Friday, June 19, 2009

Perhaps Professor Cohen should look into how Canadian "journalists" promulgated Harper's blatant lie about tax leakage

And we aren't just talking about the dutiful slaves to Harper known as Senator Mike Duffy.

We are talking about the dutiful slaves to Harper known as Eric Reguly, Terry Corcoran, Jeffrey Simpson, Margaret Wente, Andy Willis, Bob Hepburn, David Olive. etc. etc., all of whom at some point have seen value in helping to promulgate Harper's gross lie that income trust cause tax leakage or have gone out of their way to keep this central lie from reaching the public's eye and achieve any level of public awareness.

For that failure and act of commission, they are doing a gross disservice to their profession, if you can consider such wide spread unprofessionalism to even qualify as a profession. The list of sycophants in the media on this issue of income trusts goes on and on and reads like a telephone directory for Pravda.

Lone journalists of integrity and professionalism like Diane Francis and William Stanbury can't do it on their own. The absence of professionalism and integrity by the media on the income trust issue is very troubling and portends very negative consequences for democracy in Canada, because of the important role played my the media in holding our politicians to account. A role the Canadians media have failed miserably to achieve, as they have allowed themselves to become enjoined in the Harper government's nefarious end game on income trusts.

If only we could vote journalists out of their jobs, rather than having their masters appoint them to the unelected Senate for a job "well" done and where they will never be held to account. The ultimate reward for the ultimate sell out.

The tale of the Dion tape

By Andrew Cohen,
The Ottawa Citizen June 16, 2009

On Oct. 9, 2008, five days before last autumn's general election, Stéph-ane Dion appeared on CTV Atlantic. It was late in the campaign and polls suggested that the Liberals were gaining on the Conservatives.

That evening, an edited version of the appearance was rebroadcast and discussed by Mike Duffy and commentators on his national show. For CTV, the interview was damaging. For Dion, it was devastating. For the campaign it was, quite possibly, decisive.

In the interview, which was recorded live to tape, anchor Steve Murphy asked Dion this question: "If you were prime minister now, what would you have done about the economy and this crisis that Mr. Harper has not done?"

Dion, who was not in the studio with Murphy, did not understand the long question. He asked Murphy to repeat it. Murphy agreed. The question was still unclear to Dion. Murphy repeated it, twice. Eventually, the interview ran for 12 minutes.

CTV Atlantic aired the entire broadcast that evening, which meant the false starts as well as the interview. It brought many complaints.

Later, Duffy opened his show promising a discussion of "Stéphane Dion's struggle with the English language ... (which) is going to be one you will be talking about for days." His show aired the false starts but not the interview. More complaints.

In response, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council conducted a review. The council is a self-regulatory body comprising more than 720 Canadian radio and television stations. It administers the industry's broadcast code of conduct.

Its two reports, which were released recently and largely ignored by the media, criticized CTV for breaching the code, a finding CTV strenuously rejected. That was revealing.

But what's more revealing is what this little saga tells us about how things are done in this country. It's about politics, ethics and maybe ambition, too.

On CTV Atlantic, the council concluded that Murphy asked a question that was "confusing, and not only to a person whose first language is other than English." It said that Murphy mixed tenses (past and present) and moods (subjunctive and indicative). In other words, Dion was justifiably puzzled.

In light of the badly worded question, which Murphy could have clarified, the panel called the restarts "a courtesy" to Dion. It also said that repeating questions isn't unusual in broadcasting and particularly justified here, given Murphy's convoluted question.

Moreover, because Murphy never refused Dion's requests to restart the interview, Dion had reason to believe that the embarrassing footage wouldn't be used.

On Duffy's broadcast, the council's judgment was harsher. It called his performance unfair and unbalanced. It said that Duffy misrepresented the views of one of his guests, Liberal MP Geoff Reagan. In the end, Duffy breached the industry's code of ethics.

Is all this a grammarian's revenge, Miss Thistlebottom in full flight? A silly parsing of sentences? A regulator's punctilious dressing down on decorum? Does it really matter how Dion was treated by CTV, particularly by Mike Duffy?

Actually, yes, particularly in a country where the RCMP might well have determined the outcome of the 2006 election, when it announced an investigation, in mid-campaign, into allegations of irregularities on the part of finance minister Ralph Goodale. It caused a sensation. The Liberals lost that election; no charges materialized.

Last October, the polls suggest the Liberal party's ascent stalled after the interview. While we cannot say if Dion's momentum would have brought his party victory, it isn't impossible.

In other words, CTV may have thrown the election to the Conservatives. In running the embarrassing outtakes, it reinforced an image of Dion as incomprehensible and indecisive.

It was a gift to the Conservatives, who had been portraying a weak Dion in relentless attack ads before and during the campaign. Harper quickly exploited Dion's unhappy outing.

The council, which has done fine, judicious work here, doesn't speculate on the impact of Dion's appearance. Many Canadians had already decided that Dion was a lousy campaigner who should never have been leader. At the same time, many knew that he was a decent, honest and intelligent politician who was crucified by the Conservatives and abetted, unwittingly or not, by the media, and particularly CTV.

The story doesn't end there. It actually gets worse. In December, Harper appointed Mike Duffy to the Senate. He sits as a Conservative, not an Independent.

Duffy is now the fiercest of partisans in the Red Chamber. He appears at party fundraisers. Pamela Wallin, a former journalist who was appointed as a Conservative at the same time, shows no such fervour.

Was Duffy's appointment a reward? We won't know. Duffy is an amiable guy who has had a distinguished career in broadcasting in which he asked tough questions of all politicians. But he also wanted to go to the Senate, and now he's there.

Don't think that things of this sort don't happen in Canada.

Andrew Cohen is a professor of journalism and international affairs at Carleton University

in Ottawa. E-mail:
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen


Dr Mike said...

It`s bad news when even Geraldo Rivera looks good!!

Dr Mike

PS---The Dion tapes > election 2008 > Dead duck Dion.

The letter from Zachardelli to Wasylycia-Leis re : the income trust investigation during the 2006 campaign > Dead Duck Martin.


Kephalus said...

If a young guy or gal is wanting to do a graduate degree in Journalism, Canada offers some real good opportunities for basic research. The thing for being an academic is you have to be different and you have to be interesting. If what you say is true too, that’s a bonus.

Anyhooo, some hot research topics are: (1) Pimping the news for the Conservative Party: the bleeding edge at CanWuss and SeeTVGlowing; (2) Parallels between media ownership and reporting styles in Italy and Canada; (3) The couch as a news story: in Italy as a prop for 18-year old babes versus in Canada for 60+ potatoes; (4) Canadian career paths to financial reporting, which is better: Neo-Machiavelli theology or 9th-century erotic poetry?

Boris said...

Far too much has been made of the "confusing" question that was asked of Dion in the interview.

First off, even if Dion was confused, a public figure always has the option of casting their own meaning to the question, in effect answering a question of their own liking.

Secondly, are we to believe that every question a prime minister will be asked during their term will be entirely clear and unambiguous, and that live questions will always be repeatedly restated?

The broadcast council may say what theywith, but Dion's performance was abysmal, and Canadians had a right to know about it.