Monday, April 15, 2013

April 15: credit where credit is due....

It's been a pleasant surprise to see the Moncton Free Press (Presse Libre de Moncton) website evolve into an excellent newspaper with a quality and breadth of coverage far, far superior to anything that has been seen in this province, and a breath of fresh affair after years of the stench of the Irving Press.

And, no, I don't say that just because my blog appears in it. After all, with over half  of my readers living in the US, Russia, Britain, France and other countries, it's likely that most don't get it through the Moncton Free Press. Nor can I take any credit for its recent improvement. That was done by people far more talented than I am.

What astonishes me is how such a high quality can be achieved with virtually no money. This is a real triumph of social media and community involvement - and well worth reading even for those (there really are some) who have never heard of Moncton - the hub city and all that. It's worth reading it carries national and international news that most newspapers keep hidden.

The big story today in the TandT (more than two, whole pages of it) is an interview with Dr. Dhany Charest, chief of Horizon health services for the Moncton area. I have no idea why the story is so big - or even why it exists at all.

This is no criticism of Dr. Charest. But the interview amounts to nothing more than a rambling account of his job description, something that could have been done in a paragraph. And even then, it would be of little news value.

There is no mention whatever of the two, great health crises facing us - the bull-headed tactics of Health Minister Hemming, and the government's demonstrated contempt for advice from the medical community and the chief medical officer on the question of shale gas. As a result, this story, the biggest in the whole paper, is quite worthless and trivial.

And at that, it's still the best piece of journalism in all of section A.

Section C, NewsToday is three pages of nothing much, and six pages of ads.

The editorial, even by Times and Transcript standards, is utterly brainless. It's about the temporary foreign worker programme; and it's  entitled "The real problem". It's weakness is that the writer doesn't know what the real problem is. Just a few examples of his or ignorance....
1. The Royal Bank of Canada's use of the programme, despite what the editor says, was not simply to bring in foreign workers to replace Canadians. It was then sending those trained foreign workers back home so it could send those jobs out of Canada entirely. Nor does the editor seem aware that RBC and others have been doing this for  years.
2. The editor's light dismissal of all this as "logical if unadvised" is a pretty light dismissal of the fact that it was illegal. By that standard, an armed holdup is "logical if unadvised".
3. This is really a case of export of Canadian jobs to cheap labour countries. We lose jobs. We lose taxes on those jobs. Nobody has the faintest idea how widespread this problem is. The editorial gives 340,000 as the number of jobs. In fact, that number is the number of foreign workers working in Canada. (Now, close your eyes and think hard, Mr. Editor. Foreign workers in Canada is not the same as foreign workers holding outsourced jobs from Canada, but still living in the home countries.)
I recently had to call head office for Reader's Digest Canada. So I sent off a post to its Montreal address.  What I got in return was a note to contact their new head office - in The Phillipines.

The number of 340,000 foreign workers in Canada is just the tip of the iceberg. When you include the number of Canadian jobs outsourced, then the number of lost jobs could be double or even triple that.
4. The editor quotes business sources as saying that many of those jobs need foreign workers because we don't have enough skilled Canadians in some fields. No doubt. But there is not even a hint of how many foreign workers are in that skilled category. I can scarcely believe they number 340,000. Nor does that explain the large numbers of outsourced jobs.
5. Then the editorialist makes the leap that if only those lazy people on EI would be willing to drive an hour each way to work, we wouldn't need to import cheap labour to do jobs like pouring coffee at Tim Horton's.
Right. Most people on EI are sure to have cars, and could easily afford to spend a hundred dollars and more each week to  drive to their minimum wage jobs.

Now I think about it, maybe we do need to bring in some skilled foreign workers - to be editors.
I have no idea why Alec Bruce wrote a whole column on what sounds like a thoroughly crackpot party of no great influence in Nova Scotia. This is a party whose platform is heavy on emotional buzzwords that are of the intellectual level and Times and Transcript editorials.

Norbert has quite a decent column. It's about rice - which doesn't sound terribly important, I know. But read it. And take it seriously.

The op ed page, as is common, has nothing worth reading - just trivial maunderings.

The star of today's paper, along with Norbert, is the editorial cartoon. It's really good.
Today's paper is such a stinker that I might just have time for a brief note on the US economic crisis, the crisis that should never have happened in the first place.

