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, January 05, 2007

Journalists who are making history, who are rewriting history, and who are history

One of the legendary moments of journalistic history came in 1871 when reporter Henry Stanley reached the shores of Lake Tanganyika, walked up to the only white man in hundreds of miles and said:
"Dr. Livingstone, I presume."

Stanley had been assigned by the New York Herald to find David Livingstone, famous missionary and explorer, who had been missing in darkest Africa for six years.

In his own account, Stanley told how he asked how much he could spend on the seemingly hopeless search.The Herald's publisher replied:
"Draw 1,000 (pound sterling) now, and when you have gone through that, draw another £1,000, and when that is spent, draw another £1,000, and when you have finished that, draw another £1,000, and so on - BUT FIND LIVINGSTONE!"

Ahh, those were the days.

Stanley spent almost two years looking for Livingstone. His expedition was outfitted with the best of everything, including at least 200 porters. He must have spent a small fortune, but HE FOUND LIVINGSTONE and sold a million newspapers with the story.

Believe it or not, there's another search underway for another man which may prove to be just as historic.Three American bloggers are on their way to Iraq to find Capt. Jamil Hussein, who may find himself as famous as Dr. Livingstone before everything plays out.

Associated Press cited a Capt. Jamil Hussein as a source in 61 stories in 2006. Only it seems that Capt. Hussein may not exist.

In November he was the source for an exclusive AP story about an atrocity that shocked readers around the world.

"Militiamen grabbed six Sunnis as they left Friday worship services, doused them with kerosene and burned them alive as Iraqi soldiers stood by."

But American and Iraqi officials reacted by denying the incident happened and saying they had no record of any Capt. Jamil Hussein.

AP said its story was true, but couldn't produce Capt. Hussein. And Capt. Hussein hasn't been quoted in an AP story from Iraq since.

The blogosphere learned from Rathergate that suspicion of MSM sources is a good thing. When bloggers tried on their own to confirm the existence of Capt. Hussein, they came up empty.

Which raised the possibility that they had stumbled across the biggest journalism scandal since well, since Dan Rather and CBS tried to use forged documents two years ago in a Sixty Minutes II story about George Bush right before the presidential election. (No liberal bias there.)

And if Capt. Hussein is another MSM false-but-true concoction, then it means that all of AP's reporting from Iraq could be phony.

Three bloggers---Eason Jordan of IraqSlogger, Michelle Malkin, and Curt from Flopping Aces ---are actually going to Iraq to track down Capt. Hussein for themselves, if he exists. If he doesn't, then AP has a big, big problem.

(The story behind their journey is fascinating in itself. Go to Michelle Malkin's site for the background. )

But what's this?
On the eve of the trio's departure for Iraq, AP has announced that Capt. Hussein has been found!

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The Interior Ministry acknowledged Thursday that an Iraqi police officer whose existence had been denied by the Iraqis and the U.S. military is in fact an active member of the force, and said he now faces arrest for speaking to the media.

You don't think AP is hoping the blog-posse cancels its trip, do you?

No chance of that. In fact, locating Capt. Hussein is only the first part of the blogosphere's interest in him. His confirmation of the now-discredited mosque BBQ story is high on the list. Followed by his presence as a source for stories in every quadrant of Baghdad. And then there's his mysterious disappearance just when people began looking for him.

So many questions, so little truth.

We don't have to repeat how much respect we have for Winnipeg Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck, but we confess we're puzzled by his tunnel-vision at the Tom Sophonow story.

Brodbeck writes that the one thing he praises retiring Police Chief Jack Ewatski for is exonerating Tom Sophonow of the murder of Barbara Stoppel.But to do that, Brodbeck has to ignore the facts.

FACT: Jack Ewatski has NEVER - that's NEVER - explained why he exonerated Tom Sophonow.

FACT: The "commission of inquiry" into the conviction of Sophonow was a sham whose very terms of reference required it to bend, twist and shape the evidence to reach a pre-determined conclusion-that the police framed Sophonow.

FACT: The commission wrote out of history inconvenient truths - like the existence of the undercover Vancouver policeman who heard Sophonow's first admissions to being in the doughnut shop where Stoppel was killed.

FACT: The commission uncovered evidence which was MORE INCRIMINATING than anything presented to the juries that convicted Sophonow of murder.

Brodbeck knows these facts, yet turns a blind eye.

Ewatski isn't vacating his office for anther six months; that's plenty of time for some other reporter to ask the glaring and obvious question. WHY?

Why did Ewatski exonerate Tom Sophonow and cause taxpayers to pay out $2.6 million in compensation?

Facts are important, and nobody knows that better than former Winnipeg Free Press columnist Dallas Hansen.

He used a story about a personal visit to a liquor store where he was denied service because he didn't have any ID.

The Manitoba Liquor Control Commission complained about the column, and brought its own evidence. A store video showed that the last time Hansen visited a liquor store he was alone, and not with the girlfriend he mentioned in his column. And affidavits from store employees said he became obstreperous.

Working from a bare-bones account of the matter in the Free Press, we assumed that Hansen was fired for
a.) misusing his position at the newspaper to threaten someone he had a personal dispute with, and
b.) writing falsely that he had been with his girlfriend when he was obviously alone.

Obviously, we got it wrong.
Dallas Hansen has a girlfriend.

And he was with her at a liquor store when he was denied service because he didn't have ID.

But this wasn't the incident on the store video.
There were two incidents.

In one, which he wrote about, Hansen was with his girlfriend.
In the other, in the video presented to the FP, he was alone.

Both times, Hansen acted like an a-hole.

Hansen's girlfriend has posted on his website her account of their visit to the liquor store, and in it she admits he got so obnoxious that she asked him to leave the store while she talked with store staff.

So it appears the FP booted Hansen purely for throwing his weight around by announcing he was a columnist for the paper.

He does not deserve to be on the list of journalistic fibbers where we put him. So we're throwing him out.

Let the record show that Dallas Hansen acted like a jerk on two visits to the liquor store, not one, but he does have a girlfriend, who sticks up for him. And that's worth something.

Oh, and it seems that we are now award-winning journalists.
We've just learned that The Black Rod has been given the "Teddy" award by another blog in town.

What it is, we don't know.
What it's for, we don't care.
We're clearing a space on the mantle anyway.

There are only a few awards that matter in the world.
There's the Academy Award, the Pulitzer, and...maybe the Emmy. The Nobel Peace Prize was on the list before it became politicized. After that, they're all wanna-be's.

So we humbly accept the Teddy.

And we'd like to thank our mothers, our agents, our parking valets...

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