Hit piece journalism

sun 320There was a time when major British Columbia newspapers were credible. We knew the owners and the managers; we trusted their place in our communities. Financial health of papers depended on economic health of subscribers and advertisers. Editorialists and journalists had points of view that tended to reflect widely held positions but heterodox opinions were not routinely blocked.

Today, we can’t even name the real owners. Nominally the proprietor is Postmedia, a company saved from bankruptcy by secret investors fronted by hedge funds, nominees and agents.

Postmedia cannot survive on advertising and subscription revenue, so it sold its corporate soul to special interests who profit by influencing public opinion. It is a possibility that Canada’s largest newspaper chain is controlled by the oil and gas industry. We do know that Postmedia is in partnership with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

edwardsonBy slanting news or withholding information, media affect what a large segment of the public knows or does not know about public affairs. If groups profit improperly through actions of government, rewards can be immense but, if the looters control media, they can act in the shadows.  The checks and balances within a democracy are distorted if media becomes a subsidiary of vested interests. Accurate public discourse is discouraged or impossible.

I’ve demonstrated on this site that after Christy Clark became Premier, the subsidized natural gas industry stopped contributing rights and royalties revenue to government and that independent private producers reap billions supplying growing amounts of power at an average of three times market price. BC Hydro is also embarked on a construction program worth tens of billions of dollars despite delivering less power to BC consumers than it did a dozen years ago. These subjects are not mentioned in Postmedia newspapers and BC Hydro is not held to account for years of lying about demand growth.

debt and consumption

It should be a scandal this once proud enterprise is spending massive amounts without public purpose, particularly while disabled people live in abject poverty and elementary schools rely on donated paper. Clearly though, large businesses and investors gain from BC Hydro’s spending and they want it to continue, even if provincial debt and obligations already burden every household in BC with almost $90,000.

Newspapers beholden to special interests are unwilling to report how sponsoring elites profit by abusing the wallets of taxpaying citizens. What debased media will report is anything that advances the positions of their masters.

After sitting only 48 days in the last year, the Legislature is about to close. Even with very few hours of business happening in the chamber, Premier Clark was frequently absent. She’s more comfortable at fundraisers and in the office feeding talking points to loyal reporters who know their job is to keep Liberals in power.

Think I go too far? Then look at the Vancouver Sun’s hit piece on John Horgan. The by-line says Rob Shaw, but it could have been written by any of the Premier’s many taxpayer-paid spin doctors.

Not only does the Sun’s headline and lede emphasize Premier Clark’s unfounded claims about the Opposition Leader, Shaw later accuses Horgan of “a breach of parliamentary protocol” and claims the NDP leader had accosted the Speaker. Shaw quotes Clark at length but gave her target no chance to respond. Shaw only includes a brief but unrelated quote from Horgan’s press conference, an event the reporter did not bother to attend.

OED defines that verb as “approach and address (someone) boldly or aggressively.” Horgan was miffed and rightly so because his attempts to speak were frustrated by disturbances on the Liberal side. In this situation, the man’s contained response to the Speaker’s failure to maintain order was admirable.

Liberal Linda Reid is a careless partisan who billed taxpayers for a trip to Africa by her husband. She is also an ineffective Speaker who ignores the Parliamentary tradition of impartiality in her role. Had she a better record, we might have wondered if her vacuous performance was explained by worries about pending unemployment.

Reporter Shaw’s article was aimed at amplifying the Premier’s political dissing, which claimed incompetence and disunity on the opposition bench. After Clark’s diatribe, fairness required that Horgan be allowed to refute the charges. At least, Shaw could have noted the Liberal leader’s history of  distorting truth, as she did when she accused the NDP of criminal hacking or when she campaigned on a debt-free BC while boosting the province’s liabilities at unprecedented rates.

Undoubtedly, Shaw and the Vancouver Sun hope to further the meme that Clark’s pay-to-play Liberals are the only real alternative for voters. Soon they’ll be repeating lies about the “desperate nineties” and complaining about ferries built almost two decades ago in BC instead of Germany and Poland.

