean is making the effort to balance his reporting.

    Warren White

    Like

  3. I wonder what the weekly whinge will be on 'NW today, by Messes Baldry, Palmer and Good.

    If there are libelous comments on blogs, I would wager that they would be dealt with, especially with the likes of the Premier or cabinet ministers.

    The great fear of course is that the mainstream media is loosing its grip on the great unwashed, who more and more turn to blogs for their news and not the newspapers, TV, or radio. I understand that major advertisers are now seriously concerned abut this phenomenon.

    I would dearly wish someone would chart a family tree of PAB's, BC Liberals, and mainstream media types to show family or business connections!

    Now that is not libelous, but i think it would scare the hell out the above three.

    Like

  4. Well said Norm. We can only hope that most viewers can distinguish between the wheat & the chaff. As a retired journalist I am often disappointed in the articles by MSM. It is for this reason that I can honestly say I have only watched Global, CTV or the CBC maybe 6 times in the past year. I prefer blogs such as yours, or reading news on the internet so that I can choose the stories that might make sense to me.

    Guy in Victoria (BTW if this comment is libelous I grant permission to reveal my IP address)

    Like

  5. I still can't get past Barinder Sall's opinion of himself….”I’m the brown tanned James Bond strategy girl-chasing guy”. Sheesh, get over yourself buddy!

    Like

  6. Once again, thanks for the shout out, Norm 🙂

    Baldrey's “lament” for a supposed decline in civility (which I'm pretty convinced is not the case – peruse old newspapers and political pamphlets from each decade to see if people were actually more polite to each other) is similar to others in that not one example of “incivility” is provided.

    Oh sure, you and I could look at the comment sections on just about any large media site and find a scurrilous comment or two. Or three. But so what?

    For this to be a true crisis in public discourse, you have to be able to display actual harm. And in that, the lack of examples is very telling.

    As you say in the previous thread, this is more Baldrey & Co's discomfort at their work being scrutinized like it's never been before…and being found wanting.

    Like

  7. Norm, this article is one that should be read and reread by everyone whether they are of the blogger realm or that of MSM.
    The facts speak the truth of the situation more than anyone's words can.People are searching out souces of information that make sense and are not effected by bias, even further people are searching for any news of political nature simply because it doesn't exist on MSM or if it does it is made light of or watered down by the likes of Mr. Baldrey. The insinuation that anyone who blogs or utilizes another option to try and obtain truth must be radical or of less regard is insulting to say the least and further drives these notions home.
    I am one who chose to blog after spending many nights being insulted by MSM when I could find news but more so by no delivery when I knew news should be given but wasn't.
    Mr Baldrey's example of Craig James is just another sign of the public's reaction to more corruption, not so much the man himself. It is how he was placed and his activity since that placement that leads to harsh response from the public. They are just tired of being manipulated and lied to and any instance of it now brings anger. I don't see this as a major change in peoples values or morals I see it as people reacting to so many years of corrupt governance and bias media.
    Don

    Like

  8. I will plant myself on the fence on this, on a whole bunch of fronts.

    1) Public officials get threatened, and it's not just the mucky mucks like Craig James. In fact, it's usually the front-line staff. Ask anyone who works for the ministry that delivers social assistance. Ask any front-line staff for any MLA. They have regular visits from the local constabulary to deal with people who have gone from being unhappy to being completely unreasonable. With all that to bear, I think it's totally cricket for Craig James to complain and it's totally cricket for media types to raise the problem of “uncivil discourse.”

    2) When an issue that has become as heated as the HST becomes a cudgel in the hands of a populist/rabble rouser like Chris Delaney, people start taking the cause seriously. When James made his totally off-base ruling to disqualify the first recall application, and Delaney sent his 'let em know how you feel' email out to supporters, there was bound to be some problems to arise. When you work people into a lather and send them off in one direction – as Delaney (primarily) did, the results can be pretty fiery.

    3) There is a growing resentment among average folks out there who feel that they're not being heard. For good reason. If there are people who are, for whatever reason, prone to violence or unable to control their tempers, having another example of the establishment rubbing their disenfranchisement in their faces can be the last straw. However, Baldrey's 'what's all this a feudin and a fightin' comment is only going to make matters worse. He is part of the establishment, and the establishment – government, corporations, 'special interests' (gawd I loathe that term), and the media – had better start to take notice before the Bastille really and truly does get stormed.

    4) Baldrey does what cowards do in this instance: resorts to the 'some people' tack. You know and I know that there are bloggers who are completely unreasonable. We've had that conversation before. But rather than man up and identify the ones he thinks are causing the problem, he takes the coward's way out and smears all of you.

