Friday, May 25, 2012

May 25: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire....

Today's lead story in the Moncton Times and Transcript is the worst case of lying I have ever seen in a news report. It is so bad, I shall be sending copies to friends who teach in journalism schools.

The headline and subhead are:

"Many NBers support oil, gas industry - survey"
"Survey says NBers believe government can regulate industry but some still oppose it"
I'll go through this in point form because it's one hell of a tangled web.

1.What does that headline mean? In a province of hundreds of thousands of people, of course many support oil, gas industry. For openers, many are employed by it. With equal truth, it could say many NBers support wife-beating, prostitution, drunk driving and smoking in hospitals. The headline tells us nothing.

2. What does support mean? Does it mean they don't think we should just clost it all down right away? That they think it's okay to have an oil and gas industry? That they think its always doing the right thing? I really don't know exactly what the word support means in this context. Neither would most of those surveyed. So why was the question included in the first place? We'll come to that.

3.In NB, these days, the word gas is automatically heard as shale gas because that's the big issue. But the term shale gas does not appear in the headline or the sub head. That's quite deliberate. This sentence was designed to blur the issue, giving the impression that NBer's support shale gas when, in fact, the survey showed the opposite. But you have to read the whole story to find that out.  Most people don't read the whole story. And editors know that.

4. "Survey says NBers believe government can regulate industry but some still oppose it." There is some cute wording here, and it's very tangled.
Remember the head - MANY NBers support oil, gas industry. Many. And in the subhead SOME STILL  oppose it.
Many doesn't mean most - but it's heard as meaning a a great many and, usually, it's heard as meaning most.

"Some still oppose it."

Some. Some could mean 90%, but it's usually heard to mean a small number. And when you add still, that gives a very negative imprssion.  (Some are still so stubbron or ignorant or whatever as to oppose it.)

6. Oppose what? What's "it"? . All that has been mentioned is the oil and gas industry. If  you say NBers think government can regulate the oil, gas industry, well, yeah. Of course it can. The question is not whether it can - but whether it will.
And, again, this is all in context to oil, gas in general. The term "shale gas" has still not appeared.

7. Headline and sub-head are important because,for a high proportion of readers, that is all they will ever read.
Naturally, most readers seeing this headline will assume it says most people are in favour of shale gas development and are confident. In fact, the study shows exactly the opposite.

So we open with a pretty brazen set of lies designed to blur the issue. Headline and sub head are usually written by the page editor. Now, we come to the reporter.

8. Most of the story is about how everybody just loves the oil and gas industry, and how all we have to do is to make sure the government and the industry are nice and transparent. (Good luck on that..)
Not until very late, AFTER MOST READERS HAVE DEPARTED FOR SPORTS OR ANN LANDERS, does the story take a look at shale gas.

50% oppose even exploring for the stuff, while only 32% favour exploration. And when it came to fracking, 56% opposed it with only28% in favour.

Dr. Roger Ouelette, who will chair a Moncton forum which will "listen to people" is responsible for the survey. He (to no surprise is a political scientist. at UdeM.) I have no wish to question either his competence or his honesty but -

9. Why did he think it a good idea to conduct such a survey and to release the results so close to a public discussion that he will chair? This is a survey of public opinion. It is not a survey of expertise in the oil industry or in fracking. It is the survey of opinion of a public which has had years of propaganda, but of almost no information. Of what possible value is this to a public discussion?
(Of course, it does have valuabe propaganda effect.)

10. Why did it contain questions one which people could not possible have an informed opinion - such as whether oil and gas could be developed in an environmentally safe and sustainable way?
What a stupid question! of course, it's not sustainable. We are using sources of which there is a limited supply. New oil is not going to spring up to replace the stuff we use - not for several million years. Environmentally safe? Never heard of the Exxon Valdez? of BP in the Caribbean? of the the North Sea wells?

Why even ask such questions when you know most people have no informed opinion on them (we can't all be oil and gas engineers), and when the answers are clearly available in scientific records and in good newspapers?

Most of these questions give us no useful information. But they do mddy the waters so a reporter can fill up most of the story with subtle, pro-fracking propaganda, and bury the rest at the end where few will read it.

11. To put it gently, this does not strike me as being a survey conducted to any scientific standard or of any value to the debate on shale gas. And who prepared the qeustionnaire?

Why, Dr. Ouelette did it with the guidance of the experts at MQO Research who, surprise! surprise! just happens to do contract work for Irving (who, also, it is said, owns the TandT). MQO Research also has a history as a major donor to the NB Conservative Party.
Obviously, God works in mysterias ways his wonder to perform.....

12. In a closing note, Dr. Ouelette says that respondents expressed much greater confidence in academics than in politicians or oil companies.

If so, the respondents, all 605 of them, are damnn fools.


Lying headline, lying subhead, lying story. And very questionable judgement on many points (to put it mildly) by Dr. Oulette. All of this should tell us the scheduled ForumE is all a fraud.

And, Annus mirabilis, the TandT carried another story on the Quebec student strike. Like the one yesterday, though, it shows no understanding whatever of what is going on.,and provides no useful information

The Montreal report, like most national news reports, come from Postmedia, an organization created by the CEO of The National Post. About three days ago, the editors of The National Post proudly announced they were biased in favour of the political right.
1. Journalists are not supposed to be biased in favour of anybody. They're supposed to tell the truth.
2. They claim they have to be biased in favour of the right because all the other newspapers are left wing.

a. If all others are left wing, then surely the way to correct it is not to be biased, but to tell the truth.
b. in my thirty or forty years of jourrnalism in Canada, I have never seen a left wing newspaper - and certainly not these tinker-toy outfits in Atlantic Canada. Nor have I ever heard of any Canadian newspaper that has supported even a tame, centre-left party like the NDP. Where are all these left-wing papers?

Boy. Good thing the folks at National Post are acting as a balance to the wild-eyed socialism of the Irving Press.

The editorial kissed the rear end of Prof. Savoie again in his (predictable) attack on employment insurance.

Norbert has a quite silly column on the reasons for voter apathy. He's even sillier when he says schools should teach more about civics. In fact, they already do. And, as a teacher and journalist I can tell you that any teacher who taught the truth about civics would risk being fired - and the Norberts of this world would lead the charge to fire them. His whole column for today is ignorance spread with a wide brush. Even his quotation from FDR is pure, political hogwash.

How does that paper hold on to a class journalist like Alec Bruce?



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