Megalomedia - Wake up to your news

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

This post brought to you by coffee

Hooray, Parliament is back in session! And the first item of business on everyone's list? Arguing over a proposal to create a new logo for the House of Commons. That's democracy in action. The Tories and Bloc actually had the balls to call the debate a waste of time while still throwing out hilarious suggestions such as a snake eating its tail. Bar har har har. Oh, and 80 MPs took the day off. The Citizen says the House "was a wasteland of exhausted MPs" - poor babies, I guess having all of last week off wasn't enough for them. Get fit quick! I'm doing the MediaScout post this morning, so I was subjected to the evening broadcast news last night. CTV played up a McMaster University study that suggested six minutes of intense workout a week can do as much for a person's health as an hour-a-day fitness routine. It also went out on the CP Wire, and the Globe picked up the story. Both CTV and the Globe reported the study basically as truth, as health stories are often run. The key detail however, which CTV really buried, was that the people tested were in excellent shape and critics suggest the benefits could be limited to a small percentage of the population. There are also a number of risks with such intense training, which were buried quite a way down. This is sadly par for the course on health study reporting. CTV seems to love these kinds of stories, but I was surprised to see the Globe jump on it too. *Yawn* Darfur Hey, remember how we're sending a bunch of troops into Darfur? Apparently yesterday the head of the Doctors Without Borders contingent in the country was arrested because he published a report documenting rape in Darfur. He had the gall to (based on witness testimony) publish the report without checking with the Sudanese authorities first. Given that we're sending our troops in to work with this very same government, shouldn't this get some coverage? The Globe, Post, Citizen and Star were the only papers to report it, and each of them only gave it a brief. Hrm. I'm pretty sure I wanted to write more, but I'm bloody exhausted and can't really think of what. Check out today's MediaScout post for more of my thoughts on today's coverage.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Of whiskey shots and mainstream hits

Much to my surprise, I returned from a night of bbq'ing and boozery in Montreal with the MediaScout crew to find that Megalomedia had more hits last Friday than on any previous day since I introduced the counter on May 18. Even more surprising, more than 30 hits came from the U.S. It turns out that the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz cited Megalomedia in his rundown of blog coverage of the FBI report on Koran abuse. The article is here. How Kurtz found me is a mystery, but I'm sure Google is partly responsible. Either way, it's cool to know that this puppy is reaching beyond my friends and family. It also generated the first bit of debate we've seen in the comment section in awhile, so scroll down to last Thursday's post and have a look, it's kind of interesting. Point / What'er-point? The Post's "Issues and Ideas" section leads with what appears to be a point / counterpoint on the racial profiling in policing study that was done in Kingston. Check out the CBC's coverage here for the background. Upon closer examination, however, the articles are actually quite similar. The first, written by a "writer and musician working in Toronto" says that police shouldn't be blamed for stopping more blacks than whites because, in Toronto at least, blacks are responsible for more of the crime. He goes on to blame the media for trying to hide that fact, despite noting that media reports about gangs being taken down in Toronto helped make him aware of the problem. You can read it here. The second piece, wrtten by the author of a study on race and hiring, notes that if racial discrimination were to blame, the ratio of stops-to-charges for blacks would be lower than for whites, which is not the case. He cites that as proof that the stops are legit. This one is only for Post subscribers, so I can't link to it. Contrary to what the Post would have you believe, this is not a clear-cut issue. The second piece doesn't address long-standing concerns about discrimination throughout the entire judicial system. Perhaps that there are more blacks convicted of crimes shows bias in the courts. I'm not saying it does, but it's disingenuous to ignore those concerns. The second piece is, however, much more balanced than the first. Wherein the second piece at least offers substance, the first seems to be really selective in the data used to back it up. It contradicts itself (see the media blame game cited above) and cites crime statistics to back up arrest rates in a mind-boggling display of circular logic. Police are justified in singling out blacks because blacks are so often arrested? Wow. There are reasons to be wary of race-based crime statistics, but to dismiss the Kingston study outright is pretty irresponsible, even by Post standards. And if you ARE going to dismiss it, at least get credible people with sound arguments to do it. Sea King Down! Every major daily, save for the National Post and Toronto Star, grabbed Dean Beeby's Canadian Press article on the dismal performance of a Sea King helicopter during a recent high-seas exercise. The Globe seems to have run it in its entirety, so you can check it out here. By my count, 21 papers ran the article, but of those, six (including the reasonably significant Calgary Herald and Montreal Gazette) decided to omit a rather important quote. See, while the Sea Kings have been justifiably attacked for their poor performance over the years, the man in charge of Sea King maintenance said this particular series of breakdowns was more about bad luck than bad aircraft. That's a pretty important bit of information. But because the "aged helicopters break down too much" narrative is fairly well known in Canada, those six papers figured it was okay to leave it out. Had this been a Coromorant, one of our shiny search-and-rescue helicopters, or one of the CF-18s, readers would want to know why they performed so badly. But because it was a Sea King, we don't need that info. This is just another example in a long line of reasons that I'd hate to work for CP. Their journalists tend to put out really well-written, balanced stories. However, papers get to edit them down to fit their needs, and far too often, that involves gutting some important details. I don't think the six papers axed the quote because of some anti-government, anti-Sea King agenda, but other times you have to wonder about details that are left out. Realistically, Beeby should have probably moved the quote in question up higher in the story, but I think the onus is on the papers to ensure that their edited versions of the story provide the same context and balance as the original. Hrm, this post is getting long. I wanted to comment on a few other things, but I think I'll cut it off here. Oh, but I will toss in this link. The New York Times did a report on preserving the trust of readers. Among the findings were concerns about biased language in balanced reportage and distinguising between columns and news stories. I haven't read it all yet, but it's worth checking out. Let's hope the Canadian papers think so too.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