I previously accused Rob Shaw and his workmate Vaughn Palmer of slanted commentary and it should be clear to readers this newspaper has little interest in accurate reporting on major provincial issues. You’ve not seen them talk about billions of dollars in natural gas subsidies or admit that a new government faces a $2 billion unrecorded IOU for drilling and other credits owed producers. Nor has the Sun disputed BC Hydro’s manipulations of electricity consumption.

Additionally, who has done the heavy lifting on the political contributions scandals that are emerging? I credit Dermod Travis of Integrity BC who has been ahead of all journalists. Stirred by a New York Times report, just recently the Globe and Mail began to write about an issue that troubled independent observers for some years.

Legislative Press Gallery minions seemed to be unaware there was any political finance problem, probably because most of them are used to rewriting press releases pushed on them by government and corporate lobbyists. Political columnist Palmer, who has been reporting for decades said he only knew what he read in the newspapers about the “Wild West of Canadian Political Cash.”

Let’s be honest. If Palmer meant what he said, he is wilfully blind. If he was being disingenuous, we cannot believe other things he writes or says.

I am not surprised Rob Shaw and the Vancouver Sun – placing the headline above the fold – allowed Christy Clark’s defamation of John Horgan to go unexamined and unchallenged. However, I’m not willing to leave the subject untouched.

The newspaper headline states that Horgan has no backbone. That’s ironic because the previous Liberal talking points supposed that Horgan was too tough, prone to be very demanding of people around him. In fact, a party leader’s job is akin to herding cats but Horgan has gained the respect and support of his colleagues. I know that because I’ve talked to many of them.

I also know that retention and recruitment of skilled candidates is an important duty of the leader and the NDP is entering this election with outstanding individuals who have been influenced to enter politics by their desire for change and by their respect for Horgan. People like Bryce Casavant, Bowinn Ma, Chak Au, Morgane Oger, Lisa Beare, Bob D’Eith, Barb Nederpel, Mehdi Russel and others.

Another sign that the party is not suffering disunity as Clark alleged is the presence of two former leaders in senior roles. I’ve interviewed Adrian Dix who handles two massive files: BC Hydro and ICBC. Unlike the Liberal cabinet ministers responsible, Dix is fully informed and not the least at odds with the leader. Up and comer David Eby has obviously performed an important role with enthusiasm and skill.

If elected Premier, Horgan will have many qualified people to call to the cabinet table and his own background has provided him with the training and experience to be an effective leader. I believe a change in government will change BC politics completely.

Instead of Premier Photo Op dancing to the direction of people in the shadows, we will have a Premier who cares about policy, the effectiveness of government  and about all people having opportunities to succeed in a vibrant British Columbia.

Audio clip from George Orr’s documentary TALK!

18 replies »

  1. Horgan has been my MLA for years. I can tell you from personal experience that he is solid and his feet are on the ground. I have spoken to him personally, many times. His kids went to the same public school I attended. He lives next door to my brother in law, in a blue collar neighbourhood.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Norm for telling like it is. When I read the “No spine article” I was disgusted, but have tuned in to Question Period” at the Leg in the past. Ms. Clark’s lack of common decency is on view for all to see any time she is there and has the floor. A more mean spirited person I’ve never had the displeasure to know. I still believe one reaps what they sow. Sometimes we may wonder if. Sometimes we may wonder when. I trust her day will come. May 9, 2017 would be a timely start to that day.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank goodness the Leg. sits as infrequently as it does. I couldn’t stand any more of that vituperative harlot’s spiel. She’s fortunate that most people aren’t aware of Question Period, or are too disgusted to watch.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. George Orr’s documentary reminds us that BC used to have a competent group of news reporters who spent a lifetime informing us even if important people were impacted. I gather CKNW once had more people in their news room than Postmedia’s Sun and Province papers have now together.

    When General Motors was facing bankruptcy, they didn’t think the solution was to make cars more unreliable and less comfortable but that’s what Canada’s news businesses are doing. If consumers are unwilling to buy the papers, advertisers don’t want to buy advertising and publishers degrade their properties even more. This sets off another round of consequences. It is a death spiral that can only end one way.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m disabled living in a 5th wheel with hardly any food. Others (disabled and poor) like me are suicidal and need any hope!

