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:

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

War is Hell, say Parliament Hill reporters


Don't adjust your monitor. That's just the whine of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

It seems the reporters in Ottawa are having a group hissy fit over the way Stephen Harper is treating them. Poor babies.

They've been writing non-stop about the horror their lives have become with the defeat of the Liberal Party. They always preface their whine with a comment that "maybe the public doesn't care, but ..."

Memo to the Parliamentary Press Gallery: There is no 'but.'

The public doesn't care.
Full stop.

Shut the (but ...) up and do your jobs.

We all know what hell its been on Parliament Hill since the Conservatives moved in. Stephen Harper won't let you mob his cabinet ministers and screech questions in their faces while hurling microphones at their heads. He won't let you decide in advance who gets to ask questions. He thinks he can just select reporters from the pack, does he?

Oh, the humanity. The humanity.

But you don't understand, whined Winnipeg Free Press reporter Paul Samyn last Sunday

"as a proxy for you, the reader, who doesn't get to ask questions of those in power, I think your interests are also in play in the escalating communications war between the press and the Prime Minister's office."

Hey, Paul ... We're not at war with the PM. Interesting choice of words there... isn't the goal of a war to defeat the enemy? (Bias? What bias? No bias here. Move on. Nothing to see here.)

And, Paul. We withdrew our proxy long ago.

Maybe it was about the time you, as the vox populi, decided it was imperative for the electorate to know the thoughts of Kreskin the Mentalist instead of doing a single story about the income trust scandal that was consuming the Liberals' fortunes.

We had to read the blogs to get details of the income trust scandal because you felt Kreskin was more important. It took months before we found out that Liberal cabinet minister Scott Brison was tipping off his close personal pals in the banking industry with here a wink, there a wink, everywhere a nudge, nudge. You'd think Kreskin would have known.

Or was it the time you did that puff piece interview with Governor General Michaelle Jean and never once asked her about Bruce Vallance, the war vet wounded in a bombing by the FLQ in their terror campaign for independence to which our new head of state drank a toast and cheered.

Samyn wants credit for the Press Gallery for electing the Conservatives by media coverage of the sponsorship scandal.

Uh, Paul, did the name Sheila Fraser slip your mind?

The Parliamentary Press Gallery tiptoed around the sponsorship scandal for a couple of years without writing a single story that had the impact of Captain Ed Morrisey and his blog exclusive on the explosive testimony of Jean Brault.

Isn't it funny how none of the stories by members of the Press Gallery ever mention a reason for Stephen Harper to distrust them?

If their glee at his "awkward" handshake with his son wasn't enough, then maybe it was their glee at the partisan protests that followed the defection of David Emerson.

Isn't it strange that the stories about those protests have died off now that the ethics commissioner agreed with Stephen Harper that he had no business investigating normal political manoevering?

We find it more telling that the reporters never talk about the role of the press in the last election campaign.

- Remember the press consensus that the public didn't want a winter election? And would punish the party that forced one?

- This was followed by the press consensus that an election was unnecessary because the result would be the same as the last election.

- Then came the press consensus that the public didn't think Adscam was such a big deal and the Conservatives weren't making any headway against the Liberals.

- Then the press consensus that the income trust scandal wasn't worth talking about during the election campaign.

- And finally, the press consensus that the income trust scandal was the turning point of the election.

And there's so much more.

Remember the infamous attack ads run by the Liberals?

* Well who do we find as the Liberal's director of advertising? Jack Fleishman, senior producer at Report on Business TV, which is owned by the Globe and Mail.

* CTV president Ivan Fecan was helping organize Liberal fundraisers in the days before corporate donations were made illegal. In 2000, he chaired an annual dinner held by the federal Liberal party where he gave a speech that a writer for the National Post described as "a passionate personal testament about why he is a big Liberal."

* Lower on the news media food chain, was Charlie Bird, a lobbyist for Bell Globemedia, CTV's parent company, who turned up the campaign chairman for the Liberals in Ontario and who fed the Globe more than one front page story.

* Did they forget CBC reporter-turned-Liberal-spokesthingy Susan Murray and her passionate expletive laden defence of the Libs on Mike Duffy TV?The CBC is in the thick of the "war" with Harper.

The day the Conservative unveilled their Accountability Act, CBC reporter Keith Boag led his report with how much his nose was out of joint at Harper's treatment of the press. Old school reporters would have simply reported the details of the Act, but obviously the feelings of the Press Gallery take precedence over mere legislation.

We all know what the CBC thinks of the Conservatives. If you need a refresher, just go to The Black Rod's story about CBC employee blogs during the lockout when they wrote freely about their political leanings.

Then there were the infamous "honest mistakes."

Let's see...

* There was the cropped cartoon of Stephen Harper that made it look as if he was giving a Nazi salute. It was on the CBC home page on the Net and formed the icon that lead to a section of editorial cartoons. The CBC pulled it after getting complaints.

CBC spokeswoman Ruth-Ellen Soles said: "It was a crop that someone didn't like, but there sure was nothing meant by it."

* That was followed by an animated cartoon depicting Stephen Harper as Dr. Frankenstein and Peter McKay as Igor. A viewer described it this way:

Harper takes MacKay to a metal cylinder and a door opens revealing a Harper clone. "I brought you here to show you this," said the cartoon Harper."He is rigid, cold and completely devoid of life. I can't see a different, can you see a difference?" said the cartoon MacKay, looking into the camera.

A real kneeslapper.

* Then came the Harper-Heil graphic. Right after the election, the National carried a graphic with the word HEIL beneath a shot of a Stephen Harper election sign. Oops, said the CBC. Honest mistake. They offered a complicated and fantastic explanation of why it happened without explaining why it never happens to any of the other party leaders.

The Globe and Mail carried a story "'Press unions condemn Harper for limiting access" <.'">>.'

"Canada's two biggest media unions are condemning Prime Minister Stephen Harper for what they call 'undemocratic' and 'frightening' attempts to limit journalists' access to cabinet ministers."

But it was left to former CBC reporter Larry Zolf, writing on the CBC webpage, to say what everyone is thinking.

Harper's treatment of the media is that of an ingrate. The media made Harper. The media also first made Trudeau and Mulroney. Later, the media made both Trudeau and Mulroney and their parties suffer at the polls. A similar fate awaits Harper if he doesn't change his basic suspicion and hatred of reporters and news commentators. That's clear enough.

The Parliamentary Press Gallery has now manufactured a reason to attack Stephen Harper's government. Reporters in Cuba, in China, in Zimbabwe know what "frightening attempts to limit journalists' access" really are.

(Now maybe their definitions are too loose; after all they are only being kidnapped, used for target practice and held for questioning by military dictatorships.)

The reporters in those countries can honestly complain about press accessibility.

The reporters in Canada are looking for an excuse to attack a new government which is proving popular with the public despite everything the reporters have thrown at them.

Perhaps Samyn and his brethren-in-arms can resume, as was suggested, doing their jobs and find, say, a national story with Winnipeg connections. Of course there is one out there, but once again, Bruce Vallance is involved.

A week ago he sent an email to a select few people (including Charles Adler and this blog) about an idea going around the country right now in a chain e-mail.

"By word of mouth, press, TV -- let's make Canada on every Friday a sea of red much like a homecoming football game in the bleachers ... Our idea of showing solidarity and support for our troops with dignity and respect starts this Friday -and continues each and every Friday until the troops all come home ."

April 14th, Good Friday, was also the inaugural Red Friday. Now there's a story the PMO may even comment on -- if someone asks politely.

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