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:

Friday, April 07, 2006

Newsrooms ignore Singleton's red flag; The new Met; Vardalos movie news

The major press in town was in such a hurry to get Auditor General Jon Singleton and his gumshoes off their backs, that they choked when it came to reporting on his latest presentation to the Legislature.

Singleton unleashed two private investigators to find out who leaked his report on the Workers Compensation Board before it was officially submitted Jan. 17th.

They sniffed around and concluded the Printing shop was as good a suspect as any.

The local T.V. stations and the papers, most of which got a copy of the leaked report, reported as much, with the Freep taking it a step further and getting a strong denial from the Printer.

What they all ignored was that Manitoba's chief watchdog didn't bark; he coughed.

Look at this timeline in the Auditor's own report:

Based on information available, the time period in which an unauthorized release may have occurred was defined to be between January 12 and January 16, 2006.

...comments and details related to the WCB Report (were) posted on a "blog" website, known as "The Black Rod". Comments were posted on the blog at 10:07 a.m. on January, 16, 2006 and predicted some contents of the WCB Report. The blog is operated by a person or persons unknown.

A malfunction of the alarm system protecting the OAG occurred overnight on Sunday, January 15, 2006.Members of the Winnpeg media had possession of the WCB Report on Monday, January 16, 2006.

Whoops. Back up there, sport.

The alarm system wasn't working? Where? In the auditor's offices?

And you're blaming the Printer?

While we're charmed to see the Auditor acknowledge we scooped the city on his report, we still have a few questions. Like, why blame the printer?

Apparently, CTV News showed its copy of the leaked report on their 6 p.m. newscast Jan. 16. The auditor general's office thinks it saw some "printers registration marks" on the television report.

An example of the WCB Report provided to investigators on January 17, 2006, by the operations manager at the Printer appears to exhibit printer registration marks that duplicate those on the WCB Report shown on the CTV newscast.

The graphic designer stated he is a graphic artist with specialized software training and that a computer programmer without such training would probably not be capable or recreating the registration marks due to the specialized software knowledge required.

The use of these weasel words caught our attention. It's not exactly a smoking gun here.

In fact, we're more interested that the alarm at the auditor's office malfunctioned -- just by amazing coincidence, the night before the report leaked out.

Singleton says it was no big deal.

A malfunction of the alarm system protecting the OAG occurred overnight on Sunday, January 15, 2006. However the alarm continued to function and only the ability to disarm the alarm was affected. Repairs to the alarm system were implemented immediately on Monday, January 16, 2006. There was no compromise to the security of the OAG or to the computer systems of the OAG.

And, of course...

There is no evidence that the WCB Report was inappropriately copied, reproduced or otherwise distributed within or from the office of the OAG.

Well, there really is no evidence that the WCB Report was copied, reproduced or otherwise distributed from the printer's, either.

We'd feel more at ease if Singleton provided more details about the faulty alarm.

Like, who discovered it wasn't working? When was it discovered? Whose job was it to set the alarm?
If the alarm "continued to function", can you say there was "a malfunction" of the alarm system?
Did the alarm go off? Is that how you came to discover you couldn't disarm the alarm? Who set the alarm off?

Singleton says it doesn't matter because "The printer registration marks in the software owned by the OAG do not have the same appearance as the printer registration marks on the WCB Report shown by CTV."

But the same report says "Printers registration marks can be re-installed or created on material downloaded from the web."

The goverment made no comment about the Auditor dismissing his own office as a source of the leak. More telling is the fact they are still going to do business with the print shop.


A Winnipeg Sun story on Tuesday declared "The historic Metropolitan theatre is on the verge of being transformed into a music mecca." (Will 'Peg be rock central? Apr.4, 2006, Ross Romaniuk)

Reporter Romaniuk linked Winnipeg biggies Hartley Richardson, Leonard Asper and Leo Ledohowski to the multi-million dollar project to turn the dilapidated Met into a "Canuck rock 'hall of fame' attraction."

Diane Bampton, chief executive with Centreventure, confirmed the project, while Asper said he wasn't "qualified" to talk about it. But city hall "sources" who wanted to remain unnamed said plans could be revealed "within weeks."

