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Showing posts from December, 2005

Year End Awards and New Year's Greetings

As tradition has it, the year-end is the time to proclaim our Newsmaker of the Year and Story of the Year.

The Black Rod's editorial board was unanimous this year in choosing Manitoba Auditor General Jon Singleton, and his report into the Crocus Investment Fund.

No story had as much impact on Manitobans as the collapse of the Crocus Fund, a house of cards that toppled as soon as Singleton's report unveilled the unvarnished facts.

And how the mighty have fallen.

From a day when a visit from Crocus representatives could intimidate legislators and still criticism in the press to receivership, a class action lawsuit, and an RCMP investigation.

* Tens of thousands of Crocus investors watched the value of their retirement savings evaporate.

* The credibility of the NDP government was shredded.

* The leader of the Opposition admitted he backed down under Crocus pressure, and before year's end, he quit.

* Waves from the collapse extended to the Workers Compensation Board where some of the…

Anatomy of the Yonge Street shooting

Don't you hate it when you're interested in a story but there aren't enough details for you to fully understand what happened?We do.

And like you, we were transfixed by this week's tragedy in Toronto. We know that shots were fired in downtown Toronto as Boxing Day crowds filled the street, a 15-year-old girl was killed, and six people were wounded. Still, we wanted to know more.

So, as an exercise, we trolled for information and tried to put it together a better picture of what transpired on Yonge Street.We know that about 5:19 p.m. shooting broke out in the vicinity of the Footlocker store on the west side of Yonge Street, just south of Elm. Witnesses estimated eight to ten shots were fired. The circumstances of who fired the shots is still murky, so we'll leave that till last.When the firing stopped, one person was dead and six were hurt, two of them critically.

* Since the shooting was centred on Footlocker, we'll start there. Jane Creba, 15, had been shot in …

CTV caught red-handed

It's a case of the worst of the news media and the best of the blogosphere.

Throughout the current election campaign, The Black Rod has been taking the Peter Kent Challenge and monitoring the press, primarily in Winnipeg, for an alleged anti-Conservative bias. But here's a case from a national news service that's so blatant it must be recorded.

Last week the Conservatives objected to a Liberal attack ad that used a photo of Tory leader Stephen Harper speaking with BQ leader Gille Duceppe to imply they are colluding against Canada and only the Liberals can save the country.

CTV.ca carried a story about the row-a story that included this paragraph.

"But Harper stopped short Friday of vowing his party would avoid negative campaigning in its bid to mislead the public in his bid to form a Conservative government. "Anything we will be saying in this campaign will be factual and accurate. I can't promise it will all be pretty."

This wasn't a typo. It was a…

CTV WINNIPEG TO GLOBAL: BRING IT ON

Christmas week, and especially Christmas Day, are long known as "slow" news days - that is reporters and their editors coast to their days off with plenty of year-end reviews in the can, the obligatory Santa, weather and shopping mall stories dominating what passes for coverage, and reporters and columnists trolling for stories of human despair and hope, whatever makes the front page or gets on the air.

But yesterday may have been the last time we will see the long-standing Christmas truce between Winnipeg newsrooms hold.

All-out war is about to break loose in the local TV market in the coming ratings period, because of a shift in the schedule that will see all 4 local newscasts compete in the 6 PM slot for a dwindling viewership.

And as we all know, in every war, there are winners, and losers.

Last week Global revealed that in March, they will flip-flop their news block, moving their national broadcast with Kevin Newman to the 5.30 PM slot and the local newscast to 6 PM.

It is n…

A Holiday 12-Pack of Election News You Haven't Read in the Papers

Turncoat MP Belinda Stronach features in two election stories that ran in the local dailies Thursday.

In the story that appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press, she was the centrepiece.

In the story that appeared in the Winnipeg Sun, she was not mentioned. Only readers who knew the entire story from the blogosphere knew of her role in it.

Yet these two stories speak volumes to readers about the newspaper election coverage they're getting.

The coveted Page One spot above the fold went to Free Press reporter Paul Samyn for his national exclusive about the trouble Belinda Stronach was in. He reported that the Elections Canada is "reviewing" her 2004 campaign for breaking the law on spending limits.

For a Liberal cabinet minister responsible for her party's democratic renewal policy, this is more than embarassing, especially during another election campaign. She denies she's being "investigated or probed" (her word, not ours, honest.)

Samyn, the Free Press co…

Exhibit 'E' - "No Media Bias" story backfires due to bias

The last place you would expect to find bias in the media is in a story about bias in the media.

