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.

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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: black_rod_usher@yahoo.com

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Pompous Press Gallery throws in the towel

With a whimper it was over.

As of today, The Parliamentary Press Gallery has called off its five-month-old boycott of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's news conferences.

Officially, its only a temporary suspension of the boycott to let Harper think about the error of his ways and to reach a new protocol for holding press conferences. But the PPG members know the jig's up.

The Press Gallery decided in April to show Harper who was boss on Parliament Hill. When the PM insisted that reporters put their names on a list to ask questions at news conferences, they rebelled. No frickin' way were they going to submit to a process that let the PM pick and choose, they proclaimed.

What kind of dictatorship was Harper running anyway. The Press Gallery represented the people, not the duly elected government. Didn't the Conservatives know that?

The only problem was that the people didn't give a hoot about the PPG boycott.

And two weeks ago, the boycott split like a ripe tomato. Four reporters decided that bringing more details about the softwood lumber deal was more important to the public than a useless fight about a list. Peter O'Neil of the Vancouver Sun, Mark Kennedy of the Ottawa Citizen, Joel Denis Bellavance of La Presse and Randall Palmer of Reuters told the PMO: Put us on the list.

Stephen Harper phoned each of the reporters and they got exclusive interviews including this one in the National Post:Harper vows election fight over softwood deal

Peter O'Neil, CanWest News Service;
Vancouver Sun
Published: Wednesday, August 23, 2006
OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who announced Tuesday he has sufficient industry backing to bring the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber draft accord to Parliament next month, said he would be comfortable fighting an election this fall on the issue.''The agreement is of importance not just to the thousands of communities that depend directly on the lumber industry, but it's critical now in terms of Canada-U.S. trade relations,'' Harper told CanWest News Service in an exclusive interview.

Nothing like a little competion to focus a reporter's mind.

The Winnipeg Free Press's Ottawa reporter Paul Samyn was a strong supporter of the boycott, until he had to explain to his editors why he got his ass kicked on the softwood lumber story.

The same day as the Canwest exclusive, the FP was announcing Samyn would be joining their list of officially sanctioned newspaper blogs. Somebody's got their priorities screwed up.

Yesterday in his "blog", Samyn wrote:

After much gnashing of teeth, the principle that holding a prime minister to account requires reporters to ask him questions trumped the principle that reporters need to resist a prime minister's attempts to manipulate them. So the Gallery is now not only on the list but also on bended knee, waiting for Harper to comment.

Officially the boycott resumes Oct. 5. Unless Harper agrees to surrender terms. That will be the day.

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