The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Friday, September 23, 2005

Mystery solved: Friend joins Picket Line Peter

The spectacular emergency landing of a Jet Blue aircraft at Los Angeles made for great television. Investigators will now have to determine what caused the mechanical failure and their inquiries may lead them straight to Winnipeg.

The airplane landed with the nose wheels turned 90 degrees to the direction of travel. The flight crew was unable to retract the landing gear after takeoff. The A-320 made a textbook landing until the wheels caught fire creating a plume of flame under the aircraft all the way down the runway. The cause of the malfunctioning nose gear is under investigation by LAX authorities, the NTSB, the FAA, and other investigative agencies.

A similar incident occured in 2004 on the fourth flight following a maintenance "C" check where the dynamic seals inside the nose landing gear (NLG) shock absorber of an A- 320 had been replaced. The maintenance was performed by a contract facility. Inspection and teardown of the nose gear revealed the shock absorber had been assembled and installed in the airplane incorrectly during the C-check. This resulted in the anti-rotation lugs on the shock absorber, not being properly seated in the back plate slots.

Air Canada's aircraft maintenance section provides repair and 'third party' overhaul services on Boeing 737 and Airbus A-319 and 320 aircraft. According to Destination Winnipeg, Jet Blue is a major customer at Air Canada's shop. Winnipeg's economic development agency says "the Winnipeg base is recognized as the premier Airbus A-320 maintenance shop in North America."

But, in January The Wall Street Journal reported:

"Jet-Blue and America West are flying some of their airplanes to El Salvador for regulary-scheduled overhauls and heavy maintenance. This essential safety work is performed by unlicensed mechanics who make between $300 and $1000 per month. Only the supervisors are licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration, (FAA)."

So if it turns out the LAX aircraft had been one of those sent to El Salvador, the Saskatchewan Avenue repair service may see an upswing in business.

And speaking of great television...(not)...

Memo to CityTV: What the hell are you doing?

You took over a television newscast that was lively and entertaining and turned it into drek almost overnight. A-Channel News was light fare, news release driven, with reporters covering every event in the city. Sure, nobody tuned in to see reporters breaking important stories, that wasn't the style of the show but, may we remind you, Channel 8 was within a sneeze of overtaking CBC in the ratings, even before the lockout. It had a unique enthusiasm and youthful energy that was a breath of fresh air for channel surfers.

The transititon to CityTV went well. Lisa Saunders blossomed as the sole host. The show was different, but with enough of the old to make it palatable, for viewers to give it a chance.

So what happened? With the addition of Glen Kirby as host and lead reporter Mark Jardine, you've sucked all the oxygen out of the room. CityTV News is unwatchable, slower than molasses, and headed for oblivion.

Kirby, whose end-of-the-world approach to all stories was honed at the CBC, may be a veteran television man but he's an energy vampire whose presence, if not brillo-pad hairdo, is killing Lisa Saunders. When she stands beside him, she loses her personality, her charm, her humour in his sombre shadow. Are you blind?

And newbie Jardine! Yikes. He may be a nice guy, but his presentation is deadly. Get him drunk. Make him watch Three Stooges videos before doing a stand-up. Or, better yet, don't let him do the lead story every night. He's death in a minute-and-a-half.

Were our ears burning, last week. It seems The Black Rod was the topic of heated conversation at the weekly CBC employees meeting.

Sometimes-host Marisa Dragani climbed a high horse and demanded that media guild local president John Webb respond to our ponderings about the whereabouts of the face of CBC News in Manitoba, Krista Erickson, who had been noticeably missing from the daily picket line outside CBC. John, wisely, demurred.

But then, miracles do happen. Whether The Black Rod was responsible or not, we'll never know, but amazingly, the very next day, who shows up on the picket line?

Yes, the face of CBC News-in Canada---Peter Mansbridge himself.
And who is at his side? You guessed it. Krista Erickson in the flesh.

Or, as one wag put it, as his right buttcheek. How cheeky. But accurate if the single picture posted by locked-out CBCers is to be believed.

But therein lies another mystery.

Where once the Mighty Mansbridge would be worth rousing hosannahs from the lowly CBC grunts, his arrival in the Peg hasn't warranted a single line of copy from John Webb or lockout blogger Alison-in-Winnipeg. Only the one picture of Peter and K. records the event. There's a story there...

(Technical difficulties won't allow for the picture to appear here but we will email it to all who doubt it exists.)

Now that Krista has surfaced, we got to wondering about her predecessors.

We found Diana Swain doing a lockout radio show on a student radio station with Andy Barrie, who, in pre-lockout days, hosted CBC Radio's flagship Toronto morning show, Metro Morning. Barrie is an American draft-dodger who found a home at CBC where he's so comfortable he recently told a Canadian blogger to get out of the country when he objected to paying for CBC's leftwing spin.

Unfortunately, Diana's mini-radio gig is over. They decided to scrub it at the end of the week. They say it was always intended to be a short-term project (we guess no one expected the lockout to last this long), although there are rumours in T.O. that CBC producers weren't getting along with their student "colleagues".

We went looking for Sandra Lewis, who sat in the host chair before Diana, and discovered she has moved on from the Mother Corps. And you won't believe where to.

Sandra got herself a masters degree and now works as a psychotherapist in Toronto.

"In addition to a Masters Degree, I am a graduate of the Transformational Arts College in Toronto. I have training in all modes of psychotherapy but my emphasis is on EFT and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.

I work with clients suffering from depression, anxiety and panic attacks; smoking, eating, sex and other addictions; relationship problems (including those in the gay/lesbian community); loneliness; phobias and fears; insecurity and uncertainty; as well as physical ailments such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

I look at my clients holistically, that is, taking into consideration all aspects of their lives including their physical health. There are many studies which show spiritual and nutritional factors directly bear on our mental health. I often include life coaching with the therapy, to help people not only feel better about themselves but then to move forward and actually realize their goals, whether that's a new relationship, a better relationship or job success."

Wow.You go girl.

Those, in fact, are almost the exact words used by Canwest Global honcho David Asper when he confronted some Blue Bombers coaches after a disastrous loss last week. Pundits are blaming that incident for Asper's resignation from the football team's board of directors, but we're not (much). Asper has a lot of exciting things on his plate, not the least of which is overseeing a new broadcast and media centre at Portage and Main.

Canwest plans to consolidate all its operations including Global TV, the Canwest News Service copy desk, and COOL FM in one building. A source with deep, deep inside connections says Canwest plans a 12-storey office building with a wall of video screens to emulate Times Square. It will go up beside the TD Centre.

This is exciting news for Winnipeg, since such a consolidation will create a critical mass of journalism in the heart of downtown. It will mean that three television stations - Global, CKY (headed downtown next spring) and CBC (we include CBC French here) will be located within blocks of each other. Guests will no longer have to traipse across the city from station to station for interviews.

Will this mean that the Winnipeg Free Press will finally move its reporters downtown as has been rumoured on and off for years now? It might once Canwest acquires its hometown daily.
Which won't happen until the question of will they or won't they - as in the employees going on strike - gets answered.

With former editor Nicky Hirst and ex-publisher Murdoch Davis shown the door since the last picket line marched on Mountain Avenue, it's hard to guage if morale has risen among the troops enough to allow owner Bob Silver to patch together a new deal.

The unpleasant prospect of a Christmas season with the presses stilled and advertisers moving their copy and chequebooks a few blocks over to the Sun looms for Silver; with labour peace would come negotiations which could lead to the next move in Canwest's master media plan.

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