You'd think the reporter and editors would be doubly careful about anything that would even hint at a bias.

You would be wrong.

The Winnipeg Free Press has been stung by The Black Rod's stories citing its reporters and editors in the Peter Kent Challenge. Last week the paper decided to address the issue in a circuitous manner--by printing a story that says the Canadian public believes the news media coverage of the election is fair and honest. So there.

The story was headlined "Most Canadians think media giving it straight." Written by Canadian Press reporter Stephen Thorne, it was a story carried across the country.

But today, reporter Stephen Thorne and Canadian Press become Exhibit E of The Black Rod's continuing Peter Kent Challenge.

Thorne bases his story on an online poll being conducted by Decima Research, with the help of Carleton University School of Journalism and…

CTV crime reporter uncovers entrepreneurs

Mayor Sam Katz owes a debt of gratitude to CTV Crimewatch reporter Kelly Dehn.

And, no, its not because of the three-time losers that Dehn profiles on his cheesy Winnipeg's Most Wanted bits.

The mayor owes Kelly Dehn for making it so easy to sell Winnipeg to potential investors and new businesses. No wonder Katz has no use for the Chamber of Commerce plan to hire a "chief marketing officer" for the city.

Last month, half the reporters in town showed up at a fire at Young's Trading Company on William Avenue. They covered the obvious angles: smoke blanketing downtown, a school evacuated, a cornerstone of the community lost.

But Dehn slipped away from the pack and did a little digging and came up with a juicy exclusive---there was more than cinders in Young's basement, there was cash, bags of it, two or three hundred pounds of long green to the tune of two or three million dollars.

Think about it. The owner of a grocery store in the Inner City has life savings of n…

Holy Cow Blogman! How did The Black Rod become Exhibit 'D'??

While preparing the latest chapter of the Peter Kent Challenge for The Black Rod we were thrown a curve by the Winnipeg Free Press.

They discovered the blogosphere.

Will wonders never cease? we cried aloud.

But can a leopard change its spots?

The newspaper's exploration of the world of election blogging was as clueless (to be charitable) and unbalanced (to be realistic) as Peter Kent predicted when he challenged journalism schools to monitor election coverage.

Still, not even we could imagine today's topic: The Peter Kent Challenge---Exhibit D: The Black Rod.

What??? Waitaminit!!! Us????

Calm down, we told ourselves. There's a logical answer.

The Free Press made two journeys this week into the world of blogging.

"...the battle for the hearts, minds and support of a new generation of voters is increasingly being fought not on the doorstep but in cyberspace. Blogs are the fresh medium and they're proving to be a freewheeling, enteraining method of spreading the wo…

Free Press and CBC play name games

Say it ain't so. We refuse to believe that the Winnipeg Free Press has a double standard when it comes to naming names.

Despite the evidence.

Anyone who read deep enough in Friday's paper saw that Maple Leaf Distillers is suing reporters and editors at the Free Press. But who is being sued?

The newspaper won't say.

That's right, the paper that professes to be so dedicated to naming names refuses to name its own.

It doesn't take a mentallist to figure out who is being sued by Maple Leaf.

Dan Lett, who wrote the six-page opus about Maple Leaf, editor Bob Cox, city editor Steve Pona... shall we go on?

But the paper isn't always so reticent to identify people.

For example, the FP has gone to court to overturn a ban on publication of the names of eight police officers accused of beating three men.

The men -- let's name them: Marc Fillion, Larry Stringer, and Alex Chung - filed a LERA complaint which was being heard in court until the judge decided t…

Does Grand Forks hole foretell Bombers bottomless pit?

We're betting your momma told you the simplest way to test something past its best-before date is---smell it.

Maybe that's why we decided to take a closer look at the latest story in the Free Press about a hotel and water park complex planned by Canad Inns for Grand Forks.

This deal has smelled bad for a long time. And when the Free Press said it smelled roses, we thought we needed to sniff around some more.

Good thing we did.

The story that ran Dec.2 in the Free Press was headlined "Ground broken in U.S. for Canad Inns complex." It was by Tu-Uyen Tran who's been following the project tenaciously for the Grand Forks Herald.

He wrote: "Grand Forks, N.D. --- Construction on a much-anticipated $30 million US Canad Inns hotel and waterpark in Grand Forks, N.D. has begun. Yesterday, excavators began digging a hole in the area immediately north of the city-owned Alerus Centre where the new complex is going to be built."