The US has effectively been at war for over sixty years. And for all that time, it has ignored an economic lesson learned at terrible price almost a hundred years ago.

In World War One, national economies were shattered by the costs of the war, a shattering that created vast poverty, debt, and uncertainty for years after the war - sometimes ending in revolution and near revolution.(There was severe violence even in Canada and the US).

The problem was not simply the rush for expensive war materials. It was the inefficiency with which it all was carried out. Food supplies were severely disrupted. The sudden demand for war supplies sent prices out of control with an inflation rate that caused widespread poverty. The waste and corruption were enormous.

The US has been spending on its military at war time level ever since the Second World War. And it has fought more wars in that time, far more than most people realize because so many of those wars have been undeclared wars, some even unreported. Then there is the tremendous expenditure in foreign aid - with aid usually meaning  more weapons. Then there is the enormous cost of maintaining military bases, hundreds of them, all over the world, and what is far the biggest and most expensive fleet in the world - not to mention the cost of a very widespread and very active CIA fighting its own undeclared wars.

And it has done so while ignoring all the economic lessons of World War One.

President Eisenhower saw this coming. He gave warning about it in his final address to the nation whcn he spoke of the military-industrial complex. But few caught the real meaning of his warning, and even fewer paid any attention to it.

That's why the US today is broke, is very close to violence, is suffering record levels of poverty, and is not going to recover any time soon.

By 1918, every major country in the world realized that a war could not be fought on a peace-time economy. Every major country in the world realized that do so would bring down chaos, even on the winners.

That's why every developed country in the world that entered World War Two did so with an understanding that the government would have to play a bigger economic role. And it worked brilliantly as living standards in Canada and the US actually rose during World War Two.

But some people didn't like it that way.

I'll talk about that tomorrow.


  1. How can a blog that just republishes content from other blogs and websites be considered a quality newspaper?

    1. All news media reprint much of their news from other sources - from international news services like Associated Press, and from each other.

      As well, both radio and print news borrow heavily from each other. There is no newspaper I have ever heard of that does not borrow, purchase, or lift news from other newspapers.

      In the TandT, section A news comes largely from its reportorial staff. But section A is almost always stunningly trivial.

      Today, the big story is on the Liberal leader, Gallant, winning a seat that has been Liberal since humans learned to stand upright. And there's nothing in it. There's not a hint of what principles, if any, Gallant stands for.

      Like most of its stories from its own reporters, this is a shallow story. And often, it's even worse, descending to the sort of bias that can properly be called lying. And the blame for that goes on the editors. They're the ones who decide what to print, and how to present it.

      Sports is well over half taken from other sources. Ditto for NewsToday. And close to ditto for Life and Times.

      The quality of a newspapers does not lie in how much of its news comes from its own research. Quality means depth of research, avoidance of bias (and lying); it means editors capable of knowing what is worth publishing and what is not.

      Among TandT editors, the outstanding qualities are heavy bias, lack of journalistic ethics and, often, profound ignorance of the section they are editing.

      The quality of a newspaper has nothing to do with covering all the stories it reports on. That quality has everything to do with the judgement and honesty of the editors.

      And that's why Moncton Free Press is far superior to the Times and Transcript.

  2. All news media get much of their news from other, media sources. Sometimes, as in foreign news, it comes from the press services. Sometimes, it's just stolen.

    No newspaper in the world has the resources to cover all the news by itself.

    In the TandT, section A is largely local reporting - and it's heavy on trivial crap. And it rarely shows any questioning or depth. For example, read today's big story on Brian Gallant. It carries not even a hint of what, if anything, Gallant stands for. Nor is their any sign of why people voted as they did. What were the issues in the byelection?
    All we know is that Gallant won an election in a riding that has been Liberal since Adam had his first apple.

    Over half of the Sports section is purchased from international agencies. The same is true of NewsToday. And of Life and Times.

    Some of news is on the street reporting. But the greater part of it, in all but the biggest papers, is selected from other sources. And a good newspaper is one whose editors know which news services to trust, and which stories are not worth publishing.
    That's why the Moncton Free Press is good, and why the Times and Transcript stinks.

  3. Sorry. I thought I had lost the first reply, so I did all over again.
    That's bad editing.