    I am not normally a person who would speak up but I cannot stay silent anymore knowing what I have discovered about our dysfunctional BC Liberal Government and all the BC groups (Incl. media) that continues to enable them so they also can have a piece of the pie!

    Growing up upper middle class I remember our government operating from the ground up system, today it’s been run from the top down therefore BC is looking up to them for power money any crumbs we can get!
    I’ve talked to John Horgan and I believe he cares about us and he is a decent man with no ego issues which I cannot say for the other side. Photo op Christy is just too much especially using our money for her vanity!

    I noticed a few years ago watching the global and CTV news switching channels that the same issues were always on and its now worse with most major medias Incl newspapers and don’t get me started on Vaughn Palmer and now our precious CKNW!!
    I’m looking feverishly for fresh content to read/hear as my mind is very clear.
    I want to thank you and all new News Media people that are now taking the bulls by the horns, getting out in “our” real world to bring us the “NEWS”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This Postmedia slow motion train wreck deserves its slow demise……and the “journalists” that still type this gossiping drivel deserve everything thats coming…..


  6. Hello Norm:
    Well, definitely I saw the ‘Horgan no spine’ article in the Van Sun & Province onlne, that the Premier stated. Did you take a look at the comments section? Out of about 25 or so comments shortly after it was up, maybe 2 supported the Premier. From there, it probably only got worse in terms of support for our Premier. I’ll bet Postmedia (Van Sun,Province) wished they hadn’t allowed comments on it. It may be shut down now. She’s not very popular! However, the BC Libs were looking like this in previous elections. Polls showing NDP slightly ahead; once the writ is dropped come the attack adds on TV and radio every 5 minutes if I recall in the last election, and most likely a repeat in this one. The attacks will increase by the week as they have millions of dollars to spend on this.
    So what’s your guess will be the controversy they are planning to spring on about Horgan 2 weeks before the election, any ideas? Unpaid skytrain/bus ticket? They are thinking about it as I write to be sure. What’s the wedge issue they will fill the airwaves with in about a week or two.
    And like previously, the naive voters will say “Oh no, what choice do I have? Better the devil you know.” I’m sure the set up is the same as the last few elections. Watch and see.


    • There’s no doubt that a certain percentage of BC voters fell for the big LNG lie. Trillions of dollars, gazillions of jobs, three chickens in every pot, etc. The promises were ludicrous but the partisan media played along and did almost no critical examination. Low information voters heard only the extravagant promises that were echoed constantly on every form of media.

      BC Liberals have gathered an even larger amount of money (some of it within the party, some of it dark money that is talked about in whispers) to wage a media campaign. They’ve tried to define Horgan in various ways: angryman, anonymous man, flip flopper, inconsistent; but none of those have gained traction.

      While major media barely recognized Horgan, he’s been on the road talking to people, individually and in groups.Those who interact with John know that he does not fit the portrait his opponents try to draw. He’s very informed, obviously intelligent, gregarious, honourable and not arrogant. I understand he’s a motivator too. He’s answered any questions I’ve had but never used rehearsed talking points and simplistic explanations. Major policy issues are complex, with numerous elements and interests to consider. John understands the processes. He may be a less proficient campaigner than Clark but he will be a much, much better Premier.

      Quite an irony that Christy Clark’s party is trying to hang a tag on Horgan “Say anything John.” Reality is that Clark is a serial prevaricator who’s told so many whoppers that she may have earned her own tag, “Sociopath Christy.”

      For 2017, we’ve already seen millions spent on government advertising. Liberal Party and front groups are now paying for time but they’ve also dedicated large amounts to internet search engine optimization. They’re going beyond the common methodologies and attempting serious manipulation of search results. I’ve already seen evidence in Google searches.


      • Norm, Can you please explain what this means… ‘They’re going beyond the common methodologies and attempting serious manipulation of search results.’ Thanks.


        • SEO, or search engine optimization, involves doing things to have particular websites rise to the top of search results when certain subjects are involved. Google, Bing, Yahoo and others use secret processes to rank search results but there is a large number of people who, by testing, can predict the factors that help bring specific targets near the top. As a result, search companies regularly alter methods, trying to produce natural results instead of ones contrived by external manipulators.

