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

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The public lynching of mayoral candidate Gord Steeves



The public lynching of mayoral candidate Gord Steeves last Wednesday was not only ugly, it was a frightening display of how an uncontrolled news mob will gladly abandon ethics and propriety for self-promotion.


Having invented a scandal, Winnipeg's best known purported professional journalists descended on a Steeves news conference determined to stir more controversy -- even if they had to manufacture it.


The most egregious faux-journalist was CJOB's news director, Richard Cloutier. CJOB, with its listenership in freefall, has decided that the way to recoup its ratings is with stunts. So they determined they would go live to the Steeves news conference where, just maybe if they were lucky, trouble would break out.

The problem with going live is that you can't control the event. So when Steeves began eating up time outlining a policy proposal to improve the lives of Winnipegers, it was more than Cloutier could stand. 

Cloutier disrupted the news conference by shouting out questions that had nothing to do with the announcement Steeves was making.  He decided to throw off the mantle of journalist and become an actor in his own radio drama.
Instead of reporting news, he would create news.  Hey, look at me, I'm Dan Rather!  Except we know how Dan Rather ended up when he started making up the news, don't we.

Making yourself part of the story, isn't that Professional Journalist Ethics 101?  And civility? Screw it. What about telling voters what an election candidate will do for them? Oh, please. How Old School. Nobody cares what candidates stand for, do they?

Certainly not Cloutier. Of course, after the election he will be whining about why there was a low turnout, how candidates should be more specific about their "vision", how awful it is that voters make their decisions based on personality, blah blah blah.

Cloutier's interruption got others in the small crowd to start heckling.  Maybe, finally, the news media would get the confrontation they were hoping for.

When announcing the news conference, the Steeves camp had asked the news desks to embargo the location.  He didn't want the event to become a circus.  But the newsrooms did.

APTN was first to formally break the embargo and announce the location where Steeves would be.  They argued that since they weren't directly invited, they weren't bound by any embargo.  But how, then, did they know where the news conference would be?  Obviously, because someone at one of the major newsrooms leaked it to them to generate an anti-Steeves crowd. And that would mean the confrontation the reporters wanted.

Manipulating events instead of reporting news. Yep, professional journalist ethics in action.

The media mob also manipulated words in its attack on Gord Steeves.

Years of media bias criticism has taught citizens how to read the biases of news outlets. 
Note how effortlessly all the Winnipeg newrooms referred to the "racist" Facebook post made by Steeves wife.  
Take the CBC headline:
"Gord Steeves defends wife, tries to explain racist comments"

Or Megan Batchelor's reporting for Global Winnipeg:
"WINNIPEG-Mayoral candidate Gord Steeves broke his silence Tuesday and announced in spite of a racist Facebook post made by his wife in 2010, he will stay in the race to become Winnipeg’s next mayor."
Except that it wasn't racist. 

She didn't show any prejudice towards Indians, just "drunken native guys" who harass people on the skywalks of Winnipeg. Indeed, she wanted them to improve themselves by getting an education and jobs so they don't need to harass people for handouts.

Now compare that with the comments one year ago by NDP Cabinet Minister Eric Robinson who was caught sending a racist email showing prejudice against white people.  Robinson confirmed his prejudice in a television interview the next day, and declared that as an Indian he had a right to be prejudiced.  
NOT ONE NEWS OUTLET IN WINNIPEG labelled his email as "racist" in their news stories.  NOT ONE.

So the term "racist" is thrown about as a label to smear the people the "professional journalists" want smeared for their own purposes.

But the reporting on the Steeves news conference was riddled with equally biased wording.

Megan Batchelor, again:

"Steeves attempted to side-step the issue and unveil a policy on permits and zoning variances. The announcement was interrupted by questions about his status as a candidate."

Note how she carefully side-steps the issue of who interrupted the candidate -- to hide the fact that it was CJOB news director Richard Cloutier.

The Winnipeg Free Press joined Global in falsely reporting Steeves' intentions:

"He initially wanted to skirt the entire issue by trying to discuss civic policy, but was shouted down by hecklers and the media at a press conference Tuesday at Bonnycastle Park."

The public isn't fooled anymore, and to the news media's chagrin, the Internet allows citizens to talk back without the media filter:

Livio Ciaralli 11:52pm Aug 12 
Why was Cloutier interrupting and asking him if he was going to quit. Really Cloutier ???!!! Why should he quit ? Do you manage what your wife says ? Don't professional reporters have a code of conduct. Let the candidate speak, then ask him questions.