STOP THE PRESSES!

Why is it whenever international media mentions Canada, the Canadian press pops a massive erection and starts pumping out coverage and spewing it all over A1? The New York Times "Canadian correspondent" wrote a column/analysis that suggested maybe, just maybe, Canada isn't as virtuous and wonderful as we like to think it is. He cited the sponsorship scandal, some lacklustre environmental performances, the monopolistic dairy marketing board, our poor treatment of Native peoples and the Euro-centric nature of our business world. Citizen A1: "N.Y. Times lampoons 'righteous' Canada" Toronto Sun Page 3: "NY TIMES BEFOULS OUR VIRTURE" The National Post at least goes with the slightly-more accurate "New York Times takes swipe at Martin's professed commitment to Canadian values" over a much shorter story buried on A6. Do yourself a favour, go to Google News, search for "New York Times Canada" and read the first bit of the article (Google gives you a nice back door around the subscription-based news sites). Does that seem like the befoulment of our virtue? A lampooning of our righteous nature? No, it seems like a reasonably well-sourced assesment of the Liberal image of Canada as a beacon of justice for the world. The Canadian media has to stop perpetuating this Canadian insecurity. To this day the "Mr. Dithers" moniker is tossed about, all because The Economist used it in February. When that same magazine called Canada cool, it was front page news for weeks. Who cares? That a U.S. newspaper ran an analysis of Canadian values should not be front page news. Not when there are far more important things to discuss. Is it interesting? Sure, it makes for a good read. Maybe some papers should have picked it up in syndication and ran it in their comment pages. But to make a news story out of it? Grow up. I hate to say 'I told you so,' but . . . Yesterday Justice Gomery said he didn't have the evidence to back up claims made in the media about the amount of money funnelled into Liberal coffers, despite suggestions that the forensic study backed up Brault's claims. Now where have I read that before? CBC Radio yesterday indicated that Gomery took a shot at the media for overplaying the forensic report, but that little barb didn't make it into today's coverage. The Star led with Mr. Gomery's general comments about a lack of evidence, while the Globe and Post buried the contradiction to their own coverage deep under yesterday's other testimony. So the average Canadian will probably go on believing that the forensic report (not an audit, it's important to recognize) backed Brault's claims, despite the report's authors saying they didn't have enough evidence to go on and despite Mr. Gomery correcting the media and playing down the impact of the report. That's some fine responsibility. We're waiting for your appology, Mr. Rumsfeld So. The FBI has reports dating back to 2002 of allegations of desecration of the Koran by U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay. They were just declassified. Now, who remembers when the Pentagon said there were "no credible and specific allegations" of Koran desecration? I do! I do! Let's give the Pentagon and Mr. Rumsfeld the ultimate benefit of the doubt and say they didn't know the FBI had these allegations. Fine. But in the light of this recent evidence, shouldn't they retract their statement? And as for all the Canadian papers who latched on to the White House spin, shouldn't they maybe "pull a Newsweek" and retract their comments too? The coverage today goes on to say that federal officials have denied these allegations in the past. Okay fair. But all Newsweek did was say that U.S. officials had uncovered allegations of Koran desecration. And they did.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Unintended consequences of hilarity

