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.

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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: black_rod_usher@yahoo.com

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

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 deliberate insert.

Bloggers quickly spotted the story and posted it on the Internet. As the heat rose, CTV quietly rewrote the offending paragraph as if nothing happened. But screen captures of the before and after versions of the CTV.ca story were already circulating and they were CAUGHT REDHANDED.

Some bloggers offered an explanation: Charles Bird, a senior vice-president at Bell Globemedia which owns CTV, is the chairman of the Liberal Party of Canada's Ontario campaign.

But it's a stretch even to imply that Charles Bird could somehow slip anti-Conservative phrases into CTV stories. But someone did. And as far as we know, that someone is still working at CTV.

Until that person is identified, and fired, the reports on CTV.ca must be considered tainted until proven otherwise.

The rapidity by which the offending phrase was discovered and a correction forced on CTV.ca is evidence of the blogophere doing what it does best---filtering out the truth.

This, of course, flies completely over the heads of most mainstream media reporters, even Canwest's designated blog reporter Carly Weeks.

She demonstrated her continuing befuddlement about blogging with her response to the tempest over tasteless comments on a blog run by Mike Klander, the executive vice-president of the Ontario branch of the Liberal Party of Canada. He resigned Monday.

Klander's blog took cheap shots at Olivia Chow, the wife of NDP leader Jack Layton, by comparing her name and picture to a photo of a Chinese dog called a Chow Chow. The NDP got wind of it and fed the story to Toronto Star reporter Bruce Campion-Smith. He contacted Klander for a comment. Spooked, Klander shut down his blog. The Star carried a story about it as a brief in its Election Notebook segment on Dec. 23.

But that's when the blogosphere picked it up. The story went around the country in minutes and the Liberals began getting feedback. It's the bloggers who made this a national story, one that was picked up by the national news media four days later.

They used to say that newspapers published day-old news that had already been reported on television. Now they publish week old news that's been on the blogosphere for days.

Carly Weeks hasn't noticed this. Her take on the story was how bloggers post embarassing comments which can bite them if they ever run for office.

The Winnipeg reporters who've written feeble stories about blogs in the context of the election campaign, Lindor Reynolds and Mary Agnes Welch, ignored the impact of bloggers on the campaign, even though Klander, not content to mock a Chinese-Canadian, also mocked a disabled Canadian, Conservative Party MP Steven Fletcher.

Quadriplegic Conservative MP invites health minister to "take this outside" ... This is funny so stop pretending that its not...stop being so politically correct will you?

We also note that none of the Liberal MPs from Manitoba, especially Anita Neville, has said a word about their fellow Liberal's attitudes toward women and the disabled.

Neville, you will remember, couldn't wait to get out a news release condemning Conservative Brian Pallister for his joke about adopting a "woman's answer" with his refusal to say yes or no whether he would run for the leadership of the provincial Tory party.

"we're trying to engage more women in politics, to be addressed in such a disrespectful, derogatory way is absolutely astounding," she blustered.

You don't think it can't be that she wasn't -- she's not just a cheap politician using the news media to score cheap points because she has nothing to say about anything that truly matters? Nawwww.

Now here's a story that gave us a laugh.

Liberals fighting uphill media battle
CAMPAIGN DECODER
Dec. 27, 2005. 08:59 AM
SUSAN DELACOURT
OTTAWA BUREAU CHIEF

OTTAWA-The federal Liberals, much to some people's surprise, do not have the media advantage as they enter the next half of the campaign.
With the election currently in an on-hold phase, all parties will be reviewing how they are faring in the media coverage to date before the more intense campaigning begins in the new year. Of all parties, the Liberals appear to have the most worries on the media front.
Few would call it an outright media backlash against the governing Liberals. Still, there's a subtle but persistent warning hum for the Liberals emerging in media commentary. Here's just a sampling from the half-time campaign summaries in other news outlets over the past week.
"If anybody has any momentum, however slight at this point, it is the Conservatives. The Liberals seem stalled," CTV's Craig Oliver told his viewers last week.

-----snip----

Susan Delacourt has obviously not been reading the Winnipeg Free Press.

Tuesday's paper was classic.

The Polls. How Volatile is vote? Polls Try to Tell read the headline over the newspaper's weekly poll story. Oh, look, evey poll has the Liberals ahead. Missing, coincidentally, was the Saturday Ispos Reid poll reported in the National Post under the headline: Tories neck and neck with liberals, poll says. One point difference. Conservatives make big gains in Ontario.

The Free Press had a story about Mike Klander's resignation, right next to a banner reading: Stephen Harper's foray into the same sex issue has some Conservative voters reconsidering their support. A11. None too subtle, there.

Especially when you turn to A.11 and find out that the story about " some Conservative voters reconsidering their support" has exactly zero Conservative voters reconsidering their support. Not one. Nada. This is what passes as fair election reporting in the Winnipeg Free Press?

And don't forget the Free Press' take on Newsmaker of the Year. That story appeared just under the Klander story. The Free Press editors picked Justice John Gomery.

"His scathing indictment of the Liberal government under Jean Chretien is basically the reason we will all trudge throught the snow to vote next month," noted assistant deputy editor Margo Goodhand.

Under Jean who? Nice try Margo.

If you paid attention to the facts, you would know that the payoffs and kickbacks took place when Paul Martin was a cabinet member of the Liberal government, before and after Martin was personally asked in writing by a Quebec Liberal official to investigate the dirty dealings (he didn't), and, who was it that lead a standing ovation for Jean Chretien? Uh, oh ya, Paul Martin.

And what Manitoba Liberals were engaged in the coverup of the theft of taxpayers money by Liberal organizers?

Does the name John Harvard ring a bell, Margo? How about Reg Alcock, who claimed Sheila Fraser didn't know what she was talking about, that a "special audit" proved only $13 million was unaccounted for, not $100 million. Maybe you need to trudge to the library and read up on the details of the Liberal kickback scandal, Margo.

And, of course, what's a story about the sleazy Liberal scandals without an attack on Stephen Harper?

"His failure to emerge as a strong decisive leader almost guarantees we will be looking at another minority government," said sports editor Julian Rachey.

That's right, Julian.
It's not Liberal Party corruption that's the issue.
It's not the leadership of the governing party that's rebuilt the fortunes of the separatists in Quebec.
It's not the leadership of the NDP that propped up the party of kickbacks and payoffs.
It's Stephen Harper that's to blame.

We're certain the Free Press braintrust is burning the midnight oil tonight, trying to figure out how they will address the exploding Income Trust scandal coming from the federal Department of Finance. The paper has ignored the story since the election was called, and ran only a single short brief, buried on a back page, when it first emerged a month ago.

Even though Reynolds and Welch couldn't find a blog that had influence on the election, bloggers kept digging into mysterious trades that pointed to a leak from Ralph Goodale's office, and Bourque.com is reporting that the RCMP "informal inquiry" is now a full-fledged criminal investigation.

Maybe Carly Weeks can file a story explaining how the Free Press got scooped by the blogs on a story right under its nose. The Mounties are acting on a complaint from Manitoba MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis. Maybe the Free Press was hoping to ignore it, the same way they ignored the Adscam connections to the 1999 Pan-Am Games and the Dauphin Ukrainian Festival that were raised by another NDP MP, Pat Martin.

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