    If I were a teacher, I'd give Baldrey's piece a D+. A bare passing grade. It's fair to say there is a problem with civility. But there's so much information that he didn't even consider that it makes the piece barely useful.

    Like

  9. Tony, your comment is much appreciated and you are correct in your analysis. It is never appropriate or helpful to get uncontrollably angry, particularly against people who are doing a job according to their understanding of its requirements. Even my piece about Baldrey should not be taken as a personal attack on a person who is well regarded in his profession.

    I understand how media folks can be captured by the world they work in and their own judgment becomes clouded, too shaped by custom and friendship. They become insular, defensive, reject criticism, reinforce and defend each other in the face of harsh criticism. I have seen it with countless groups, wherever people work together. It is one of the reasons that newspapers used to employ an 'ombudsman'to listen to reader complaints, consider them and negotiate responses. The trouble with that is nobody wanted an associate being critical. Most papers dropped the position and a few that lingered on became nothing more than defenders of their employers.

    However, I try to encourage debate and discussion here that always remains civil. I think we are largely successful and if you read through reader comments on this and other articles today at Northern Insights, they make positive contributions to dialog. It is the kind of thing we used to be able to do with 'letters to the editor' but Postmedia and Canwest before them will not allow certain subjects to be raised by readers and they mostly allow only columnists and op-ed writers who reflect the papers established positions. They don't want to create debate, they want to sell a line.

    Like

  10. And yet Norm, you can find comments like the following on all major MSM sites…. with o course a moniker to hide a real name that MSM doesn’t seem necessary… from the Sun today:

    ” the only sexuall assualt going on here is Christy Clark’s continues F*#k’n over of BC Tax Payers!! hey Christy NO means NO …..lol ”

    Will Keith Baldrey alert his friends at the Vancouver Sun about those really strange comments found every day ? After all Keith… ” on websites and blogs, people are allowed to post the most outrageous, libelous, threatening and inaccurate comments and because they do so under the cowardly cloak of anonymity (or pseudonyms) they face no consequences. :

    Guy in Victoria

    Like

  11. Unfortunately, not much has changed in the five years since this article appeared. In fact, an argument could be advanced that any change has been for the worse. Recently, the distortion by Vaughn Palmer of exchanges between Christy Clark and John Horgan in the Legislature, the steadfast refusal to ask questions regarding the school funding exercise in Old Masset, and disinterest in the continual and expanding BC Hydro nightmares come to mind.

    The total abdication of professional duty by all local pro journalists when it came to giving the Acting Auditor General a pass on his disgraceful and transparent whitewash of the government’s actions in the Basi/Virk payoff is something I will never forgive. I’ve approached many directly and none will even give me a half-hour over coffee to do some listening. I’d respect a good argument about why they think I’m wrong, but can only interpret lack of argument or failure to even discuss the matter as cowardice.

    The Kash Heed story reminds me of the time he was under scrutiny for campaign irregularities and publicly asserted that the RCMP was out to get him. Heed was a long-time Vancouver police officer, former Chief of the West Vancouver police department, and former Solicitor General of BC. Common sense dictates that he wouldn’t make such a statement unless he had seen the RCMP act in that manner previously. An inquisitive press would wonder when that was and explore the matter further. But not a peep.

    It has been said that citizens in a democracy get the kind of government they deserve. Whoever said it never met the BC pro media.

    Like

    • As always, Lew’s comments are cogent and appreciated.

      I suspect we’ll see Postmedia and the Shaw properties (Global & Corus Radio) escalate partisan reporting over the next 11 months. Black Press is generally an obedient servant but we’ve seen recent examples of real journalism at Glacier’s Times Colonist. Maybe it will become BC’s newspaper of record.

      If not, there’s the Georgia Straight. It might soon have more reporters and readers than the Vancouver Sun/Province.

      Like

  12. Let’s play the “follow-the-money” game.

    Shaw Communications donated $110,465 to the BC Liberal Party and $3,090 to the BC NDP Party.
    Postmedia Network Inc donated $10,000 to the BC Liberal Party.
    Glacier Media donated $100,000 to the BC Liberal Party.

    Keith Baldry works for Shaw(Global TV) and Glacier(Now Newspapers).
    Vaughn Palmer works for Postmedia(Vancouver Sun) and Shaw(Voice of BC).

    There sure seems to be a very cozy relationship between our provincial governing party and a large chunk of the media that is supposed to keep said government’s “feet to fire”.

    Then today the Vancouver Sun publishes an article penned by our Premier and Global TV gets an exclusive interview with her as well. I guess only the cynics would dare to suggest that corporate donors reap rewards for sharing their largesse.

    In case Mr. Baldry or Mr. Palmer read this, I am fully clothed and in a very calm state of mind.

    Like

Leave a reply but be on topic and civil.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s