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:

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Margo Goodhand's legacy in Winnipeg journalism. Bwahahahahaha

Hear that?

That's the silence on the airwaves where the popular radio station KICK-FM used to broadcast.

92.9 KICK-FM, (more formally known as CKIC-FM), operating under the aegis of Red River College, pulled the plug on itself at 4 p.m. Wednesday rather than submit to the further scrutiny of the CRTC in a licence renewal process. 

That silence is the bitter legacy of Winnipeg Free Press editor Margo Goodhand, whose interference in the running of KICK-FM led directly to the demise of the station which had been on the air almost 10 years.

It was only a couple of weeks ago when Margo Goodhand made the surprise announcement that she was resigning as of the end of July. She was, she said, leaving her sweet post for parts unknown after five years at the helm.

However she managed to stay around just long enough to see the irreparable damage that she caused to the radio station, to the reputation of the college, and, worst of all, to the integrity of the journalism course it offers.

The day of her resignation, newspaper publisher Bob Cox dutifully trotted out the expected accolades.

"Under her guidance the Free Press was recognized repeatedly for its quality journalism and was named the best news organization in the country." 

How hollow those words sound over the grave of KICK-FM.

In the midst of the 2010 civic election, Goodhand secretly contacted Stephanie Forsyth, the president of Red River College. Acting under the mistaken assumption that KICK-FM was a college-run station, Goodhand made her agenda clear.

The Winnipeg Free Press could take criticism; it was all for free speech, but....(There's always a 'but'.) But she wanted Forsyth to kill The Great Canadian Talk Show, one of the radio station's most popular programs which was currently grinding the FP into pulp daily for their pathetic election coverage. 

Some "but". 

Goodhand oozed contempt for the host, Marty Gold, then dropped the hint that, er, the Free Press had contacted a lawyer about a defamation suit.

In journalistic circles, they have a name for that sort of hint.

Libel chill.

It's a cheap tactic to stifle free speech.

Unless, of course, you're the editor of a major city daily and threatening someone you think you can intimidate.

That 'someone' hopped to do Goodhand's bidding. Two weeks later  TGCTS was cancelled without warning. 

But....not so fast.

It turned out that radio host Marty Gold was a much better journalism teacher than Goodhand or her sister-in-arms Stephanie Forsyth imagined.

And he had a dedicated host of listeners, many of whom instantly turned into citizen journalists, determined to get to the bottom of the story. "You have the power," Gold constantly exhorted his listeners. This time they were going to use it.

Gold filed a freedom-of-information request to see the record of why his show was cancelled so suddenly.

Lo and behold, there on top of the pile was Goodhand's secret email to "Dear Stephanie." 

When the National Post called Margo Goodhand for a comment on the furor over the cancellation of TGCTS, she did what you would expect the editor of a respected newspaper would do. She lied through her teeth.

What talk show? Never listened. Gold? Who? Not me. Nothing to do with it. You got the wrong number.

What she didn't know was that the pile of emails contained the trail of bloody fingerprints from her to the body.

Deb to Graham. "Stephanie has received a complaint from the editor of the Winnipeg Free Press, Margo Goodhand..."
Deb Pokrant (Forsyth's secretary.)

Graham to Deb. "To cut to the chase, I don't think the college has the technical ability to remove him from the air, the station is a separate entity. However I think this could be done without too much trouble, either through a chat with Rick (the station manager...ed) or more formally through a board directive." Graham Thompson, Dean of Business

Deb to Graham. "By the way, KICK-FM has a board of directors and Cathy is currently on the Board." Deb

Cathy was Cathy Rushton, Vice President in charge of Finance.

( She got her reward for doing Stephanie Forsyth's bidding when she got axed one year ago after being blamed for the Union Tower reconstruction boondoggle.

The emails were posted on the internet, but wouldn't you know it, the mainstream media appeared disinterested. The Canadian Association of Journalists, those vaunted "professional" reporters who fight for truth and justice, didn't issue a news release condemning the libel chill from the editor of the Winnipeg Free Press.

