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No free lunches… ever

Posted April 10, 2014 by Norm Farrell
I published this article a year ago and repeat it because issues are little changed.  Recently, our promedia friends learned that BC Liberal chief Laura Miller was refusing to speak with Ontario police about possible crimes, without first getting immunity. They treated this as a non-story. Going further, Vaughn Palmer served as a Liberal water-carrier and tweeted that Miller had spoken to police seven months ago. His statement ignored the fact she was presently refusing cooperation.

April 9, 2013 Update:

I heard that CKNW’s Bill Good responded on his April 5 morning show to selected critics, people he declined to identify other than through reference to hated bloggers. For a number of days, I tried to listen to the station’s audio vault but the file for 8am to 9am was not available. Today, it was there and I listened. Mr. Good rants a bit, claiming again that blogs distribute “CRAP!”

He fails entirely to address the issues printed at this blog or Alex Tsakumis’ blog. Perhaps because he cannot answer specific questions. Good repeats the tired old line that no management tells him what to say. Of course, the tired old answer remains, “No, they don’t have to. They knew what they had when they hired you.”

The issue remains that no legitimate or respected newsperson or news commentator should be pocketing cash or favours from organizations affected by their coverage. If they are taking benefits, those should be clearly disclosed, particularly whenever one lays claim to being unbiased in matters political.

If you cannot see the audio controls, your browser does not support the audio element

Here is the article published April 3 that Mr. Good avoids dealing with.

* * * * *

Radio talker Bill Good received an award recently for distinguished service during his career in broadcast journalism. It came from RTDNA, The Association of Electronic Journalists. I surmise he heard about the award from his CKNW boss Ian Koenigsfest, who happens to be President of RTDNA.

I am a little confused by the award though. If Mr. Good is not a journalist, I wonder why the RTDNA is awarding him for broadcast journalism. If he is a journalist, Article 5A of the RTDNA Code of Ethics should apply. It says,

“Electronic journalists will not pay subjects or sources that have a vested interest in a story. Commentators or contracted experts are exempted.

“Electronic journalists will not accept financial compensation from those who seek to influence news coverage thereby compromising journalistic integrity and independence.”

Some guests are paid to appear on The Bill Good Show, by Corus Radio or groups aiming to influence coverage of political, economic and other interests. Theoretically, that bias can be balanced by giving competing parties equivalent access, although neutrality is not universally observed at CKNW.

More problematic is acceptance by journalists of “compensation from those who seek to influence news coverage.” According to their agents, the National Speaker Bureau,

“Vaughn Palmer, Bill Good and Keith Baldrey take their popular CKNW radio segment Cutting Edge of the Ledge to the platform, delivering British Columbia’s political pulse to audiences, live and current.”

The Edge of the Ledge roadshow edition appears before groups that have a vested interest in stories covered by the Bill Good Show, written about in the Vancouver Sun or reported on at Global TV. There are no better examples of apparent conflict than when the journalists are paid to appear before conventions of the BC Chamber of Commerce. The group is dedicated to exercising wide influence over public and political policies in the province. It was a leader in the fight to maintain HST and continues to advocate for:

  •  reduced business taxation,
  •  subsidies of mining and energy producers,
  •  long term tenures for aquaculture,
  •  decreased regulation of businesses,
  •  relaxed labour standards, reduced wages,
  •  limitation of union rights,
  •  voting rights for businesses,
  •  forced amalgamations of municipalities, etc.

These political issues are covered regularly by the Edge of the Ledge pundits during CKNW appearances and in their other works. Vaughn Palmer is regarded as the dean of the B.C. Legislature press gallery. The Chamber and its members, which include railways, banks, fish farmers, private power producers, law firms and other large industrial and commercial operations, have provided critical support to the government and have a particular interest in the continued success of BC Liberals vis-à-vis the opposition parties. It is not unreasonable to conclude that payments and hospitality given to journalists are designed to secure influence and partiality in return. Distributions of cash and favours create conflict for news people.