When I decided to start running ads on this site I had no idea of the hiliarity that would ensue, but Google's intelligent ad generator is picking up some gems. Megalomedia, your source for Canadian media analysis and sponsored links to paranoid left-wing websites. If a Liberal wins in Labrador, does it make a sound? I gotta say, I was a little surprised that the Globe and Post didn't run the Labrador by-election on A1. After weeks of fronting Chuck Cadman's every bowel movement, they took a pass on an actual story about the balance of power in Parliament. With one more MP, even losing Cadman's support on the next confidence vote could leave the two sides tied with the tie-breaker going to the Liberal speaker. But instead the Post runs a sensational but ultimately resolutionless story about the Bre-X (remember that?) scandal and the Globe leads with a slightly-misleading headline about the sponsorship audit (more on that in a sec). While the outcome of the by-election wasn't a shock, it certainly wasn't a given either. While the papers did offer fairly thorough coverage, I have a hard time believing that whether or not the geologist behind the Bre-X scandal is dead is bigger news. "Oh man, I'm gettin' an Audi!" "Forensic study backs allegations from Brault," screams the front page of the Globe. "Forensic sleuths bolster Brault's credibility," says Christie Blatchford on A5. "Inquiry unearths Groupaction cash," adds the National Post. Gee, with all of those headlines you'd assume the forensic auditing team looking into the sponsorship books had come back with some cold, hard evidence clearly illustrating the money trail. What's that Toronto Star? "Audit team turns up no smoking gun." Hmm, how peculiar. As all the stories evenutally explain, the auditors said the Liberals may have received more than $2.5 million from ad firms that got $1.4 billion in sponsorship and advertising contracts, but they can't be sure. and they also can't rule on whether or not the alleged $2.5 million was ill begotten or not. Let's extrapolate the Globe's headline for a second. Brault said he funnelled more than $1 million to Liberal organizers in return for more than $66 million in sponsorship contracts. Those are the "allegations from Brault" that the Globe led with. The forensic report said in a footnote that the $1.76 million estimate they listed was "per allegation by Mr. J. Brault, the actual amount paid to the Liberal party is unknown." All the stories do a fairly good job of putting it all in context, but the need for context extends to headlines too. The forensic report did not back Brault's allegations, it merely refered to them and emphasized that the amount of money is not known. Call it a nitpicky detail, but it's a pretty damn substantial detail to me. Did Joe just praise the Citizen? I try to give credit where credit is due, and today, the Citizen and Star both kick the Globe's ass with their coverage of the nomination of Yves Cote for the Canadian Forces ombudsman. This is one of those times when it's easiest just to present the information and let it speak for itself. DND news release: M. Côté would bring to the Office almost thirty years of experience with the Government of Canada. He started his career as a Legal Officer with the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Department of National Defence in 1977. He left the Regular Force four years later and has since occupied various legal positions within the government, including General Counsel in the Human Rights Section of Justice Canada, Government Coordinator for the Commission of Inquiry into the Deployment of Canadian Forces to Somalia and, most recently, Counsel to the Clerk of the Privy Council. Globe story: Mr. Côté has spent almost 30 years as a government lawyer, including a stint in the 1970s as a legal officer with the military Judge Advocate General's office. Most recently, he was counsel to the Clerk of the Privy Council. Citizen story: A news release announcing Mr. Cote's nomination cited his term as a military lawyer with the Office of the Judge Advocate General beginning in 1977, when he served as a prosecutor and defender, but the statement did not mention the two years he spent as the Canadian Forces legal adviser from 1998 to 2000. So he was the legal adviser as recently as five years ago eh? I wonder why the department would neglect to include that little fact. Citizen? "A spokesman for Mr. Graham, Steve Jurgutis, disclosed Mr. Cote's term as legal adviser, but said he could not say whether Mr. Cote advised the Canadian Forces about cases under investigation by the ombudsman." Oh, possible conflict of interest, I see. Hrm, I wanted to talk a bit about coverage of Africa, but I'm running long. I'll try to work it in again soon. For now, I'm off to nappy-land.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Long weekend, lame news cycle

