Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Oct. 16: Liar, liar.......

..Pants on fi-re...
There is such a thing as the ethics of journalism. There are numerous book on the subject. I'm pretty sure about that because I spent a term teaching the ethics of journalism to working journalists in Hong Kong. Today's Times and Transcript is a powerful example of a lack of ethics. Indeed, it amounts to lying.
"No shale gas moratorium, report says" That's the headline on A1. Oh, so, great. We can go ahead. Everything's clear. But there are two problems with this, both of them serious problems about the ethics of journalism..

1. Two reports on shale gas were issued. One is by an academic biologist, Dr. Lapierre, the other by the province's chief medical officer, Dr. Cleary. The one that became the headline on p.1 was the one by Lapierre. The one by the chief medical officer was buried on p.8, was markedly shorter, and went off the point to include comments by the gas industry.

Dr. Cleary's report was held back for over two weeks so it could be released at the same time as the other report. That smells of collusion between government and Irving press to smother the Cleary report by releasing both on the same day, and giving serious and prominent coverage only to one of them. (Well, perhaps collusion is the wrong word. After all, both the TandT and the government are owned by the same person.)

The reason for the playing up of one report is that the biologist's report made it slightly easier to write that lying headline.

2. In fact, the biologist did NOT make the the bald statement that we can go ahead on shale gas. He did say there should not be a moratorium BUT - he also said we should make very  small and slow beginnings with severe monitoring all the way. He also added a list of actions that would have to be carried out before even small and slow beginnings could be made - very severe regulations, tight and honest monitoring, a damages bond put up by the industry - and more.

Indeed, both reports were much the same. Both said massive research is yet to be done, that the risks are high, that monitoring will have to be close. Dr. Cleary added comment on the social problems of crime, alcoholism and other ills that would be likely to accompany any boom.

So, if both reports were much the same, why did the TandT decide to highlight one report and almost ignore the other? That was because the biologist said that shale gas exploration should go ahead (though under very severe conditions. However, the words "should go ahead" appeared. That gave the headline that the TandT, the government, and the shale gas industry wanted, a headline that gave the impression there were no problems. And the headline is the part of a story that has the greatest impact.

So, will the gas companies go ahead? Absolutely. Will there be severe regulation and honest monitoring? No way.

We have a government that is under the control of rapacious people. We have newspapers that lie as a matter of routine. Now, expect a flood of stories about how the government is getting tough, how research on shale gas is racing ahead, how safety is nn longer a problem...  It must be nice to be in a business that has  the government and all the newspapers to lie for it.

Lower on page 1 is a story that contradicts a story that appeared yesterday. Today's story says "No gulf between food bank groups". That is the opposite of what yesterday's story on the same subject had to say. But you have to read the whole story - and read it closely - to understand that yesterday's story was a mistake. That means the correct headline should have been "TandT apologizes for error in food bank story".

Well - except that there was no error. The reporter yesterday was quoting an official as saying that there was disagreement between some of the food bank groups. And he did say it. So where's the error?

The error lies in the TandT backing down when it got a complain from a person ranking higher than the one they quoted. What a real editor does in a position like that is he assigns a reporter to get the full, accurate story. He or she does not simply give in to what some boss demanded.

P. 1 also has a story about a private company which will offer a medical service, radiological imaging, to those who can afford it.That looks like a step toward two-tier health service, one for the rich and one for the rest of us. But, though the reporter lavishly quotes the owner of the business on  how wonderful it will all be, she does not seek out a single opinion from the medical profession. That isn't reporting. That's advertising and propaganda.

Incidentally, think about it a moment. A private company has to buy equipment, hire a staff AND make a profit. Common sense tells us that this costs more than a public service. In fact, in the US where most health care is private, the system is the most expensive on in the world, one of the least efficient. is the leading cause of bankruptcy for seniors, and produces some of the worse statistics on general health, death rates (including stillbirths), and both of these worst among the poor in the whole of the developed world.

This new machine does not save us money. It costs us money. If carried further, it does what it does in the US. It provides health only for those who can afford it. And they can afford it because they have such huge tax breaks. The rest of us have to make up for the taxes they don't pay. So where's the saving?

NewsToday covers a big story that Frank McKenna hopes the Beaverbook Canadian Foundation will reverse its decision to carry out work in New Brunswick.


This is a news story? If so, I have flash for tomorrow's paper. Graeme Decarie hopes to win the Oct. 17 Lotto 649. Watch this space for fast-breaking developments.

Oh, this section also has a big story that Energy Minister Leonard applauds the idea of an independent institute to oversee the shale gas industry. What a coincidence! He gives a major interview on the very same day Dr. Lapierre's report appears - suggesting just such a institute.

In some twelve years, New Brunswick government's have done nothing about the shale gas industry. And, certainly, Energy Minister Craig Leonard has shown no great bursts of concern. Suddenly, he thinks a really tough and independent institute is just what is needed. Right. Just like we need a Chief medical officer - so we can ignore her.

C12 has a story about a man who broke the sound barrier in the highest parachute jump ever done. Interesting - or would be if they hadn't run the same story yesterday.

Louise Gilbert has an important comment on the op ed page. It's about how life-long learning is good for seniors. She's quite right - and not just for seniors. Our brains need life-long learning as much as our bodies need exercise. If we neglect these, we become just a society of decaying vegetables.  Moncton has a serious decay problem.

And one of the roots of that decay is The Moncton Times and Tribune. Today's paper is a particularly dreadful example of how the rot can show.



  1. Dr LaPierre's report did receive adequate recognition elsewhere, for example in the Globe and Mail and in Macleans, in a report by Kevin Bissell for Canadian Press. This included critical comments by opposition leaders,Victor Boudreau and David Coon, as well as the reactions of the Energy Minister, Craig Leonard. Readers should seek out these other sources for the facts.

  2. Say Graeme, I was thinking, in order to get more citizens engaged in retrieving information, it would be interesting and helpful, if you showed us an example of the letter you wrote to city hall to receive the information about highfield square.

    Create an Access to information revolution if you will.

    1. Ask and it shall be given unto you.

      For the Oct. 17 blog, I opened with my note to the provincial ministry of the environment. When I send my access to information request to them, I'll put a copy in the blog.
      Unfortunately, I can't find the one I sent to the city. This computer hides things.

  3. Totally agree with you on many levels of T & T reporting. I know that just from reading the food bank stuff that things are shady from the FDA side of things. Asking local food banks to stop raising money so they can pay their bills and stop food drives so they can feed those in need? So the FDA is going to start paying bills for these food banks the moment they bow down? Does the FDA do food drives door to door or grocery stores in Port Elgin, an area that is also in the southeast and then bring the food for distribution to Moncton food banks? Then why should they saturate Moncton or grocery store chains here to feed the outskirts? Do these other towns not have grocery stores in their own area collecting for them? Are those donations coming to the FDA? I'll support organizations that are mostly volunteer and run with the lowest costs.