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.

Name:
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

Monday, March 03, 2008

Winnipeg Free Press tries to stuff the internet genie back into the bottle

BWAHAHAHA

Like the burglar wiping off his fingerprints at a break-in, the Winnipeg Free Press is trying to scour the Internet clean of the evidence of how it manipulates "news" to further its vendetta against Mayor Sam Katz.

This weekend the website TRUWinnipeg.org was ordered to take down its post of an infamous Free Press story "Top planner rips city in final report" (Feb. 16, 2008).

"This material is protected by copyright and cannot be republished without the newspaper's permission." declared the newspaper's new Copyright Sheriff, Steve Pona.

Puh-lease.

The FP is threatening to sic its high-paid attack dogs on a non-commercial Winnipeg website dedicated to discussing urban planning, rapid transit, and city issues----why? Dozens of FP stories are reprinted on the Internet. The crime stories by Mike McIntyre and Bruce Owen are particular favourites. The TOP PLANNER story is cached

http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:NJSN46LeRoUJ:www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/story/4127082p-4720681c.html+%22Top+planner+rips+city+in+final+report%22+winnipeg&hl=en&gl=us&ie=UTF-8&strip=1

and won't go away even if TRUWinnipeg is forced to pull the post.

Sheriff Steve isn't protecting the copyright.

He's trying to reclaim the very reputation of the Winnipeg Free Press which imploded on Feb. 16, 2008, the day the TOP PLANNER story appeared.

Because, you see, not only was the entire story WRONG, but it revealed how far the FP was willing to go to literally re-write news stories to further their private agenda.

At the risk of a nasty letter from Sheriff Steve, here's some of the story as it appeared in print.


Top planner rips city in final report
East gets job with province, says civic politicians ignore long-term issues

Updated: February 16, 2008 at 09:00 AM CST\
WINNIPEG -- the unplanned city?
Civic politicians and administrators put a low priority on urban planning, said Jacqueline East, who left her job as the city's planning and land use manager for a new one with the provincial government.

When it comes to long-range planning, East said, Winnipeg has no one working on it at all.

Mayor Sam Katz and St. Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel, chairman of the city's planning, property and development committee, challenged her claims.

"I don't agree whatsoever," Katz said. "I don't think there's a low priority from elected officials on the planning, property and development department whatsoever."

But East, in a report this week to council, said it's obvious from the number of planning staff the city employs.

snip

When reporter Joe Paraskevas read "his" story Saturday morning, the hair on his head stood straight up. The story in the newspaper only resembled his story by accident. He immediately phoned Jacqueline East to blubber a heartfelt apology. He then sat at his keyboard and sent e-mails to the Mayor, Justin Swandel, Brenda Leipsic and Jacqueline East to put on the record his shock at what was printed in his name.

From: Paraskevas, Joe
Sent: Sat 2/16/2008 11:05 AM
To: MYO-Mayor; Swandel, Justin; Salyn, Brad; Leipsic, Brenda; East, Jacquie

Subject: Apology

I'm writing this to all the people at city hall to whom I spoke about today's planning story. This is the most difficult letter a reporter can ever write on the job.

I believe all a reporter has is his or her reputation. People must be able to trust him to deliver a story that is not only factually accurate but also captures the right context. Today's story did neither, and I apologize.

While the fault for this lies elsewhere on the newspaper assembly line, I, as a team player, share the blame. I want to be seen as a reliable reporter, one who obviously must sell papers by emphasizing certain events or comments in his stories. But never at the expense of the facts or a sophisticated and accurate painting of a story's context.

Again, I'm sorry.

Joe

Paraskevas only gently hints at who was responsible for the travesty of a story that appeared in the Free Press news pages---an editor. An editor like Steve Pona. The mainstream media like the FP always boast that they are superior to citizen journalists like The Black Rod and TRUWinnipeg because, yes, THEY HAVE EDITORS.

Now we see the role of their editors--- to manipulate the facts and context of a story when necessary to spin a story to support the newspaper's unspoken agenda.

Five days after the TOP PLANNER story appeared, the FP carried a tiny, tiny correction on Page 2, saying essentially that everything in the story was wrong.

The correction was in the smallest print possible without needing a magnifying glass to read it and the only people who would have noticed it was those checking their lottery numbers.

It said among other things, that:

- Jacqueline East had not issued a report to council, another agency had;
- she wasn't commenting on her report because it wasn't her report, and she was still employed by the city;
- her position with the province hadn't started yet.

As to the accuracy of her quoted statements, let Jacqueline East comment (an e-mail she sent to colleagues, emphasis ours):

From: East, Jacquie
Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2008 3:04 PM
To: PPD-Planning and Land Use Division;
Subject: FW: City Planning Service Plan

Hi all!

In case you might have noticed the WFP article on Saturday and in light of the fact that there are still some people who might think I would actually do something like what appeared in the paper on Saturday, I am forwarding the apology I, and others, received from the reporter. Suffice it to say, the article was not an accurate reflection of the sentiment or tone of the interview I participated in with the reporter on Friday, at Corporate Communication's request.

The reporter called me first thing Saturday to apologize and I am sorry that his version of the story was altered. I felt it was a relatively positive discussion and a chance to talk about urban planning in Winnipeg ... even included a wee kudo to the current political administration for beginning to engage in some discussions about urban planning in our city.

For those of you who had faith in me that this was the case ... thanks!