The Edge of the Ledge trio recently had a paid appearance at the Municipal Finance Authority of BC, a public body established by the BC government and subject to regulation by the BC Liberal administration. They also appeared before The B.C. Road Builders & Heavy Construction Association and the Certified General Accountants Association of British Columbia. Each group is directly affected by public policy and has vested interests in news reporting and commentary about political matters.

The Association of Professional Journalists publishes a Code of Ethics with a section “Act Independently” that speaks to the issue of conflict. It states that journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know and, among others, includes these specific clauses:

— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.

— Disclose unavoidable conflicts.

Award winning Canadian newsman Harvey Oberfeld spent his career in print and broadcast journalism and was a key part of BCTV’s Bell/Bradbury team, widely regarded as North America’s best regional news operation in its day. Successor Global TV enjoys benefits from BCTV’s insurmountable ratings because The News Hour had become an ingrained habit. Oberfeld believes it wrong for journalists to accept any kind of remuneration or benefits from people or organizations they cover or may cover.

“When I was at BCTV, it was my policy not to accept any form of compensation or freebie from any person, any organization or any company I covered, or might even end up covering. I personally declined the free meals served reporters at events …accepted only a coffee and, must confess, occasionally a muffin!

“At BCTV I and a producer led the effort that developed a written policy barring anyone in the newsroom from accepting freebies offered, like free ski passes, weekend car rentals, hotel stays etc…..and since we didn’t want to be rude, any “gift” sent by fans or firms to an individual or the newsroom staff were just to be left on a table for all to share. That was then.

“So you can imagine, I would NEVER offer myself or accept paid speaking assignments from anyone or any organization I could have covered in the course of my reporting. Who could ever prove that payments for participation in an event isn’t intended to soften coverage.

“It’s not just a question of whether there’s anything wrong with that: the fact that anyone reading, listening or watching could be concerned about it would be enough to put me off.”

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Canada

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Posted April 10, 2014 by What's Different in Canada

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The CBC is Canada’s version of the British Broadcasting Corporation; it is Canada’s national public radio and television broadcaster, a publicly-funded crown corporation. The CBC’s radio stations began in 1936, and TV stations in 1952. Unlike its British counterpart, it does run some advertising in order to pay for its budget. CBC News is the largest newsgathering service in Canada, and its five radio stations (three in English, two in French) are the largest broadcasters of made-in-Canada content in the country.

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Popular radio shows include Definitely Not the Opera, Q with Jian Ghomeshi, and As It Happens. Popular TV shows include George Stroumbouolopoulos Tonight (ending this year after a 10-year run) and Hockey Night in Canada. Like its American cousin NPR, the CBC has been accused by conservatives as having a liberal bias. This has led to a slow but steady chipping away at its budget by the Conservative Party of Canada, leading to layoffs and service reductions. Coupled with the recent loss of Hockey Night in Canada to Rogers, the CBC announced earlier today that it is laying off nearly 700 people to make up for its coming budget shortfall of over $100 million. 

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General

Toronto Star’s digital journalists and the market devalue of journalism

Posted April 22, 2014 by rabble staff
Wayne MacPhail
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Photo: David Sim/flickr

Last week the Toronto Star announced a couple of things. First, they laid off 11 full-time page editors. Second, they announced the creation of a new department, torstar.ca and its intention to hire 17 new digital staff including video editors, digital producers and social media assistants. This is the first time folks in the torstar.ca wing of the company have actually been journalists. Historically torstar.ca been staffed by production folks and was, for a few years, jobbed out to another company completely.

A digital journalist is still a journalist and must be doing the same work as a print journalist. So why is one employee paid less just because his or her work doesn’t end up as ink on cellulose?

read more

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General

Digital journalists vs. print journalists

Posted April 23, 2014 by rabble staff

A digital journalist is still a journalist and must be doing the same work as a print journalist. So why is one employee paid less just because his or her work doesn’t end up as ink on cellulose?

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