Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May 1: Today's prize for bad journalism goes to......


About I week ago, I was critical of a Moncton Times and Transcript story because it was trivial. It was about the world shortage of helium - and the story reassured us that Moncton still had plenty of it for balloons. It was a trivial story. But I should have been sharp enough to figure out that there must be something more to it.  I should have checked  to find a full story of what was happening and what it means.

I wasn't sharp enough. Alec Bruce was. I didn't check. He did. Don't miss his column today on what the shortage of helium means - to the whole world, even including Moncton.

The front page was pretty depressing. Harper is going all out to spend a million so Prince Charles and Camilla can drop in for a visit. We have no money for adequate civil service staff, for environemntal policing, for foreign aid, for charitable organizations, for parks staff,...but a million to entertain Charles and Camilla for a few days, more to buy pictures of the Queen for every bare wall in the country, and even more for a hokey celebration of the year we got invaded by the U.S.

"Innovation the way forward: Alward", That headline is followed by a long story that says nothing except that Alward is going to announce some new programmes about something in mid-May. Right on.

And how is the great plan for regulating and policing chale gas exploration going? Sh...that's a secret.

"Moncton Mayoral hopefuls square off" This was a TV debate, moderated by three Times and Transcript staffers. Where to start?
1. A moderator is a person who maintains order in a debate. Why that should call for three journalists to remind two speakers that their time is up ---I have no idea.

2. Jounalists at a debate are supposed to ask question. Tough ones. They are supposed to raise essential issues that the candidates have avoided. There is no evidence in this story that they did any such thing.

Both candidates placed heavy emphsis on revitalizing downtown. Very commendable - I suppose...but...

There was a vital downtown in Moncton for generations - and it did NOT have a hockey arena or an events centre. The lack of the these things did NOT prevent it from being vital. Adding them will change nothing.

The reason downton died is the reason it has been dying all over the western world - the automobile. That's what took vitality from downtown, and put it into the shopping mall. The old Forum in Montreal, both a hockey arena and a heavily used events centre, never attracted either residents or shops to the area around it. The same is true of Montreal's new arena.

Arenas and events centres that do have shops and population around them usually had them BEFORE the arenas and events centres were built.

Moncton, the city that wants to keep taxes down, is about to plunge into profound debt on a project that has had no serious study at all. )And, if there are studies which show how arenas and events centres have revivied downtowns in any part of the world, please show them to us.

Downtown does NOT have an events centre problem. It has a transit problem. And, no, building more parking lots will NOT create a vibrant downtown. It has never done so anywhere in the world.

Riverview candidates for mayor had a similar debate that was similarly vacant. The general idea that both candidates wanted to do 'good' things. That's so much nicer than candidates who say they want to 'do' bad things.

Section C, page 1 has an error that seems small; but it reflects the amateurism of TandT editing. The story is headed "Has Harper lived up to this promises?"  With such a heading, one expects a commentary, an opinion of what Harper has done. But, if so, an opinion should not be on a news page. It should be, perhaps, on the editorial or op ed page.

As it happens, this one is a real story; it's the headline that's misleading. A head like "Critics charge Harper with breaking promises" would have been a perfectly acceptable one. That's what the story is about; and it's a good story worth reading. - with a very unprofessionally worded headline. And that is no small point. Many readers don't read the full story. Large numbers read only the headline and the piece of heavy print below it. They will certainly come away with a false impressoon of this story.

Headlines, incidentally,  are usually chosen by the the page editor.

On the editorial page, there's the Alec Bruce column that reminds me I am only a man - and not much of one.

Norbert writes on politics, a subject of which he seems to know nothing. He's also heavily prejudiced. Now, Bill Belliveau can be heavily prejudiced, too He often  seems to confuse the Liberal Party with the apostles. But Belliveau, like Alec Bruce, does his homework. His columns may be prejudiced, but he gets his information right.

Norbert is prejudiced - against just about everything, and cranky. That combination makes today's column  incoherent..

At the top of the op ed page is a free ad for a Liberal leadership candidate who writes at length about nothing. Below him, is a commentary by a staff writer who obviously believes that people can't get enough of nothing.

There are some good letters to the editor. Maybe the editor should read them - and learn.

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