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.

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:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The CBC catches fire, but here's one story they will never report

The CBC is on fire.

CBC-Television News broke from the pack this week, and it wasn't only its coverage of the Hillary Wilson-Cherisse Houle story.

The day of ignition was Monday, the day the Winnipeg Free Press reported that murder victim Hillary Wilson had known Cherisse Houle, a prostitute also found dead on the outskirts of Winnipeg one month earlier. (A reader has pointed out that CTV"s Stacey Ashley actually broke this detail on Sunday's 6 o'clock newscast - ed.)

From then on they did something exceptionally unusual in Winnipeg---they followed the story every single day, advancing it bit by bit throughout the week.

Sure, some of the scoops were bunk. The two dead girls both testified, reported CBC, at the trials of members of an Asian gang that traded crack for sex from as many as 20 young aboriginal girls.

It turned out the "gang" was six Vietnamese men in their mid-50's, half of whom were deported upon conviction.

And the "mysterious van" following girls from a rally at the Legislature turned out to be the overactive imagination of paranoid teenagers. But, still, it got us watching---every day.

And that's bad news for the other television newsrooms where reporters have to learn a whole new vocabulary, including the words "exclusive", "scoop", and "follow that story." This sort of competition hasn't been seen in decades.

And CBC has learned how to use their aboriginal journalists. Aboriginal "journalists" have been hired to fill quotas and to "reflect the face of the community." Actual reporting skill was a bonus, if it existed.

We know from personal experience; we engaged in a conversation with one of CBC's "aboriginal journalists" who told us he knew our Matthew Dumas story was true, but he wasn't going to do it because he felt the police were to blame. We wondered where he was when the inquest vindicated our scoop; probably finding his true calling as a mall security guard.

But this week we saw some true aboriginal journalism. Sheila North-Wilson used her access as an Indian to dig out stories. Good and bad, we still tuned in every day to see the latest. Now that's reporting.

And it wasn't just the aboriginal stories.

While the rest of the TV stations and newspapers sleepwalked past the drive-by shooting of a Simcoe Avenue apartment house, CBC went to the scene and turned up a barnburner of a story. Death threats spraypainted on the building. Residents terrified by the crack dealers opening selling drugs from their suites. An owner in B.C. who didn't care a whit. City officials who whimpered
"We've done everything we can. What else can we do?"

The next day it was a different story, and one we saw only on CBC. A pack of city inspectors descended on the apartment house, wrote up every infraction of every bylaw, and left with a message---
this place will be cleaned up or shut down, fast.

That's action. That's reporting. And that's why we're setting our dial to CBC television news to see what they've got first in the supperhour.

But here's one story you're never going to see on CBC or apparently anywhere in the Mainstream media in Winnipeg.

Not one MSM outlet picked up on the blockbuster news revealed last week by Colin Craig of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation on

Craig had a sit-down with Patrick O'Reilly, the chief operating officer of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and Susanne Robertson, the chief financial officer.

They told him this jawdropping information:

"…while the museum's cost overrun figure has publicly been reported at $45 million,
the CTF learned the original overrun figure sat at $58 million."

That's 58 MILLION DOLLARS, folks.

Before a shovelfull of imported dirt was turned, the CMHR was $58 million in the hole. (That's 35 percent over budget for anyone keeping score.)

We were stunned. But not as stunned, we're betting, as Gail Asper and Patrick O'Reilly were on Thursday, May 21, 2009, before anyone knew the budget was as much as a penny over.

That's the day The Black Rod reported that by our estimate the museum was at least $55 million in the red.

You can see now why Gail and Paddy went scurrying to the Winnipeg Free Press editorial offices the following Monday to, er, discuss the museum's budget.

Those stupid bloggers got it all wrong. Sure there's a small shortfall, $45 million, but it's already being taken care of and there's nothing to worry about. We have "asks" out and expect to rake in the dough any day now.

Yeah... We got it wrong.

WE UNDERESTIMATED the budget shortfall.

And why the difference between the actual budget overrun and the $45 million they admitted?

It seems they had been busy as beavers while the deficit was still a secret.

They chopped $13 million out of the budget "by modifying electrical and ventilation systems, reducing the protective coating on concrete floors and opting for less costly stone for its walls," according to the June 11 Macleans magazine. (What were they coating the floors with? Gold?….ed.)

O'Reilly said something similar to the Winnipeg Free Press the day he confessed to a budget overrun.

"Patrick O'Reilly, the museum's chief operating officer, said the museum's board, appointed by the federal government, has gone through the entire budget and has been able to trim about $12 million from construction costs. He said most of the cuts -- which the public won't notice -- are for interior building materials, changes to floor supports and redesigning the air-conditioning and heating system."

But, like you, we never guessed the $12-13 million was on top of the $45 million. We assumed he meant that over the course of planning there had been snips and trims which had prevented the budget shortfall from being even bigger than $45 million.

It shows you how naïve we were.

They claim they've raised $2 million of the $45 million shortfall already, although they won't say how or where they got the money.

But the cheerleading Free Press, which hasn't reported the true deficit of $58 million, was all giggly Sunday about Gail Asper's new fundraising schemes.

The days of batting her eyes at fawning boards of directors of major corporations are long over. Now it's begging for spare change from the little guy, just like the rest of the panhandlers.

A mass grape-stomping at a Corydon Avenue restaurant, and pie-throwing at the University of Manitoba are among her brainstorms.

But it's watching her take money from a teenaged go-cart racer and kids in Junior Achievement that turns our stomachs.

A multi-millionaire is getting children to raise money for her pet project which will then send her on free trips around the world to, uh, see other museums.

It makes you want to puke.

Correction: We've been informed that the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is subject to federal Access to Information requests. It's the material of the museum, which is exempt by an amendment to the law.

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