Newspapers rise and fall on the qualities and abilities of their editors. Editors not only instruct new reporters on the rules of the trade, of reportorial writing (and journalistic ethics), they also choose which stories are important enough to be covered or to be selected from the wire services. and where and how they should be presented in the paper.
Alec Bruce touches on this subject in a worth-reading column in today's TandT when he discusses the presentation and reporting of government budgets. He points out that budgets rarely have anything of substance in them, and that the comments offered by both government and opposition are usually inane.
For all that, the news media treat budgets with great solemnity and metres of comment. Editors decide that. To sample the quality of their decisions about what is important and where it should be in the paper, check out page A1 of today's Times and Transcript.
"Revenues key as budget decisions loom". duh, yeah. If you're going to spend money, you need to have some, duh. Never thought of that.What follows are the predictable and irrelevant opinions of - oh, the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation - and the equally predictable opinions of other stakeholders.
Even the headline, written by the editor, is a little goofy because it's just an opinion. Whether revenues are, indeed, key depends on what it is we MUST have. If an invasion force appeared off Shediac would we decide not to fight it until our revenues improve?
What we need is, of course, a matter of opinion. We need better social services. But who gives a damn? We need more spent on education, on hunger, on decent housing. But that won't be decided by us. What we need will be decided by people like Mr. Irving and his satellites. We need lower taxes for the very rich, with lots of grants and favours. We need a new hockey rink so some landowners can get rid of a piece of land that is worthless because it is contaminated. The government has been kind enough not to enforce the law by making them clean it up. We need to buy that land so they can get rid of it, and get us to pay for the clean up.
This lead story is of no importance whatever. But it's up there as the story of the day. That was an editor's decision.
It's followed by an even more vacant one on A3. "Gallant wants Tories' budget to reflect a plan." Well, 'plan' is a feel - good word. I can imagine the Liberal leader saying this yesterday to the Dieppe rotary club, and heads nodding in agreement. A plan, yes, smart fellow that Gallant.
In fact, all budgets have a plan. They can't help it. The question is whether the plan is any good.
Rotarian applause ringing in his ears, Gallant plunged even deeper into his vocabulary of important-sounding words. "We have serious challenges and we must make sure we take serious measures to face them." (as opposed to funny measures?) Clap, clap. Well said, sir. He must have had the Rotarians wetting their pants with joy.
But why was this mindless crap published at all? Editor's decision.
There are only two, worthwhile stories in Section A. One is on the lack of shelter for the homeless in Moncton. But nobody seems to have thought of that as a need. And the food banks are in financial trouble. But that's not a real need, not like a hundred million dollar hockey rink, so we won't offend the rich by asking them to pay a slightly higher tax rate. No. We'll sell lottery tickets. That way the poor and the middle class will pay for it. (Billionaires don't buy lottery tickets.)
NewsToday choices for big news was one about Pandas arriving in Canada, and an irrelevant story about the US turning over its Afghan torture centre (detention facility) to President Karzai so he can torture people. The only national story worth reading is C 3, about a major demonstration by native peoples in Ottawa.
On editorial and op ed, the editorial is yet another pitch for the "events" centre. Norbert's column is about the problems of space travel. This will be of interest to 'special' people. Alan Cochrance, for no clear reason, writes what looks like a high school homework assignmnt on the history of the Bricklin car.
The only good columns, the only real, newspaper columns, are by Alec Bruce and Bill Ayer.
Was their any real news available?
Well, there's a story that appeared yesterday from Associated Press, and was sent to me by a reader. Stockton, California, a city about twice the size of Moncton has a 46 million dollar hockey rink/events centre financed by tax-payers. They were sold on the idea that the centre would draw business and boost the economy.
So the land owners and the contractors did well out of the deal. But the tax payers are left in deep trouble. The centre didn't attract anything, and the city (remember, twice the size of Moncton) is going into bankruptcy.
I know we're having a big public meeting about our events centre with a big sales pitch coming from a city that likes its centre. Will council be inviting a delegation from Stockton? Do the editors know where Stockton is?
Prisoners at Guatanamo, who have to live in animal cages, are being force-fed in an attempt to end a 45 day hunger strike. The US government admits to some 26 hunger strikers. Other estimates are much higher.
They are being held illegally. There have been no trials - and lawyers say there never will be. There aren't even any charges, though some have been living in cages in solitary for up to eleven years. The prisoners are starving themselves because they know they will die in those cages, anway. CBS News carried the story yesterday. The editors at the TandT probably never heard of CBS.
In the US, the Department of Homeland Security has stockpiled 1.6 billion pieces of ammo, including hollow-point bullets which are illegal in war. They are also buying armoured personnel carriers modified for use in US cities. As well, American soldiers are being trained for riot control in the US.
The total stockpile is said to contain enough material to fight a war like Iraq for for 24 years. The department is also asking for drones for constant spying over the whole of the US. Why?
Nobody will say. And the editors of the TandT couldn't care less. Hey, they had that hot talk by the Liberal leader to the Dieppe Rotarians to deal with.
Then there's Montreal. You've heard of it? It's part of Canada. Three times in the last week the Montreal riot police have arrested people who had assembled to protest. That's legal. You're allowed to protest. It's called freedom of speech.
Of course, you have to obey the law while exercising free speech. You can't commit assault on other people. You can't damage property, etc. But these protestors had not done any of that. In fact, the protesters hadn't even started their protests when the police rounded them up and put them in jail. This has never happened in Canada before. I thought that kind of important. I guess the editors didn't, not when they had a big story about visiting pandas.
But don't worry. We'll still get eminent people to stand up on Nov. 11 to preach about how our soldiers gave their lives to defend Canadian freedom.
In the rest of the world, there is an extraordinary chaos - social, economic, military -the world looked a safer place in 1914 and 1939 than it does now. There's no sense of this in the international news section of the TandT. As just one example -
The TandT and carried all the standard stories about how the US wants peace in Syria, and how it does not want to supply the "rebels".
Actually, the US IS supplying the rebels, and has been from the start. Indeed, the war was created by the US with the intention of destroying Syria. That was revealed in 2007 in an article by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. Weapons, troops, training, money, intelligence have been poured into the "rebels" from the start - using the CIA as an intermediary with the Arab League and Turkey. That's why millions of Syrians are living and dying in a hell.
Much of the American weaponry (just like that supplied to Libya) ends up on the black market, which is why Africa is so explosive. It is also directly arming Al Quaeda.
But the foreign coverage of the TandT is routinely lazy and ignorant. I guess TandT editors don't like to read magazines like the New Yorker or world class journalists like Hersh. (Some of the words those people use are just too big.)
Good editors are the foundations of a good newspaper. The foundations of the Irving press are journalistic waste.