Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 24: How not to write a news story

It's the banner headline on the front page "Former CN Terminal Plaza to be reborn" Then there's the sub-head that says, "Major renovation a show of private investor confidence in land around proposed downtown centre".

The headline, as a headline, is true. There are plans to renovate the building. The people doing it have said so.

The sub-head, linking it to the proposed events centre, is pure speculation by the reporter. Nobody in any position of authority said this. Indeed, the only commenter on it  (who was obviously answering a question from the reporter) said it wasn't linked.

Yet almost half the report is made up of the reporter pushing his opinion. It's propaganda. It's a line of propaganda that the paper has been peddling from the start. It's a line of propaganda that I'm quite sure has the approval of the boss. But it's propaganda.

Opinions and propaganda are what opinion columns and commentaries and editorials are for. They are separated from news columns so readers can understand the distinction. And reporters are supposed to get news - the story of what has happened - not the story of what they think it all means.

Brent Mazerolle just failed Journalism 101. The editor, beginning Monday will be reassigned to delivering papers on my street. And he'd better be on time.  

The appointment of a shale gas public consultation committee is on page one; and it's a crock. Any university professor who's on it should be ashamed. (Alas, most of them  have been innoculated agasint shame.)

In the first place, the government and the Irving papers have, for over ten years, given the public nothing to go on. The consulation tour starts on June 6. That gives the public two weeks to catch up on all the information  (Lord knows where they'll get it), and one month to reach a decision. It's not clear how this province's high proportion of illiterates and semi-literates will manage this at all.

Indeed, I have seen not the slightest evidence that the members of the government have the slightest understanding of what the information is. In any case, a consultation is simply gathering opinion. The worth of that opinion is equal to the knowledge of audience. In short, a consultation is just a grand name for an opinion poll - except that this poll does not necessarily give a general overview of opinion, just of whoever happens to show up. In ahort, this sort of consultation is worthless - and a professor should know that.

In any case, it does not matter what conclusions the consultations come to. Shale gas drilling is going to go ahead. Governments which allowed it to be carried out for over ten years with no enforceable regulations are not suddenly going to get tough with their corporate bosses.

Inevitably, there will be accidents. The history of the oil industry is full of accidents and severe damage that can never be repaired. We are now adding to that toxic chemicals and a prodigious waste of fresh water.

As the gas companies tell us in almost the only truth they speak, there is lots of gas and oil left in this planet. Yes, there is. But with every year, it's more expensive and more dangerous to get it out. The easy stuff is pretty well used up.

Oh, speaking of that prodigious waste of water, did you know the world is so short of fresh water, we are now digging wells so deep that we are pumpling up fresh water that has been lying in great caverns underground for a million years - and it's not renewable. We use so much of it just for agriculture that, as it drains to the sea, it causes more rise to the sea level than all the melting of the polar caps.

OOh, I know. Let's form a committee headed by a professor to consult with us. Heck, it shouldn't take more than a couple of weeks.

Or let's face reality. The government and the gas companies are going to go ahead with fracking. Nor does  it matter a damn what we think or say. If we object, they will ignore us. If we demonstarte and the deomonstration gets in their way, they will send in the police. Protecting greedyand unscrupulous corporations from threatening our livliehoods and even our lives is what they call maintenance of law and order. We have already seen police protectinig the gas drillers in the province. They have never been sent in such a situation to protect the people of New Brunswick. And they never will be.

As usual, the people who start protests are not the protesters. They are the political and corporate bosses.

The TandT has finally noticed the Quebec student strike. But its report is mostly a zero. All it talks about is speculation over the legality of Bill 78. It's largely an interview with Julius Grey in Montreal. I know him well, and he 's  a superb authority. But Bill 78 is not what the demonctrations are about.

The picture above the story is of student strikers. Take a good look at them. Look at their faces. Do they look like crazy rioters and spoiled brats? What you are looking at are the faces of people fed up with corrupt and lying governments. They are people fed up with elections that simply exchange one set of liars and corporate puppets for another.  These are people who have seen shrinkage of democracy year by year as voters give up on the system - that disilliusionment largely the result of news media that lie and twist the news, that keep people in ignorance of what is going on. That's what the demonstrations are about. That's why they're spreading to other parts of Canada, the US, and Europe.

This is the future. This is where news media like the Irving Press are taking us. No. This isn't the future. This is now.

Our childhood beliefs  are the ghost of Christmas past. Those faces are the ghost of Christmas present. Christmas yet to be?

That's up to us.

Footnote:

Speaking, as we were, of a report that is zero, read Rod Allen's op ed piece. Then compare it with Jody Dallaire's just  below it..Try to guess which one is a real journalist.


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