Monday, September 19, 2011

Sept. 19: Where to start?

1. Let's go with the editorial, easily the most inane I have seen since  News of the World closed down. It gave Alward an A+ for his political brilliance in appearing before TV cameras in a show to get the Bay of Fundy named one of the world's seven natural wonders.
a). Premiers almost always show up for such photo ops. To congratulate him for doing what politicians do every day is like saying he deserves an A+ for remembering to zip his fly on formal occasions.
b)  Then it says the Hopewell Rocks are world famous! Oh? If they're already world famous, why are we campaigning to make them world famous? (In fact, they aren't even nationally famous.)
c)  How does a picture of Alward doing naughty things to sardines do anything to create interest in the Bay of Fundy?
d)  Are the rock formations at Hopewell the only point of interest in the bay? I don't think they are. But the TandT seems to think so. At least, that's the only thing that it has photographed or spoken of throughout this campaign. (In fact, it hasn't shown that it knows much even about the rocks.)

So far, the NB campaign to sell the Bay of Fundy region as a top wonder of the world looks pretty feeble and amateurish.  Too bad, because it does deserve serious consideration.

2. The anti-fracking demonstration was reported fairly in some respects. (Indeed, how could a newspaper ignore it?) But there were oddities.  Such a demonstration is rare in New Brunswick. New Brunswick is, in political terms, an extraordinarily passive place. Open and public discussion of public affairs is probably less common here than it is in China. This demonstration was so unusual for this society that a report on it should not have been on page 3. It would have been an easy matter to dump the daily, front page Special Report (which is seldom worth reading, anyway) to make room for such an exceptional event. As it was, the demonstration got less coverage than yet another story about how the whole world is watching Moncton because of the CFL game.

Nor does the report estimate the size of the crowd. It refers simply to hundreds. Now, I have covered a lot of demonstrations. I have never even heard of a newspaper not giving an estimated crowd size. In this case, a count was easy because the crowd was very orderly and always within a defined space. Since I have had, at times, to estimate crowds in the thousands (and once at a hundred thousand), it was no difficulty to estimate this one at 600+.  That's very strong for a normally passive society.

Given the limits of space (an editorial decision) and the failure to estimate crowd size (almost certainly an editorial decision), the story is still an example of fair and objective  reporting by Yvon Gauvin. (The reporter.)

3. I give up on the NewsToday section. I have no idea what standards are used to judge what appears. There are two stories on legislation coming up in the new, federal parliament. Both are stories that have been known for months. The lead story is that a university president is appealing for more federal money. This isn't old news. This is ancient news.  Every university president in Canada has always appealed for more money.

There is no mention, never has been, of the serious unrest in Israel, where  thousands of people have been camping in the streets in a protest against the huge gap between rich and poor, the declining standard of living, the excessive political power of minority groups. This has been going on for weeks without a mention in the TandT. Why?

Nor has there been any mention of the spread of shanty towns and tent cities in the US.  There are even some on vacant lots within cities. The US is in a recession only in abstract terms. In reality, it's in a depression - with no sign of recovery. (But I didn't figure that out from the so-called business page of the TandT.)

The final page of NewsToday is the only one worth reading. It's about  the heavily (and badly) reported war in Libya. Most of the TandT reports have come from Reuters; and they have all been text book examples of why we should not trust war correspondents, none of them.

To now, the reports have all been of heroic and smiling rebels as they pushed back Ghadaffi forces. We were assured the population supported the rebels. Those reports were never credible. Such popular support coupled with NATOs massive air power as well as British, French and American special ops on the ground would have ended the war in a couple of months.

The frequent reports of "fierce" battles using bombs, rockets and artillery, and with only two or three dead, never made sense.

Now, with only a few fragments of Ghadaffi's army left, and those bottled up in just a few locations, the rebels have suffered one humiliating defeat after another in their attacks. This is the war that was supposed to be over three weeks ago.  Why do I hear echos of Bush's premature "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq?

As well, Reuters now informs us that the rebel leadership and the rebel army are so divided they can't even begiin to form a government. This, too, has been known for a long time. Why didn't Reuters tell us this months ago when it was already obvious?

Never trust war correspondents.

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