Nothing like a long weekend before a week off in Parliament to keep the news down. I'm also doing the Media Scout today, so expect this post to be a short one. Lebanon update The Globe and Mail was the only paper to report that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan confirmed the Syrian pullout from Lebanon. Remember? The thing that Bush said he was waiting for before he believed that Syria was committed to the withdrawal? Oh come on, Lebanon is so last month, we've moved on. Moving on All weekend, Afghan president Hamid Karzai was in the news. There were reports that U.S. soldiers were abusing and in one case killing Afghan detainees, and Karzai was pissed. He was going to walk into Bush's office and give him what for. I guess Mr. Bush must have given Karzai quite the dressing down, 'cause it was a humble, cowed Afghan president who stood by and watched Bush reject each and every one of his requests. The story was missed entirely by the Globe and given only wire service coverage in CanWest papers. I'm going to talk about this in great detail in the Media Scout post today, so please read it there. Two columnists raise Joe's ire David Frum uses his National Post soapbox to say that the recent electoral troubles facing France's Jacques Chirac and Germany's Gerhard Schroeder are well deserved, given their war-hatin', U.S. mistrustin', EU lovin' ways. He actually criticizes them for political opportunism. This is the same David Frum who worked as a speech writer for George W. Bush. He is responsible for the phrase "axis of evil." Mr. Pot, meet Mr. Kettle. And Peter Worthington uses his column space to spew hate and disdain for Romeo Dallaire, a general with a much more honourable war record than his own. The Sun papers are kind enough to post their columns freely, so for fun, we're going to play a rousing game of "Megalomedia: The Home Edition." Check out Worthington's uneducated, poorly-reasoned waste of space here, then post your own analysis for all the world to see. The best rant gets some sort of prize, though not likely a good one. Okay, I have to get back to the Scout, but I look forward to reading your entries this afternoon. Happy rantin'!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

A word on advertising

Okay kids, I took the big step and "sold out" to Google. For the next few weeks at least, there are going to be text ads along the right hand side of the page here at Megalomedia. Please consider clicking an ad or two now and again, because that's the only way they generate any revenue for me. Megalomedia is a project of passion, but if I can be compensated for my time, that'd be neat. In the interest of being fair, I'm going to post a few links here about Google, both for and against them. Also, I am going to link to this post in my link list so people can find this stuff easily. I personally don't have anything against Google, but I want to give air to people's concerns. Thanks to everyone who comes to visit. I recently added a counter and I'm already getting nearly 50 hits a day through the week, that's pretty awesome. If the ads start to bug you, please let me know. Cheers joe Google Watch (anti-Google) Google Watch Watch (anti-anti-Google) Epic 2014 (8-minute short film on possible future of blogs, Google and the media)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

A question for my readers

I'm considering allowing google-sponsored ads on this site. The reason for this is twofold. 1) I need money. Believe it or not, being a media watchdog in Canada doesn't pay well, and this site is done completely on my own time. 2) It's bloody easy to set up. Blogger, the company that hosts this site, is affiliated with Google and they make it pretty easy to get going. Now, I know people have some serious concerns about Google's ethics and everything else, and frankly, I don't know a lot about it aside from what I've read online. If anyone can give me a really good reason why selling my soul to Google would be immoral or really freakin' dangerous, I want to hear it. Also, I don't want people to think this site is sponsored in anyway. I'm independent and bloody proud of that fact. If I put ads on the site, will that be compromised? Any feedback would be awesome. Thanks. You can either post a comment here or send an email to megalomedia.actionline@gmail.com Word up, j

Peter MacKay, you remember David Orchard. . .

