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:

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Peter Kent Challenge - Free Press provides exhibit A

When veteran broadcaster Peter Kent announced he was running for office as a candidate for the Conservative Party, he threw down a gauntlet. Not for his Liberal Party challenger in the Toronto riding of St. Paul's.

For journalism schools.

Kent, the former host of CBC's national newscast and later Global TV's national newscast, said he sees political bias creeping into television and radio reporting and certainly in the news pages. And that bias favours the Liberals at the expense of the Conservatives every time.

He challenged j-schools to do an election study to examine his allegations. Of course he recognized that most journalism school teachers are small L liberals, themselves. Maybe that's why we haven't heard which schools took up his challenge. If any.

But The Black Rod is up for it and we'll be the guide to any students from Red River or the University of Winnipeg who are game for The Peter Kent Challenge.

With the election announced on Monday, we didn't have to wait long for our first example of the type of reporter that Kent is warning about.

Exhibit A: Paul Samyn.

In a Page One story in Tuesday's Winnipeg Free Press, Samyn delivers the newspaper's overview of the election announced the day before.

But wait...There's something missing.

Oh, okay. There it is. IN PARAGRAPH EIGHTEEN.

ON THE JUMP PAGE inside the paper.

Samyn couldn't find room to mention the GOMERY REPORT until deep, deep in his story even though he admits it was "the trigger for the fall of the Martin government..."

But he did find plenty of space to slip a Liberal bias into his story before having to type the G-word.

The Free Press' Ottawa reporter begins with a cliche, always a good start.

"Canadians will be plunged...into a snow-shovelling, mud-throwing campaign..."

Plunged? The build-up to the non-confidence vote couldn't have been more telegraphed. Why the negative verb? Could the next sentence be a clue?

"The first federal winter campaign in almost 25 years will be launched despite the opinions of many Canadians who have said they do not want to see politicians at their doors at Christmastime."

Did you catch it? The subtle pitch of a Liberal Party campaign talking point. "...despite the opinions of many Canadians..." Many Canadians? What about the many Canadians who want an election. Why the emphasis on the "many" that allegedly don't?

Oh, here's why, right out of the mouth of Liberal leader Paul Martin:

"A general election, one forced over the holidays by the three opposition parties, will be held on Monday January 23rd."

'Unwanted election' talking point. Check.

Samyn's next paragraph is equally as subtle, depicting the "fragile government" of the Liberals as victims, "unable to survive" a non-confidence motion. Boo hoo.

And look, he says, now that an election is a certainly, the opposition parties have ganged up on the Liberals, resulting in nastiness. Bad parties. Bad.

The story meanders for another nine paragraphs on the front page, then is continued on Page Four. Another four paragraphs precede the first mention of the Gomery report which, we are told, "portrayed a trail of corruption within the Liberal party's Quebec wing."

Portrayed? Not revealed or exposed, but portrayed.

Even the Free Press editorial stated outright that the party "used organized theft and kickbacks to win power". The editorial writer notes that Judge John Gomery uncovered "the theft of some $100 million from the public treasury.." But, to Samyn, the judge's report "portrayed" a trail of corruption, which prodded the NDP to pull its support from "what they too called a corrupt government."

Samyn can't find room in his story for any details about this so-called corrupt government. because he has to let Liberal Reg Alcock boast that he is "enormously proud of what we have done (to repond to the sponsorship scandal)..." Still no details, which are obviously something that only gets in the way of a good story.

And it only delays the prediction, on the first day of the campaign, from Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, that "the question is will it be a Liberal minority or a Liberal majority."

Gee. Day One and Paul Samyn has already declared a winner. And it's---awww, you peeked.

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