          Groups with large budgets can put major resources into SEO but doing it successfully can be expensive.

          Additionally, there is a recently evolved science of targeting digital advertising. When we use the Internet and Facebook, Twitter or other social media, the systems know our locations and they know much about our activities and interests.

          Advertisers typically attempt to target specific groups and the consultants with the best expertise in this field are in demand… and expensive. Therefore, it is usually the best funded organizations that best target their advertising.

          Knowing all this is one reason why BC Liberals have been so involved with fundraising. The mountains of cash they raised, or extorted, is allowing them to do much more of this shadowy work than the party that relies on door knocking, posters and $25 donations.

          In addition, controlling the huge government advertising budgets – being able to grant or withhold large sums to particular media – guarantees favourable treatment in print and on air. As an example, Bell Media executives were proven to have instructed newsrooms to avoid negative coverage for advertisers. If a TV or radio station is reliant on big advertisers, it’s not in their interest to offend the people paying them money.

          So, when unethical politicians are involved, every trick is employed. When the unethical politicians have loads of cash, they invent new ones.

          BTW, here’s an article about how the Brexit vote was influenced.

          How a tiny Canadian IT company helped swing the Brexit vote for Leave


  7. Hello Norm:
    We have seen a lot of bovine manure ads from the BC Liberals that have been billed to the taxpayer. It would be interesting to see what voters in small towns can do to unseat the BC Liberals.

    Almost everyone has a printer, a Smart Phone and access to YouTube. The BC Federation of Labour has the right idea with its “Mock Christy Clark” video game.
    Maybe we will see local signs and bumper stickers … I’d call them:

    Mad Ads Nailed To BC Hydro Poles (Polls)

    We Lie The Best – Much Better Than All The Rest

    You Can’t Win With Just A Foolish Grin

    If You Trust Her Smile – You’re In Denial

    BC Rail – An Example Of Justice Failed

    Corruption, Bribes, Lies – The Best That Taxpayer’s Money Can Buy

    LNG, Balanced Budgets, Site C … Just a Fallacy

    Cost Over Runs and Incompetency – Look No Further Than Site C

    Site C Dam – A BC Hydro Scam

    MSP, Hydro, ICBC Fees – Theft Made So Easily

    Liberal Donations With No Receipts – Cheat, Deceit, Triple Delete

    Cutting Disability Bus Passes – Pays For Christy’s Photo-Op Photography

    If the system is stinking, you know what I’m thinking … Don’t Vote Liberal


  8. I think you would enjoy reading this review, Why Arendt Matters: Revisiting “The Origins of Totalitarianism” – Los Angeles Review of Books


    There is a particularly striking and BC-apt quote from this review, at section V:

    ” Perhaps one of the most under-acknowledged elements of totalitarianism identified by Arendt is the rise to political and social power of a corrupt business and governing class as well as a class of intellectuals that find corruption funny rather than outrageous. ”

    That quote pretty well suits my cynical views of BC politics at this time. Anyways.

    ~ ~ ~

    Now from a more optimistic angle … PostMedia just doesn’t count.

    I think it is super important to remember that PostMedia newspapers are bascially failed, dead and useless. I think PostMedia has failed because PostMedia CEO Godfrey imposed a rigid right-wing bias on PostMedia newspapers, that just doesn’t appeal, does not sell. Obviously!

    PostMedia’s irrelevance was proven passed in the last federal election. Its yellow journalism and pages achieved nothing for the federal conservatives. PostMedia’s value has sunk much further since then, and continues to sink considering PostMedia has just laid off a bunch more staff in Vancouver.

    So I don’t think that PostMedia is very useful to the BC Liberals. Godfrey may expect a little spending from the Liberals to return Godfrey’s editorial favour, but I dont’ think he would be able to sell the Liberals on PostMedia’s infuence or advertorial effectiveness, based on the PostMedia having no viable circulation.