Why wait? We have our sources, too. And they've already revealed some of the exciting details.

The Metropolitan is going to be turned into a "rock and roll destination centre." (Leo loves to say "destination centre.")

There will be less emphasis on a "hall of fame" than originally floated. The Met will become a club, complete with a dance floor and stage for live acts. Dining tables will fill the balcony and part of the main floor. There will be a rooftop bar.

The remodelling will extend to the one-storey building to the south of the Met. which will be the museum, and which will have the most modern video screens to project performers and videos onto the street.

But its the restoration work that will knock your socks off. The lobby and front will be returned to the glory days of the Allan Theatre which predated the Metropolitan movie theatre.

Free Press owner Bob Silver knows more about the Met re-development than Leonard Asper, and now he'll have to explain to editor Bob Cox and publisher Andrew Richie why they got scooped on their own story.


And while we're in the entertainment may have read that Tom Hanks will be starring in a movie based on an unpublished novel titled How Starbucks Save My Life. It's the true story of an older ad executive who was downsized and had to start over working in a coffee shop.

But has anyone put two and two together and noticed that this is the plot of the movie Talk of theTown that former Winnipegger Nia Vardalos is writing for Hanks. It was all the news in February, and forgotten in March.

Can't wait to see Brad Pitt in The Assassination of Jesse James, the movie partially shot in Winnipeg last year? Well, Script Zone Forums have an early review of the script. It can be read here

Reviewer Frederick J. Chiaventone says:

We can only hope that the drones at Warner Brothers don't have fears of Brad Pitt's image, already somewhat tarnished by the Jennifer Anniston / Angelina Jolie issue, being further damaged by playing a thoroughly unpleasant character.

Look for the finished film to appear in theaters sometime in November of 2006. If both Dominik and Pitt hold true to their vision of Jesse James we are in for a film which will be well worth the time and effort.

And, finally, regardless of the hometown boosters, we see just how much of a hicktown Winnipeg is. Winnipeg's Imax Theatre has finally converted to allow the showing of 3-D movies. The biggest 3-D movie ever, the new Superman movie Superman Returns will debut June 30, but, according to the Winnipeg Free Press, it won't be shown in 3-D here.

Because of a unique ownership situation, Winnipeg's Imax can't show the movie in 3-D until it completes its 2-D run in the city.

"It's a jurisdictional issue," says Chad Stott , operations manager of the Imax Theatre in the Portage Place Mall. Stott, said he didn't see Superman Returns playing at Imax until September, three months after its opening. Explained the FP yesterday:

In most Canadian cities, Imax theatres are owned by Cineplex, which bought the Famous Players chain in 2005. But Winnipeg's has been owned for all its 18 years by the Forks-North Portage Partnership. For decades the major exhibitors and distributors have had a business arrangement that precludes small competitors.

When it opens in 85-90 Imax Theatres across North America, Superman Returns will be as revolutionary as the first talking picture. We'll hear about it on Entertainment Tonight. We'll read about it in the papers from the big cities. But like the smallest of small towns, we won't be part of the revolution for months.

The big movie studios see people aren't going to the movies anymore. They wait to see their movies on cable TV or DVD. So Warner Brothers Pictures plans to give them something they will never be able to see in their homes.

Superman Returns will be the first ever live-action Hollywood feature to be converted from 2D to IMAX 3D. Three or four sections of "Superman", totaling 20 minutes, will be projected in 3-D. A visual cue will indicate when audiences should put on and remove their IMAX 3D glasses (paging Count Floyd).

If it works, it will be a first step toward converting entire live-action films to 3-D.

Nobody is supposed to tell which scenes are in 3-D to keep the surprise, but Greg Foster, Chairman and President of IMAX Filmed Entertainment, may have let something slip.

"We are thrilled that moviegoers will be able to experience Bryan Singer's unique and exhilarating vision. Through the magic of IMAX 3D, they will feel as if they are actually flying alongside the man of steel, weaving in and out of Metropolis."

In 1977, the original Superman movie said you would believe a man can fly. If the 2-D to 3-D process works the way it's designed, in 2006 you'll believe you can fly.

If you're waiting for the Superman movie, you can see the trailer at:

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