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:

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Decoding Charles Adler and the Tory Three

It was just by fluke that The Black Rod caught the strangest interview on television since the days of Pollock and Pollock.

While switching channels past the nightly infomercials for Ab-Flex, miracle juicers, and girls just waiting for your call, we landed on Global's daily five minutes with Charles Adler.

Catching our eye was his guests---the three candidates for leadership of the Manitoba Consevative Party. Given that he had devoted a segment to them less than a week ago, we wondered why he had them back so soon.

Then we wondered why they were doing the whole show in code.

Luckily, unlike any other insomniacs or masochists watching, we had a code-book handy so that we were able to decipher the discussion.

On the surface, Adler was exploring the positions of his guests on the question of funding private abortion clinics. Ron Schuler had given an interview to The Winnipeg Sun on the topic and Adler had corralled the other candidates to discuss the matter, sort of.

Except that it was like watching a lost episode of Get Smart. We kept waiting for the Cone of Silence to descend.

Given that nobody really cares what this trio thinks about funding abortions at private clinics, you had to wonder what they were doing there. It was apparent that nobody was really talking about what they were talking about.

They were doing their level best to skirt THE WORD THAT DARES NOT SPEAK ITS NAME.

In the entire "discussion" about clinics, funding, federal law, adoption, social supports (eyes glazing over...ed) neither Adler, nor any one of his guests, had the guts to use the word they were so desparate to avoid.


There, we said it.

Adler, who brags about asking the tough questions, twisted himself into a pretzel (and with his body, you know how hard that is) to keep from saying the word. The closest he came was in asking Schuler about "people who" object to abortion.

Yet, for someone who also brags about being an entertainer, Adler went out of his way to avoid an entertaining interview for something exquisitely boring. If he had done his homework, he would have known that Schuler is already fighting an underground smear campaign based on his Christianity---Evangelical.

The drive-by slags have shown up on the blogosphere, always to be squelched asap by commenters who refer to a gentleman's agreement among the candidates not to say anything bad about their opponents.

Ken Waddell, the most outspoken of the Tory leadership candidates, almost let the cat out of the bag when he said he had discussed the abortion issue with his son, who manages his campaign. We listened intently, but Waddell's internal censor stepped in. He never said his son Mike is with Hockey Ministries International and his other son Rob is a counsellor with Youth for Christ.

Better to avoid the C-word, entirely.

Just for the record, Hugh McFadyen, who looked like he would rather gargle razor blades than discuss abortion on television, is a member of the Anglican Church, which, last we knew, was a Christian demonination.

Maybe McFadyen's discomfort had more to do with the fact that his camp was being blamed for the anti-Christian slurs against Schuler and he wishes the issue would go away and not drag him into a scrap that will leave everyone dirty.

Or maybe he and the others are afraid Free Press columnist Frances Russell will get wind that there's Christians running for office and make them stars in her next Christian-bashing column.

While we're not regular viewers of Adler's tiny television moments, we do think Global is missing a bet. Given that they're putting the resources to tape and broadcast the segment, they should run clips of the show on their evening news, just as Entertainment Tonight packages clips of Leno or Letterman.

Global has lately been sending reporters and cameramen to events which don't make the six o'clock news. While there's a benefit to pumping up the late news with original stories (the groundbreaking for a long-delayed Canad Inns hotel in Grand Forks, a fiery committee meeting at the Legislature), they should re-run the pieces on their evening news the next day. A good story not seen is a story gone to waste.

We predicted that Global's move to local news at six would shake up the other stations, starting with CBC. While the first ratings to reflect Global's move have not been published, we note that CBC has begun saturation advertising for its 6 p.m. (and only) newscast. And, as we suggested, they're highlighting their only asset --- Krista Erickson.

Gone is the "team" approach. No mention of the wretched I-Team. Sports reporter Mike Beauregard is obviously not a draw. The ads sell Krista and only Krista.

Which could turn out a risky strategy. Certain birdies --- legal eagles for you ornithologists --- tell us K's fiance Bob Morrison is telling folks he's not long for this burg after they visit Skibo Castle to do their Madonna and Guy Ritchie imitation. He and his soon-to-be Mrs. are flying the coop, he says. To the centre of the universe. Somebody page Peter....

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