Thursday, June 20, 2013

June 20: How not to write a news story...

It's on page 1. The page is well chosen. This is far the biggest story in today's newspaper. The story is that a majority of New Brunswickers have grave doubts about the development of shale in this province. In fact, that's a huge story in a province in which the newpapers and politicians and the gas companies have conducted an impressive propaganda campaign in favour of shale gas - and in which the newspapers have porttrayed those opposed to shale gas as a small minority wearing masks and causing violence.

In fact, this is a story about the major news in New Brunswick for at least two years. But it's not the lead story.  The lead story, at the top of the page, "Metro schools need more space".(Wow! Be still, my heart.)  The shale gas story is at the bottom.

And it gets worse, much worse.

The thrust of the story is that New Brunswickers have not bought the pablum fed to them by the government, the gas companies, and the newspapers. Opposition to shale gas is very, very widespread. And they aren't buying the jobs creation story, either. As to safety, a large majority feel it isn't safe. But, oh, you have to read quite a bit of the story before you learn that. Many readers don't go that far. Every journalist knows that.

Meanwhile, a false tone is set by the headline "Opinions are split of shale gas industry:poll" and the sub head "Energy minister says enthusiasm growing for economic potential."  Neither of these is what the story is about.

Opinions are split? Of course, they're split. On polls, all opinions are split. That's why we have polls.- to find out where the split is. In this case, the split is hugely in favour of those opposed to shale gas. That's the story - not some babble about opinion being split.

And the sub head? That's not about the poll at all.It's the opinion of the environment minister - and it's not based on anythng at all.

Now, here's the opening of the story, itself, "Despite protests and the mixed results of a new poll, the New Brunswick government says people are warming up to the economic potential of oil and gas developments in this province."

We haven't been told what the results are yet. But the message of the story is clear. Everything is going fine for shale gas.

That's a lie. It's a whole string of lies. And we still don't know what the poll was about or what its results were. In fact, we don't get figures at all until a good third of the way into the story. That's when we learn that the firm that conducted the poll says there is a clear majority against shale gas, and that their opinion will be very difficult to change.

But more space is devoted to the babbling of Craig Leonard who says people are warming up to the idea. Apparently, Mr. Leonard can read minds and see into the future. So why do we need polls? Or elections?

Oh, and just to be perfectly clear, the TandT also runs a big story on how native people, despite appearances, are all excited about the shale gas.

The TandT really should publish the names of universities where its staff studied journalism. We should have the right to know which journalism schools are the real stinkers.
Oh, neither Craig Leonard in Environment nor Jody Carr in Education has replied to posts I sent to them two weeks ago, requesting information about Highfield Square and about the two million dollar contract for reading development which was given to an Irving.

They haven't even acknowledged receipt of them.

I am hurt.
NewsToday is 16 pages of fishwrappers and ads.
The editorial page is a dead loss. The editorial is the usual "city builds on reputation as entertainment mecca". Right. New York and Toronto and Las Vegas and Paris and London just shiver in envy of Moncton.

Norbert continues his series which should be called "Things I know nothing about". This man, who has never taught a class in his life, says 25 students is a reasonable number for a class. Where did he get that from? In my first year, I taught 32 - and the school board apologized saying they hoped to get down to an appropriate number like 18. (They never did. In my final year of high school teaching, I had 42).

Norbert, incidentally, has no source for any of the class sizes he names.

And, Norbert, will you please learn what words mean?  In what possible sense can the government  be "literally" borrowing money? And, if so, how does one "illiterally" borrow it?

And we should take Dr. Savoie's advice on education? Why? Is he an expert on education , too? Frankly, if I were looking for an expert on educaton, a university is the last place I would look.

You want advice on education? Ask the teachers of K-3. In my experience, these are the real pros.

Then he slanders doctors with innuendo, guess and gossip.

And, of course, he say not a word about any sacrifices we should demand from big business or wealthy individuals. And he gives no hint of how much of our deficit is caused by them.

Tell you what, Norbert. Why don't you say about the Irvings and McCains, etc. what you say about doctors - "maybe we should put them on salary."

Norbert, your columns have long since passed being just dumb. They are vicious, destructive, crashingly ignorant, and just one long, lingering kiss on the boss' ass.

Rod Allen is still about 50, going on twelve.