    Another reason I wouldn’t put much stock in the influence of the article you cited, is its Friday release. Mr Shaw may be a desperate man that has been desperately auditioning for more secure work with the BC Liberal party since at least November (the time of his previous JJH smear that cowardly omitted his by-line), but the Friday dump-date of his piece — in BC more particularly than anywhere else, no one pays attention to Friday’s news — probably means that Shaw failed his audition. Here’s why.

    For Shaw’s November JJH smear piece, the Liberals put a LOT of their effort into social media pinging and propagating via links and re-tweets, starting with Stephen Smart and Rob Shaw on Friday afternoon, then to such Liberal operative types as Ben James, then on to comms types, such as from the Vancouver Board of Trade, then continued on through other Liberal party operatives, then on to the cohorts of Liberal drone & egg accounts.

    This time in March, for this article, the Liberals did nothing like that. The Liberals let the Shaw article stay dead on arrival.

    In November, maybe the Liberals were testing whether social media now drives newspapers, not the other way around. The Liberals apparently proved to themselves in November that this is true, because it was the Liberals that made the November piece happen, not PostMedia. Since then, the Liberals haven’t touted PostMedia articles nearly as much as they used to do. The Liberals also have put in new social media directors since then, too.

    The only people who paid attention are poli types. Maybe out of old habit poli types want to credit something that looks like a newspaper, with some kind of worth. But PostMedia really isn’t a newspaper any longer … not at least since the last federal election. Nowadays, it is all propaganda, commissioned & paid pieces, “native” advertising, advertorials, all that ilk.

    For Shaw’s March piece, of the very scant social media attention given, all I saw was dismissal, boredom and eye-rolling.

    So there may be a lot of symbolism in the picture of the ruthless Christy Clark showing her rear view … to PostMedia.

    yours truly,
    Wren / kehr_wren


    • Except today, Michael Smyth produced a partial rewrite of Shaw’s piece today, with the headline aimed at spotlighting BC Liberal-Lite leader Andrew Weaver. Christy Clark’s party is hoping that former supporters who can no longer vote Liberal will simply move to Weaver’s group and they know they can count on him to support a minority Clark Government.

      The idea that Weaver, who is listed as faculty on University of Victoria’s climate group website, is the hardest working MLA is laughable, particularly when you compare his efforts to someone like Adrian Dix who is a full time MLA. He is critic for BC Hydro and ICBC, two complex files, and he was involved in a massive community effort to save schools on Vancouver’s east side. Dix is a hard working MLA and there are others working to improve the lives of mostly poor and working class constituents. In contrast, Weaver’s Oak Bay boasts of having a median family income far above the Canadian average. Clearly, people living on the eastside of Vancouver have diverse challenges more related to surviving than thriving.

      Smyth seems to base his laudatory description on Weaver submitting numerous private members bills, none of which came close to being passed.

      I agree with your premise that Postmedia newspapers carry little clout compared to years past. In fact, the major blogs may get more readership than the Sun or Province when it comes to BC politics. In 2008, average weekday circulation of the Vancouver Sun was about 175,000 (considerably less than years before) but now, I understand it is below 75,000.

      However, consider that Glacier Media, (their owner & associates have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Liberals) and Black Press (remember Kitimat Clean?) are also pumping out Liberal friendly coverage. And,the Shaw family properties (Corus Radio and Global), along with Bell Media, luxuriate in the massive sums spent by taxpayers on “Aren’t we great” advertising. Spending large amounts of public money for government promotion has two aims, one is to influence voters with the adverts, the other is to ensure the continued loyalty of corporate media.

      I’ve seen estimates that 15 or 16 million dollars is being spent by taxpayers for this advertising but I wonder if will turn out to be even higher. This struck me when I heard numerous commercials on a Bell sports radio station that almost nobody listens to. If Liberals are buying loads of time on moribund radio signals, you know there is a huge budget.


  9. Norm says, “In 2008, average weekday circulation of the Vancouver Sun was about 175,000 (considerably less than years before) but now, I understand it is below 75,000.”

    Are you talking number of papers printed? That seems incredibly low, for a provincial paper. No wonder they are in dire straits.

    Thinking back to my time as a Province carrier in North Vancouver in about 1970, I suspect there were at least 600 papers delivered out of my paper shack alone — likely similar for the Sun.


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