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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, July 27, 2006

A Grandslam Homerun of Errors

Batter Up!

Baseball scouts have been flocking to the Winnipeg Free Press after word leaked out that reporter Paul "The Babe" Samyn hit a Grandslam Homerun of Errors in Thursday's paper.

With one story, Babe Samyn managed to antagonize his bosses, the owners of the Winnipeg Free Press; the Asper family; University of Winnipeg president Lloyd Axworthy; every Jewish advertiser and the Jewish readership of the newspaper.

In the business, that's called a C.E.M. (translation for non-reporters: career ending move.)

The Free Press has adopted full grovel position. An apology to both the Aspers and the mighty Lloyd will be forthcoming. As many times as necessary.

How did Samyn manage such devastation, you ask?

It begins with a small story on Page Four headlined:
"Axworthy says Canada threw away peace role."

It's the usual Axworthy spiel---Stephen Harper is a George Bush lackey; Canada shouldn't support Israel so much; because of Harper, Canada can't play honest broker in the Middle East.

Samyn ended his story thusly:

'Axworthy also took a shot at Winnipeg's Asper family, saying they are using their media empire to advocate staunchly right-wing positions when it comes to defending Israel.

"The Aspers are increasingly playing a far more important role in shaping Canadian foreign policy." '

Now imagine this scenario....
Gail Asper, morning coffee in hand, settles down to read the Free Press. SHRIEK!
She calls her brother, Leonard, in Toronto and reads him the story. SHRIEK!
He phones FP publisher Andy Richie. SHRIEK!
Who immediately calls Deputy Editor Patrick Flynn. SHRIEK!
Who utters the words feared by every reporter who ever walked the land...

"Uh, Paul, can I talk to you for a minute?"

Mayhem ensues. Words are raised. Fingers are pointed. Noses disjointed. A rhyming dictionary is produced.

And at last, an explanation is rushed to readers via the Free Press Editor's Bulletin that's emailed to subscribers.

It was "diasporas,'' not "The Aspers"

We reported wrongly today that Lloyd Axworthy, a former Liberal foreign affairs minister, criticized Winnipeg's Asper family for using their media empire to defend Israel and shape Canadian foreign policy. He did not say that. In fact, Mr. Axworthy was referrring to groups of diaspora influencing Canadian foreign policy. Where we said "The Aspers'' in Mr. Axworthy's quote, he in fact had said "diasporas.'' We sincerely apologize to both Mr. Axworthy and the Asper family. A correction and apology will appear in tomorrow's Free Press.

Thank you,
Bob Cox
Winnipeg Free Press

That's their story, and they're sticking to it.

Now, note the quotation marks in Babe Samyn's story.

"The Aspers are increasingly playing a far more important role in shaping Canadian foreign policy."

Quotation marks designate a direct quote. As in, exactly what the person said.

So, let's do a simple experiment. Let's remove "the Aspers" and insert "diasporas".
And we get...

"Diasporas are increasingly playing a far more important role in shaping Canadian foreign policy."

What the hell does that mean?
It's not even a grammatically correct sentence.
And yet, the Free Press wants us to believe that's what came out of Lloyd Axworthy's mouth.

And even if it did, where did the preceeding indirect quotation come from?
"...saying they are using their media empire to advocate staunchly right-wing positions when it comes to defending Israel."

Did Samyn misquote Axworthy twice?
Did Samyn use the opportunity to editorialize his own opinion of the Aspers?

If you believe the Free Press correction, was Samyn saying the "diasporas" have a right-wing media empire? Too much control of the news by, uh, you know, er, em, Jews?

The newspaper is saying Samyn had no idea what the diaspora is, so he heard "the Aspers" in its place

Remember, Paul Samyn is a professional. He has editors. He does not conduct interviews in his pyjamas.

He's just half deaf, or illiterate, or caught putting his own biased opinions into the mouth of a university president.

And the best part is that Editor's Bulletin came out over Box Cox's name although Cox is not in the office this week. So he doesn't even know what he said. Just like Lloyd Axworthy.

We can hardly wait for Coxie to get back and tell us the real story of this debacle in his Free Press authorized blog where he promised to keep readers abreast of all the behind the scenes decisions of what goes into the paper. We can almost hear it now....

"Uh, Pat. Can I see you a minute?"

While waiting for Cox, repeat after us....

Casper went to Jasper for some Sarsperilla with the Aspers.
The Aspers in Jasper had Sarsperilla with Casper.
Some Jasper Sarsperilla for the Aspers and Casper...

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