Jacquie

It should be noted that Paraskevas has reason to worry about his reputation. He was used previously by the Free Press, whether he knew it or not, to provide cover for another smear of the mayor by columnist Gordon Sinclair (http://blackrod.blogspot.com/2008/01/sinclair-ambush-fails-to-spark-feud.html ).
It may be that the discovery of how he was manipulated the first occasion lead to the rapid email apology this time.

The Winnipeg Free Press responded to the revelation on the Blogosphere (
http://waverleywest.blogspot.com/2008/02/smoking-gun-bowtie-joe-apologies-or.html ) of Paraskevas' apology. Editor Margo Goodhand issued a note to staff to watch themselves when sending emails that could, ahem, embarass their employer.

We predict apologies to the ordinary Joe will henceforth be few and far between, and never, ever in writing, not even from the Staffer Joe.

******
There's been some confusion of late regarding the status of Uptown weekly and the various commuity papers. Here's the official story of what's going on:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release: February 15, 2008
Canstar Community News to merge with Winnipeg Free Press
Employees of Canstar Community News represented by CEP Local 191 (the Media Union of Manitoba and N.W. Ontario) voted on a first collective agreement today that will merge the community news operation with the Winnipeg Free Press.

About 30 employees of Canstar are now part of the Winnipeg Free Press contract after today's vote. Canstar publishes free weekly neighbourhood-zoned newspapers such as The Herald, The Metro, The Times, The Headliner and The Lance, as well as the entertainment weekly Uptown and The Prime Times, a seniors' publication. Canstar is owned by FP Canadian Newspapers Limited Partnership ("FPLP"), which also owns the Winnipeg Free Press and The Brandon Sun.

CEP became the bargaining agent for Canstar employees in Editorial, Advertising, Creative Services, and Distribution in May 2007. After a protracted and difficult set of negotiations the parties determined that the long-term success of Canstar's publications and its employees lay in a merger with its sister publication, the Free Press.

Many employees will receive a raise in pay and take part in the Free Press benefits package, including pension. Sadly, the merger will result in job loss for five Canstar employees in the bargaining unit. CEP Local 191 bargained recall rights for three of those employees in Creative Services (Graphic Designers). The first contract deal also restructures the advertising department for a more equitable distribution of sales accounts for commissioned sales reps.

"This was a difficult and, at times, troubling, set of negotiations, "said CEP National Representative Paul McKie. "But the committee believed, and the members have confirmed with their vote, that this was the right direction to take the newspapers."

And here's the same story from the voice of one of the affected Canstar staffers:

An Open Letter to the Free Press/Canstar Owners:

I've watched in horror over the past two years as the owners of Canstar, the weekly papers (The Herald, Lance, Metro, Times and Headliner) have time and again done everything in their power to shit on these papers.

It started with the firing of John Proven, publisher. We couldn't keep John. He liked this product. He fought for these papers. Under him, readership rose 20 per cent in one year, in an era where newspaper readership is on the decline! Who needs numbers like that? No, no, you decided to replace him with Bryan Metcalfe, a meek yes-man who left from Auto Trader who doesn't dare tell you to your faces that you're idiots. Possibly because he doesn't know.

Since Bryan's installment as publisher, readership has undoubtedly gone down, as what with his focus on cutting costs to the bone (ie - not hiring replacement staff) and only 'good news' such as pictures of people's pets. SO newsworthy.

And then Bryan hires his longtime good friend, Dan Zune, as Sales Manager. Dan left from Canstar years ago. But hey, everyone deserves a second chance, eh? The first thing he does is order t-shirts for the Sales Team. No one wears them. Sales plunge.

Staff start leaving in droves. Last year, the turnover rate was a whopping 110 per cent. Wow! Now THAT'S a number that shows leadership in tough times ! Staff get so tired of working unpaid overtime (some in excess of dozens of hours a week) that they unionize, which pisses you owners right off and you do everything in your power to stall the process. More people leave, including the union leaders.

The editorial staff has completely changed in the past six months. All of them have moved on, some to the dailies, some to radio or TV, hell, even one to the West Coast. Way to drive all your talent away. Many of them had been at the papers for several years and were excellent resources. But we'd rather have newbies right out of Red River anyway, instead of people with Masters degrees.

Distribution is in shambles. Half the city no longer even gets the papers anymore, despite what we tell our advertisers. It doesn't matter anyway - Bryan's mandate of 'good news only' means no one reads the papers anymore anyway.

After having to go to the Province for mediation, there's finally a union contract, so to speak - many people are laid off and the rest are being moved to the Free Press building. The papers are now part of the Free Press' 'Community News Department.' That move happens in May - despite numerous assurances in years past that this would never happen.

Yesterday was the final straw. You fired Paul Rutherford, the Managing Editor who was so instrumental in getting readership numbers up to a respectable level, and replaced him with John Kendle, who does nothing but write the occasional music review and fanny around with invoices. Nothing like replacing leadership with more yes-men! But that was the goal anyways, right?

The sales staff at the Free Press are gloating so hard right now that they're telling clients that the papers are shutting down completely and as a result, advertisers are pulling out of the weeklies. Of course, that means even less money for you owners down the line, as many of those advertisers simply can't afford to advertise in the Free Press.

You've really fucked things up, haven't you? You spent a shitload of money on a good product and turned around and killed it. Congratulations.

Sincerely,

Someone else who's about to quit.

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