Beth Lyons has an insightful column on women in film. It's worth reading. In fact, in this whole edition, it is the only thing worth reading.
Yesterday's Washington Post has a story that must have escaped the attention of the eagle-eyed (and eagle-brained) staff of the TandT. The World Bank is setting up billions of dollars for loans for cities in Asia which face catastrophic  storms due to climate change. The World Bank estimates we have, at best, twenty years to get ready.

But not to worry. Climate expert Harper says it's okay. That's why he has dismantled almost all environmental research and legislation in Canada. That's why Canada has a reputation as the worst foot-dragger in the world on adjustment to climate change.

And just to make sure, the oil industry (which includes shale gas) spends millions a year to tell us climate change isn't happening. That's why it's such a good idea to develop shale gas, and  to pipe the world's dirtiest oil to St. John. That's why the tandt has rarely published a word on climate change.

The bottom line is that the Irvings of this world know they have very little time to sell off all their oil and gas - maybe ten years - before our danger becomes obvious. That's not much time - for the oil or for us - but for the Irvings of this world, it's forever. Their corporation minds can handle only three months at a time.
Oh, there's sort of newspaper on the web called Maine Sun Journal. On March 22, 2012, it carried a story the TandT missed.

It seems a gas station and convenience store owner who was a also a state legilator introduced a bill to wipe out a good deal of environmental legislation. This was a favour to a man who wanted to develop a mine in the province, but who needed the freedom to pollute to make it worthwhile. (and he longed to develop it because he so badly wanted to create jobs for the poor in northern Maine. God bless him.)

Coincidence - the man who owned the mine also owned an oil company that the representative, a Mr. Martin, owed a quarter of a million dollars to. So the representative was called in to have a chat with the mne owner. Speaking as mine owner, he told Mr. Martin it was terribly, terribly important to scrap environmental legislation to help those poor people get jobs.

Speaking as owner of the oil company, he assured Mr. Martin that they could work out some arrangement on the money that Martin owed.

We are assured there was no conflict of interest because Mr. Martin was dealing with two, quite separate companies - which just happened to be both owned by the same man - J.D.Irving.
Oh, when will the super-reporters at Irving press get cracking on finding out the names of Canadian billionaires who have money in offshore banks?



  1. I don't know how you can still stand to read the columns and editorials in the T & T. I just can't put myself through that kind of torture anymore :)...They are too ignorant and biased.

  2. It's the triviality of most of the stories that bothers me. I don't want to see another damn picture of high school grads driving tractors to the prom - or smiling faces holding up cheques.

    Brent Mazerolle is an interesting read - though not because of anything he reports. He is the paper's resident spin doctor -essentially a propagandist. Reading him is, I suppose, like listening to Dr. Geobbels in World War 2.

    Of the staff writers, I have found only one worth reading - and that only in two of his recent columns. That's Brian Cormier. I had written him off a long time ago; but I've been pleased to see lately that he can do a decent job.

    Rod Allen appears to be a professional smartass with nothing to say, and a conceited, pretentious writing style that should have been corrected in high school.

    The guest columnists - Gwynne Dyer, Alec Bruce, the women's issues columnists, David Suzuki are far superior. Bruce is limited, though, probably because he knows he has to toe the official line.

    Belliveau is severely limited by his devotion to the Liberal party and his very, very conventional thinking. To give him credit, though, he puts work into his column.

    Norbert is not entirely unintelligent. But his habit of ranting on topics he is entirely ignorant of is annoying. He's also a tame monkey for the Irvings.

    The editing, by any standard, is appalling. Editors select the stories to be covered, pick the reporters, check the report, write the headline and the sub-head.

    And they are beneath contempt. Most of the stories they choose are trivial. The reports are distorted by dreadful modifications - almost certainly by the editors - to make them into propaganda that the boss will like.

    Whoever edits foreign news obviously doesn't have a clue. The editorials are marked by profound ignorance and/or bias.

    The features are okay, I suppose, if you really care what Miss Manners thinks.

    Business news of any quality just isn't there.

    I feel sorry for the reporters. This is the stage at which they should be learning from the editors. But the editors are a rare collection of incompetent and unethical asses.

    Among journalists across Canada, the Irving press is generally regarded as the scum of the journalism world.

    I can tolerate reading it because I bring to it the attitude of a doctor looking for the cause of a cancer.