Duncan McMonagle, that "award-winning" journalism instructor at Red River College and former Senior Editor, The Globe and Mail, and former Editor-in-Chief, Winnipeg Free Press didn't made a public statement about the terrible example set for his students by his successor at the FP.

Not one of those brave Winnipeg radio talk show hosts or newspaper columnists stood up to condemn the actions of Margo Goodhand and Stephanie Forsyth.

But the citizen journalists did.

They started by going to Red River College and asking pointed questions about how and why TGCTS was cancelled.

Graham Thompson, the college's appointed official spokesman, did what a respected Dean of a respected college is expected to do. He lied through his teeth.

He had a new excuse for why the show was cancelled every day.

What he didn't expect was that the citizen journalists were comparing his many lies.

Finally, some of them filed formal complaints under the College ethics policy. Ethics shouldn't include lying to the public.

Unfortunately, the complaints had to go to Stephanie Forsyth, who wasn't about to entertain complaints against her own decisions. So she did nothing.

Well, not exactly nothing.

She took Erin Selby, Minister of Higher Education (which includes colleges and universities), to a Winnipeg Jets game to, er, get to know her better. Selby, in turn, ignored a whistleblower's complaint about financial mismanagement and breaches of the Corporations Act.

But while the cabal of Margo Goodhand, Stephanie Forsythe and Erin Selby thought their stonewall tactics had worked, they hadn't counted on the ingenuity of those citizen journalists.

They managed to root out the fact that the "official" decision to kill TGCTS was made by the "executive committee" of the radio station's board of directors.

That would be all well and good except for one thing --- there was no record of any "executive committee" ever having been formed, created, constituted, approved or it any way accepted as having the power to do anything.

This mystery committee was operating in defiance of the radio station's own Bylaws governing the creation of committees. And certainly in defiance of CRTC regulations.

The various executives of the radio station and the College suddenly became extremely reluctant to discuss the "executive committee." 

But they couldn't blow off the CRTC which began asking its own questions about the executive committee during the summer licence renewal process. KICK-FM informed the CRTC that all the records about this mystery committee had, ahem, been "lost." 

They must have done a lot of squirming in the hope the CRTC would buy that whopper.

Particularly since the Manitoba Corporations Act holds directors of corporations responsible for keeping and preserving minutes of meetings of all boards and all committees of boards. Violators face fines and a possible jail sentence.

The board of KICK-FM finally decided that they didn't want anyone asking any more questions about the executive committee, and how it spent taxpayers money without any records, and how it made decisions without any minutes being kept, and exactly who attended their secret, impromptu meetings.

They informed the CRTC they were giving back their licence.

Now, remember, Graham Thompson at one point insisted that the decision to kill TGCTS was made to give students experience of being on air during prime time (the drive-by slot). Now the students won't be on air at all.

Time for a new excuse, Graham.

-- Margo Goodhand started out to shut down a radio talk show. Her interference wound up shutting down the whole radio station.

-- The Dean of Business at Red River College demonstrated he couldn't operate a successful radio business.

--  The President of Red River College interfered in the programming of an affiliated but allegedly independent radio station and managed to lose the station's broadcast licence
, the college on the hook for over a quarter of a million dollars and the college journalism program offering radio training but without a radio station to train at. 

-- The head of the journalism program has to defend a course that charges the same tuition but substitutes practice on a college-run internet feed (the modern-day equivalent of a p.a. in the cafeteria) for a real radio station broadcast into the community.

That's some legacy that Margo Goodhand is leaving in her wake.

She would much rather you remember her for helping start the Community News Commons
, an ambitious project to train citizen journalists at the Winnipeg Free Press News Cafe.

We wonder ... will they use Margo Goodhand's attack on citizen journalism in Winnipeg, attempt to kill free speech through libel chill, destruction of a radio station training student journalists, and web of lies and coverup as Lesson No.1?

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,