Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January 18: Is there a story behind the non-story?

Today's banner headline on the Moncton Times&Transcript is a model of a story that should never have appeared on the front page of a paper (or any page, for that matter) because their really is no story. It's also a model of how a reporter should not write a news story. There is, after all, a difference between news and opnion.

The headline reads "Moncton urged to act on schools."  The sub-head reads "...parents warn city council."

In fact, the story is about one parent (check rules for plural and singular).That one mother isn't even named until the fifth paragraph and then, rather ungraciously, by her last name only. We get her full name until page A7. Who she represents or whether she represents anybody at all isn't made clear. Indeed, the headline for the continued story on p. A7 reads "...parent tells city council'" What happened to all those other parents (with an s) on the first page?

It gets worse. A news story is supposed to tell simply what happened. Opinion is supposed to appear on the editorial pages and in clearly labelled opinion columns. This story has at least seven paragraphs which are clearly opinions of the reporter. They are not quotations from anybody. They are the reporter's comments on what schould be done about the schools. The reporter's opinion has no business appearing in a report of what happened. We read a news report for information. What happened? Who said it? Who did it? Who reacted? A news story is intended to tell people what happened, not to steer them into what they should think of it all.

What we have as the news story of the day is that a woman had the initiative to speak to council, and made a very sensible suggestion. That's commendable. More people should do that. The idea that the city, as well as the provincial government, has a stake in the future of schools is useful. It's not earth-shaking. It doesn't move us significantly closer to solving the problems. But it's a good idea. However, that does not make it a news story - not unless editors at the TandT think it is unusual for women to take n initiative and to suggest something sensible. (And I don't think even the editors are that foolish.)

I can't believe, either, that the editors were so incompetent they could not realize this was not a front page news story. I can't believethe reporter is a person who doesn't know how to write a news story.  I do believe the TandT has a suspicious record on coverage of education issues.

Until recently, it was quite obviously cranking up distrust of the schools, of the District Education Council, and of the superintendant. It was doing it by misleading reporting and unprofessional editorials. Then it had to back off when it was shown the local schools and officials were not responsible for the problems the newspaper had accused them of. (Indeed, in many cases such problems didn't even exist.) It backed off. But it never apologized or even admitted it had been wrong.

Now, is seems to be cranking up another education crusade. The last one was very much a crusade in the service of AIMS and of corporate New Brunswick. What's the game this time? Who's calling the shots? Who's going to benefit from some poposal that has already been agreed on by the people who count in this province? That, I am quite sure, is the story behind the story on page A1 of the January 18 edition of The Moncton Times and Transcript.


  1. I'm glad to read this blog today......I came close to penning a similar comment (albeit much briefer). I read the "story" and wondered..is this a story? A column? An editorial? THe same issues as you note jumped out at me.........Does NOBODY there have any idea at all on how to differentiate between the three forms?What an embarrassment.I see on page 2 the "newspaper' has several assistant managing editors. I have often wondered just what they do. Obviously nobody has much of a clue as to how to put out a newspaper. Another issue that jumped out at me Monday was the total lack of reference to the notorious "Baby Doc" returning to Haiti... but on Tuesday there was a lengthy story abiut him and his return. I have seen this sort of incident many times in the newspaper here...it is almost like nobody understands the significance of a particular story until the next day when somebody there (giving too much credit, perhaps?) looks at real newspapers and decides....oh, oh...we should have had something.
    Keep up the good work...."to coin a phrase"......I enjoy the critiques, although the "newspaper" itself drives me crazy. Young Mr. Mazerolle, who penned the offending article in today's paper obviously has never had anyone exxplaina the difference betweena news story and an editorial (or column) and the editor of the front page ( so to speak) obviously does not know either. One would almost think the Irvings would be ashamed of such a rag but apparently they don't care.

  2. Gee, I see the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" originator is coming to Moncton. Any bets he'll get the same kind of coverage as the immoral merchant of greed did last weekend??