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 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:

Saturday, November 05, 2005


We're betting it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The Gomery report was just released, pointing out how corrupt and sleazy the Liberal Party of Canada was.

You know you have to respond, so Paul Martin assigns the job to three trusted people--the most obnoxious MP on Parliament Hill and two Tory turncoats.

Oh, and, according to party insiders, MPs are told to be contrite.

Except that somebody forgot that that word doesn't exist in the Liberal Party dictionary, as Manitoba MP Reg Alcock (see Parliament Hill above) proved by his belligerent interview with Krista Erickson on CBC TV's Canada Now.

Alcock was every inch the bully as he tried to run roughshod over the CBC Winnipeg host to push the official Liberal line, from the very get-go. He was by turns antagonistic, condescending ("kiddo") -- and the ever favorite--obnoxious, as Erickson asked him tough but fair questions.

He was reduced to lecturing her that even asking these questions was parroting the Conservative party critics, while he had been at the forefront of cleaning this mess up blah blah blah.

Despite his best efforts to overpower and intimidate her, Erickson stood her ground and did the best under unexpected circumstances. Perhaps she realized that at this point, with the lockout over, the Liberals need the CBC more than the CBC needs the Liberals.

(And your eyes weren't playing tricks. Alcock has lost weight. A lot of weight. He says he's lost a hundred pounds so far and wants to lose another hundred. Yes, folks, he was over 400 pounds back when the Liberals were riding high.)

The next night at the end of the newscast, CBC replayed a clip of L'Affair Alcock as well as the comments of outraged viewers demanding he apologize to Krista for belittling her while she was just trying to do her job.

Reaction to Alcock's interview has been so negative that he would almost be worried for his seat---if Hurricane Hugh McFadyen hadn't cost the Conservatives six months of preparation time by claiming he wanted to run against Reg, then chickening out of the race when it looked like the Liberals had recovered from the Adscam headlines. Hugh couldn't have done a better job for Reg if he was a Liberal plant.

Now, imagine if the roles of Krista and Reg were reversed, and a reporter was bullying a politician.

In that case you would have The Winnipeg Free Press.

The Freep's campaign to undermine Mayor Sam Katz continues apace.

Last month the newspaper was surprised to find its full-frontal smear campaign against the mayor exposed by The Black Rod on the blogosphere. After we exposed how flimsy the trumped- up scandal that they were trumpeting was and how suspicious many of the alleged quotes from politicians and pundits were, the paper retreated into silence.
However this week we noticed that the campaign has relaunched, only in a different guise this time. But the reporter remains the same.

Note these recent leads by Mary Agnes Welch:

"Mayor Sam Katz shuffled his powerful cabinet yesterday, dumping the lone left-leaning woman and promoting what some critics called right-wing "yes men."(Katz shuffles his cabinet, Nov. 1, 2005)

"Mayor Sam Katz may disband city hall's beleagured environment committee, signalling for many the mayor's failure to make the city greener."(Mayor may scrap civic environment panel, Nov. 1, 2005)

"It's not often Mayor Sam Katz turns down the chance to attract a big money convention to Winnipeg. But he has refused to write a letter of support to lure a conference promising up to 4,000 people and several million dollars."(Katz nips pot party in bud. Nov. 4, 2005)

Get it? The old way was too blatant (It's a scandal! Sam Katz bends the rules to help his friends and get a payoff!) and also wrong. Not to mention we blew the whistle.

The new way is subtle, ever so less apparent, and (we have to get both sides) ever more "fair."

Is it our fault that Katz DUMPED a WOMAN and promoted "yes-MEN"?
We can't be blamed that he removed someone who is left-LEANING (that's good) in favour of someone RIGHT-WING (that's bad).

Is it wrong to point out the mayor has FAILED to make Winnipeg "greener" despite the efforts of the environment committee which is BELEAGURED, as are all victims of oppression.

Surely we should be commended for reporting that contrary to his pro-business image, Katz TURNED DOWN a conference which would bring 4000 people to Winnipeg.

It's not until well into the jump page that Mary Agnes Welch mentions that the conference organizers themselves made the stipulation that the Mayor of the host city has to endorse the conference, the national convention of the Canadian Cannabis Coalition. She even quotes a board member bad-mouthing Sam Katz for being the only big-city mayor to refuse support to the group.

She says the conference is about the medical use of marijuana, but nowhere mentions that the Canadian Cannabis Coalition has had a problem with unauthorized statements on behalf of the organization. It's even issued a warning bulletin on its website:

Unauthorized CCC Statements
November 4, 2005
Recently, unauthorized statements attributed to the Canadian Cannabis Coalition have been made to the press.
The CCC is a national umbrella organization for cannabis and hemp organizations, medicinal use, related media, commercial and retail outlets. Since it's inception in 1999, there has been no official spokespersons, and any official CCC statement or position is posted in the Press Release section of the website at or on other parts of the official website, except public forums. Any statement attributed to the CCC that is not present on the website, is the view of the member only.
The CCC has never had, nor currently has, any funds, but has discussed the possibility of holding a first ever cannabis/hemp tradeshow in September or October of 2007, in an already selected location. Any news or information about it will be issued via official Press Release.
We hope this clears up any confusion about statements or positions regarding the CCC.
The Canadian Cannabis Coalition

The Free Press just carried stories where Industry Minister Jim Rondeau was being raked over the coals for a government loan to a failed gay porn store. Imagine the bad press a mayor who endorsed marijuana would received, particularly if the conference included open smoking of the still-illegal drug. But, then, do you expect the Free Press to dilute its campaign against Katz with logic?

"I think what they're trying to do is embarrass the mayor," said Councillor Harry Lazarenko. We couldn't put it any better.

Mary Agnes Welch let a few of her own reporting secrets slip out at a public function this past year. She confessed that she is a "liberal" of the "small L" kind and brings that view to her stories. She said she doesn't believe in being "objective" in her reporting; she stands by her ability to be "fair" instead.

Maybe we're now seeing what "fair" means to a liberal (with a "small L").

Or maybe Mary Agnes Welch was one of those who was there when the new Governor General Michaelle Jean met with some journalism students in Winnipeg during her recent visit.

"She said that it's important to keep ourselves in the story, and that we don't put ourselves above the story," said one of the students. "It's okay to be a little subjective."

And no wonder. If anybody knows about subjective stories, it's someone whose career has been at the CBC. And look what slipping a little opinion into stories did for her?

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