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, April 05, 2006

Lisa Saunders sings topical pop while Bob Cox sings the news blues

While the mainstream papers go ga-ga over Juno host Pamela Anderson and her ta-tas, The Black Rod would like to tip our ha-ha-hat to Citi-TV host Lisa Saunders and her performance at the second-annual Brewno's.

The Brewno's, for the few of you who don't know, is Winnipeg's off-the-cuff counter programming to the Juno's. It's held Juno weekend at the Regal Beagle (aka the pub at the Ramada Marlborough Hotel).

The lovely-and-talented Lisa sings and plays keyboard in the pop band Arbra Hill. In a rare live appearance, they performed three songs Saturday with Lisa showing she's as comfortable in front of a mike as she is in front of a camera.

One song, she announced, was about Robert Latimore. This was not what we expected. The lyrics go something like: "I saw the house/ It was a bloody mess/ I saw the bones/ that rotted on the chair." Funny, we expected something a bit lighter from a band that practices in a lingerie store. (Whew. Is it hot in here? - ed)

Saunders' Citi-TV colleagues (calling Glen Kirby), didn't show up to show support. Somehow we think the old A-Channel crowd would have been there in force.

Almost as entertaining as Arbra Hill this weekend was the column by the new editor of the Winnipeg Free Press, Bob Cox. He was addressing the paper's new magazine-style front page which has apparently left readers divided.

"Simply put, we stopped putting news stories on our front page" wrote Cox.

The readers have known that for months, starting about the time the FP began shoehorning news stories onto the obituary pages. Cox could have used an editor for his column. Maybe then he wouldn't have started by insulting the audience. Bad move, Bob.

"I bristle when people say that they don't read the paper because there is nothing in it. My first response is that they don't know what they are talking about."

We suggest you start listening to people read the Saturday paper. It's the fattest of the week. Here's what it sounds like in a reader's home on Saturday:


That's pages turning in a frantic search for -- what's it called again? - news.

You're right Bob. Fewer and fewer people read your product.

The circulation of the Winnipeg Free Press has plummetted 23 percent in 12 years, from an average daily circulation of 164,000 in 1992 to 125,000 today.

You say there's a disconnect between what readers see as news and what editors see. Well, who's responsible for the disastrous choices on the front page of the Free Press for the past few years?

"You will know a lot more by looking at our front page than you would in the past."
How hard can that be? Three stories a day and the fluffiest got the biggest play.

News stories buried (Crocus), missed (Crocus, O'Learygate), or misreported (
Crocus,O'Learygate, Katzbury House). And the editors get a raise. Who's responsible Bob?

"You can get the basic facts quickly, then choose if you want the full version elsewhere in the paper. I call it a point and click approach."

Hey, Bob. It's called a headline. We're pretty sure it's been tried somewhere before.

For the record, we thought the first new "point and click" front page was eye-catching. It's different, and, who knows, maybe it will catch on. It's obviously a work in progress with the layout changing daily.

But there's only so much baloney you can sling.

People are abandoning the newspaper because you stopped printing news stories and replaced them with "soft features."

On April 1st, the same day of the defence of the paper's relevance to readers, page 1 of the City and Business/B section was dominated by a story about a clown convention (surprisingly it is not being held in the editorial offices on Mountain Avenue), the pink coin going into circulation, and Gord Sinclair rambling on about the Aspers, or as readers put it, "that old news".

Conspiciously absent from Cox's column was the dreaded 'b' word.

You're getting your ass kicked by citizen reporters, aka bloggers.

We noticed you didn't mention The Black Rod in your story about the auditor general's report into the leak of his report on Workers Compensation. Funny, 'cause Singleton did.

It couldn't be because we scooped you on the leak, could it?
Maybe not, since almost everybody scooped you that day.

The news about the Aspers moving to Toronto (David, at least) was first reported weeks ago by Toronto Star writer Antonia Zerbisias on her blog

Zerbisias is a dyed in the wool, hardcore liberal but she's confident enough to link to blogs she disagrees with and to break stories with an unrepentant liberal spin. Good for her. Bad for the Freep -- which got scooped by yet another blog, and only chased the Asper story when it was rehashed in Toronto Life mag.

You have a story today about Los Montoneros, the puppet club of the Bandidos motorcycle club. Congratulations.

We've been writing about them for almost a year from their formation, to the first time they showed their colours, to their recent flexing of their muscles. We even asked how long it would be before the mainstream media picked up on the news.

We got our answer---seven days, and only when the police held a news conference.

That's the primary source of news for Free Press reporters, don'cha know.

We're wondering how long it will take before the Free Press picks up on the story of the baby killed in Norway House , or when the paper will discover the native commentators far better than any of their regular columnists.

Here's a hint. Call a blogger. Point and click.

The timing is appropriate. It has been one year since the Minnesota-based blog, Captain's Quarters, unified the Canadian blogosphere when Captain Ed
ran the banned Gomery testimony on his blog, and over a million Canadians clicked on to see what they were missing in their local newspapers.

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