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:

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Rather leaves, Cox says sorry, Taz fogs and more

He was the man who launched a thousand blogs.

Nay. Ten thousand.

Dan Rather got the formal boot out the door at CBS yesterday. Nothing personal. Best of luck on your future endeavours. Now, scram.

Since his foiled attempt to cause the defeat of George W. Bush in the presidential election of 2004 by using forged documents in a smear story, Rather has been persona non grata where he was once worshipped as a superstar.

We wondered how the mainstream media would treat the scandal, that will forever be known as Rathergate, in their career post mortems. Gingerly, it turned out --- except for one news outlet.

Washington Post/Reuters
...And it was Rather's small but visible role in the reporting of the now-discredited story on President Bush's National Guard service that put a cloud over the latter stages of his career.

It was also his large role in attacking the critics of the story who were proved right.

New York Times
Representatives for Mr. Rather and CBS had been talking since at least 2003 about when he might end his time in the anchor chair with Mr. Rather preferring to set a date of March 9, 2006, which would have been his 25th anniversary in the job. But his hand was effectively forced in the fall of 2004 when the network backed away from a report Mr. Rather had done for "60 Minutes II" that sought to raise new questions about President Bush's Vietnam-era National Guard service. Network officials said then that they could not authenticate documents that underpinned the report.

Nevermind that real reporters would authenticate documents before going to air with a story based on them.

Los Angeles Times
According to network sources, the decision to end CBS' relationship with Rather was not directly tied to the furor that erupted in fall 2004, when he reported a story that questioned President Bush's service in the Texas Air Guard.

Rather eventually apologized for the reporting flaws in the piece, which an independent panel determined as based on unsubstantiated documents. He stepped down from the anchor desk in March 2005. While network executives believe the news division has largely recovered from the controversy, the incident shadowed Rather's reputation after 44 years at the network.

Don't mention that he has repudiated his apology since.

Washington Post/Tom Shales (emphasis ours)
As most of those who follow such events know, Rather was removed as anchor of the "CBS Evening News" a year short of his 25th anniversary after the airing of an apparently flawed "60 Minutes II" report on George W. Bush's alleged special treatment while in the Texas National Guard. Rather was the correspondent on that report. One producer lost her job, others are suing

Apparently? The report was based wholly on forged documents.

Last year, he stepped down as anchor of the network's evening newscast after controversy erupted over a 60 Minutes report that raised questions about President George W. Bush's military service record.

After the report was broadcast, CBS acknowledged that it could not verify all of the information presented on the program."...could not verify all of the information..."

How about 'used false documents which were detected within hours by people not employed by CBC.'

Associated Press
NEW YORK -- Dan Rather, the hard-charging anchor who dominated CBS News for more than two decades but whose final months were clouded by a discredited story on the U.S. president's military service, is leaving CBS after 44 years, the network announced Tuesday...
Rather apparently hadn't even seen the report questioning Bush's Vietnam-era National Guard service before introducing it on the air in September 2004. When CBS News couldn't substantiate the story following questions about its sources, Rather became a symbol of the incident even as he escaped official blame.

Rather had no trouble defending the story in subsequent stories and attacking anyone who challenged the documents as authentic.

AP/David Bauder
Yet CBS was last in the ratings and without a transition plan even before the ill-fated September 2004 story about President Bush's military service. Rather narrated the report, in the midst of the presidential campaign, which CBS later concluded after much criticism it could not substantiate.

It could not "substantiate the report" because the report was entirely based on phony documents.

Rather, 74, presented the main evening news broadcast for 24 years before stepping down in March last year.
His retirement was marred by criticism of a report questioning President Bush's military service, based on evidence that turned out to be forged.
Correspondents said the incident gave ammunition to his conservative critics, who had long accused him of a liberal bias.

Wow. An accurate account.However, nobody, it seems, wanted to credit bloggers for exposing the forged documents and ending Rather's career.



Closer to home, the Winnipeg Free Press corrected a mistake in time-honoured fashion: make the correction so obscure nobody can figure out what you're talking about.