Now it just happens that Tran wrote…

It doesn't take Kreskin to figure out what's going on here

When Peter Kent challenged journalism schools to monitor news coverage of the federal election for an anti-Conservative slant, it didn't get much attention. Certainly not in Winnipeg, and this weekend is a prime example why.

The Winnipeg Sun continues to let the Toronto Sun do almost all of its election coverage. It also sees nothing wrong with putting a columnist's opinion pieces among its news stories. But what do you call it when a newspaper carries a gimmick item allowing two columnists to slag the Conservatives at the same time?

On Sunday, the newspaper carried a wire-story about the get-tough anti-crime plank in the Conservative Party campaign. That was overshadowed by the full page devoted to fringe parties, plus something headlined Blackberry Battle.

In the latter, Sun columnists Greg Weston, who has decided he doesn't like the Tory campaign, and Sheila Copps, the former Liberal cabinet minister, exchange attacks on Stephen Harper. This is roughly equivalent to ha…

Gang Invasion footprints lead to "the new inner city" - River Heights

Once upon a time, newspaper reporters considered themselves representatives of their readers when they attended public meetings.

Their stories were expected to put you in the front row. As you read, you could see, hear and smell everything that happened in the room without having been there. That style of reporting can still be found outside the big city, especially at election time. In Brandon, Portage, Dauphin, a story about an election meeting is meaty; in Winnipeg, it's thin gruel.

Nature hates a vacuum. And it won't be long before bloggers step up to fill the void. Citizen journalists will do the job that those currently paid fail to do. The Black Rod was recently introduced to this future by one citizen journalist who went to the nomination meeting in Winnipeg South where Rod Bruinooge and Sandy Mackenzie faced off over who would carry the Conservative Party banner against Liberal incumbent Reg Alcock.

And the story he tells should have the so-called professionals han…

Exhibit C - a story about voters with no real voters

We were going to pass on The Peter Kent Challenge today.

The Winnipeg Sun managed to squeeze in a tiny story about the RCMP review of suspicions that someone in government circles leaked the finance minister's plans for income trusts to the benefit of Liberal-friendly investors. Although the newspaper apparently couldn't find the Manitoba MP who took a complaint to the RCMP, NDP finance critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis, and settled for a wire copy story that barely mentions her, instead of an old-fashioned interview with the local angle.

Still, it ran under the Canada Votes banner and was an attempt at balanced coverage, the first hint in the nascent campaign, dominated so-far by attacks on Stephen Harper, that the Liberals have their own scandals to answer.

And the paper did move the latest anti-Harper column by Greg Weston to the editorial pages instead of pretending, as they did Tuesday, that it was "news". So, overall, we were going to give them a bye.

The Free Press main …

Free Press crime, Bruinooge primed, email time...

Newspapers usually love an exclusive, but the Winnipeg Free Press's new editor Bob Cox decided there was one scoop he didn't want to see in the paper.

So it's been kiboshed--- until today.

A man is in hospital following a vicious beating by a gang of intruders right in the cafeteria of the Free Press building on Mountain Avenue.

And the question circulating through the corporate offices yesterday was "how could this happen? Where was our night security when this was going on?"

The beating happened Sunday night/Monday morning. A Free Press mailroom employee was getting a ride to his early morning shift, and they pulled into the parking lot with another car in hot pursuit.
They dashed into the building to get away from the men chasing them. The employee knew the nooks and crannies of the building but his driver wasn't as lucky.
The gang of men that followed caught up to the driver and put the boots to him until they got tired of the sport and skidaddled the s…

The Peter Kent Challenge: Exhibit B

Winnipeg journalism students taking the Peter Kent Challenge had a wealth of material to work with on day two of the federal election campaign.

Newcomers to the Challenge can always catch up by reading The Black Rod's first day coverage to see how we assessed Kent's contention that mainstream broadcasters and daily newspapers slant their coverage to the detriment of the Conservatives in elections.

The Black Rod, helpful as ever, now adds to the Challenge with Exhibit B: The Winnipeg Sun.

The Sun carried three election stories Wednesday under the banner Canada Votes.
Three stories, three headlines.

One, over a story by Stephanie Rubec, the Toronto Sun's senior political reporter, reads "Martin's first punch".

A second, over a story by Kathleen Harris, of the Toronto Sun's Ottawa Bureau, reads "Race is 'wide open': Layton."

And the last, over a story datelined Ottawa by Toronto Sun columnist Greg Weston, reads "Into the Pothole" with th…