Reporters rushed to foster controversy by getting Indian observers to criticize Steeves. There was Chief Jim Bear from the Brokenhead Reserve who was "frustrated" and "disappointed". And Chief Betsy Kennedy from the War Lake Reserve who was inspired that more aboriginal Winnipeggers would vote in the coming election.

But the biased reporters forgot to do some basic research.  
A quick search of the Aboriginal Affairs website shows that neither Brokenhead nor War Lake have filed their band financial statements as required by the First Nations Financial Transparency Act. 
In short, the same time as they're telling Winnipegers how to vote, they're breaking the law.  What role models of public governance.

Winnipeg Free Press columnist Dan Lett wrote his own version of the Steeves news conference.  Almost immediately, other attendees took to the Internet to challenge his version of the facts. 

Wrote Lett:

"As Gord Steeves left Bonnycastle Park on Tuesday, an aboriginal man in a smart grey business suit approached him and asked for a chance to talk. 

The man, Kevin Hart, chairman of the Circle of Life Thunderbird House, had been watching Steeves respond to the controversy over Steeves' wife Lorrie's angry Facebook rant against "drunken native guys."
 
Hart stood close to Steeves the entire time he tried to explain the two incidents involving aggressive panhandlers that prompted his wife to post the rant.
 
When the news conference was over, Hart calmly circled around the throng of media to intercept Steeves on his way to his car. When approached, Steeves declined to speak to him. Without breaking stride, he headed to his car."

That's not the way others who were there saw it. They took to the Comments to tell what they saw.

Gordon Halushka
7:13 AM on 8/13/2014
"The same guy who was heckling non-stop and you know it.lett.

4:11 PM on 8/12/2014
Nope. He did not. Others did.
Dan Lett
The guy in the grey business suit was heckling and harassing Gord Steeves,we have it on video,Mr. Lett and you denied it to maintain your narrative,Gord Steeves the racist.
You owe the public an apology.

Dan Lett
8:46 AM on 8/13/2014
He made one comment during the news conference, and it was uttered so quietly that only those of us who were standing right beside him (I am right off to the camera left) could hear what he said. And then for the rest of the event, he said absolutely nothing. That is proven by the video.

anonymity_personified
9:17 AM on 8/13/2014
You couldn't be more disengenuous if you tried lett. The dude was staring steeves down and crowding into his personal space. It was intimidation 101.

Old Flin Flon
9:59 AM on 8/13/2014
Gee Dan. I guess you were caught in a little LIE. Twice. But twisting the truth seems to have become your mudus operendi.
After reporting on the porr aboriginal gentleman who just wanted to have a word to clear the air, it now appears you were and are conspiring to create a little more news. After the humiliation you and Gordon suffered last week, one would have hoped you would be chastised before trying to ruin a few more people. But, oh know, you have proven yorself to be worse than a biased reporter/columnist. This week you have demonstrated yourself to be an honesty challenged activist. Maybe all this is about trying to "impress" the new boss.

You would think that something as basic as getting the facts straight would be a matter of concern to the editorial department, but we'll see.

Lett didn't help his case when responding to a complaint of having a double standard---of attacking Gord Steeves while ignoring the racism of Eric Robinson.  He just tried to rewrite history.
Dan Lett
8:50 AM on 8/13/2014
My conclusion was that the comments were racist and that, as a person who has suffered under the residential schools system and systemic racism most of his life, there was a context there that helped explain - not excuse - the comments Robinson made. Very similarly, I have taken pains not to call Lorrie Steeves a racist. But what she said was racist. We have some context now but I think you're still missing the point.

Comments uttered by a victim of racism and similar comments uttered by someone who felt provoked, but who otherwise has never experienced racism are not the same.
The fact that the great non-aboriginal majority has no empathy for that distinction is hardly surprising. A bit sad really, but no shocker.

If he "concluded" that Robinson's comments were racist, he failed to say so publicly.  
In his column on the minister's racist email, Lett never once used the words "racist email." The closest he came was in paragraph 19 of his 20 paragraph column when he wrote:
"For now, Robinson has been forced to fight the allegations he is a racist with a recitation of his long and decorated political career."

Inventing a scandal. 
Reinventing history. 
The Winnipeg MSM in action.    
Shame.

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