Wed Jun 21 2006
Our Mistake
The Canadian Ukrainian community is requesting $12.5 million in compensation for their internment during the First World War. Due to an editing error, an information box accompanying a story on the request yesterday provided incorrect information.

The mistake, it turns out, was not in the amount of compensation the Ukrainians want, but in when the internment took place. The newspaper on Tuesday said World War Two. The error was noted in the staff blog by Editor Bob Cox who explained that the reporter, Paul Samyn, had the correct war, but that an editor changed his copy. (MSM reporters are superior to bloggers because they have editors). Cox promised a correction in the next day's paper, but failed to mention it would not make sense unless you were among the tiny number of people who read his "blog" to get the true picture of what went wrong.

The continual practice of using notes on the internet to explain errors, instead of notifying readers of the newspaper in print, has to be addressed by Publisher Andy Ritchie. Unless, of course, he condones and encourages the deceptive practice.


What a difference a year makes. It's the first full day of summer and the City of Winnipeg has announced that fogging for mosquitoes will start Friday.

Last year at this time Mosquito Fighter Taz Stuart was ignoring pleas to fog while he promoted his chemical-free methods for mosquito control. By the time the province overruled him in mid-July and ordered citywide fogging as a health measure, the number of mosquitoes in the nightly traps was in the thousands, an unprecedented number Stuart had been hiding from the public.

More than a dozen people came down with the most severe form of West Nile Virus, and health officials have still never said how many were infected in Winnipeg.

They're taking no chances this year (what? election year?) and fogging will begin asap. But one thing to remember is that the timing is not unusual. Given the sky-high mosquito numbers, fogging should have begun last year at this time, too.

And that means that Winnipeg is simply wasting money on Taz's hippy-dippy non-chemical fish-and-dragonfly mosquito fighting measures.

Last year he had the excuse that it was too wet for his methods to work. Conditions this year have been ideal. Yet, lo and behold, the mosquito numbers are high in exactly the same week this year as last.


The debate over Manitoba's new brand continues to rage.

Okay, just kidding.

You can hardly call it a debate when its Laurie Mustard on one side and everyone else who can read and write on the other.

You might be interested in how "Spirited Energy" is playing outside the borders of Manitoba, though.

Strategic Name Development is, what else, a Minneapolis company specializing in naming businesses, products and brands. They have a company blog, and they recently wrote about the branding of Manitoba.
Check it out at:

Company president William Lozito was interviewed on CJOB by Richard Coutier and you can hear that interview at:


In yesterday's story about a new $4 million student centre being built by the University of Manitoba for aboriginal students, reporter Leah Janzen wrote "an elder-in-residence will be on hand to offer advice, traditional teachings and spiritual support."

Janzen didn't ask how the university justifies spending tax money on one religion to the exclusion of the rest. We wonder whether the University plans a student centre for Christian students with a minister/priest-in-residence to offer traditonal teachings and spiritual support. Or will that just draw the unwanted attention of the Free Press Christian-baiting columnist Frances Russell?


The debate in the letters page of the Winnipeg Free Press over CUPE Ontario's decision to join a campaign of "boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel" is nothing compared to the debate in the political Left over what to do with defenders of Israel.

Commenters on the far left, labour sponsored internet forum have singled out NDP MP's Pat Martin and Judy Wasylecia-Leis for special scorn for their public support of Israel.

In a letter to the National Post published June 5, 2006, Pat Martin wrote:...

As a trade unionist and an NDP MP, I do not want to be associated in any way with the Ontario CUPE resolution on Israel, nor do I want anyone to think that the labour movement, the NDP, or the left generally, is anti-Israel. Pat Martin, MP, Winnipeg Centre

Yet that's exactly what anyone would think reading the thread "The NDP and Israel" on where the discussion got even nastier as it shifted to whether the Winnpeg NDP MP's were pandering to Jewish voters in their ridings.

Now that Premier Gary Doer has been named as pro-Israel, the NDP might be in the market for a new slogan to replace Solidarity Forever.

Where's Ash Modha when you need him?

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