Some days I sit at my desk, drinking my coffee, pouring over the major Canadian dailies, worried that I may not get good Megalomedia fodder. Today was one of those days. . . then I got to the Post. Belindagate: Day II The Stronach coverage carried on today, given a boost by the appearance of slighted Tory Peter MacKay, turining sod on his dad's farm in Nova Scotia. The papers seem to be upset on MacKay's behalf, sympathetically describing his sleepless appearance and crestfallen voice. Not one reporter summoned the balls to ask: "So Peter, has the name David Orchard crossed your mind through all of this?" However, the Post really stepped it up a notch. On A6, along the top of the page where they usually run news briefs, the Post had two of their reporters give MacKay some advice on how to move on with his love and political lives now that Belinda has cut him loose. That's A6. In the "News" section. Two legitimate reporters giving relationship advice to an MP. I really, really hope I don't have to go into why this is mind-bogglingly stupid and amazingly inappropriate. Check it out and weep. For the record, the Toronto Sun did something very similar, running some advice to MacKay in their news section, but at least they had the decency to have their sex and relationship columnist write it. Oh, and the Sun is a tabloid! The Post isn't, or at least that's their claim. God Save the Queen from Martin's groping Sigh. Phronetic Man, you may want to skip this section, we've had this debate a few times and in the interest of preserving our friendship, I'd rather not have it again. I don't like the Queen. I don't like the fact that our Queen is chosen by divine right of birth from a depressingly shallow gene pool based in another country. This site, however, is not for my anti-monarchy ranting, it's for whimsical and scathing commentary on the media. So, instead I will focus on the Citizen's coverage of Gropegate - also known as Paul Martin offering a steadying hand to the Queen as they walked across a rain-soaked pathway. Why on earth does the Citizen see fit to dedicate six paragraphs, almost one third of the story, to the fact that Martin may or may not (apparently not, according to every source they cite) have violated royal protocol by touching Her Royal Highness? The fact that lowly commoners like the Prime Minsiter of Canada can't touch the Queen is ridiculous enough, but why must the Citizen try to create a controversy where there isn't one? Ipperwash. . . Oh yea, that thing I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome the National Post and Ottawa Citizen to the Ipperwash Inquiry. Nice of you to come. Yup, allegations that Mike Harris was a racist, Native-hating redneck come out and CanWest finally wakes up. Let's see how long they stick around. Oh wow, in searching the Toronto Star website for their Ipperwash coverage (I wanted to link to it but you have to register for their site), I noticed that they have a sidebar link to their corrections right off the main page. That's amazingly responsible. That paper impresses me more and more each day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Current music: "Turncoat" -- Anti-Flag

I love when both the National Post and Ottawa Sun have the same headline. "Blonde bombshell," they both declare, in a move that is both amazingly sexist and entirely predictable. Which one is the tabloid again? It would be impossible to do an analysis of the daily media today without commenting on Belinda's defection, but frankly, the coverage was what you'd expect. The right-wing columnists are either pissed at Belinda or say they never liked her anyway; the Star thinks she made the right move; and the "news" stories deal with a) the coming confidence vote b) what it means for the Tories and c) what this means for her and Peter MacKay. So instead, I'm going to take a different look at this. Namely, what stories got bumped to make room for the orgy of coverage of Belindagate (yes, I coined it, deal with it). The Senate rushed through legislation that will create a database of DNA samples from convicted criminals, electing not to hear committee testimony from the Canadian Bar Association and others regarding its legality. Oh yea, and this is despite assurances from Senators earlier this week that they were looking forward to the committee stage and would not simply rubber-stamp the bill. The only person who appeared at the committee was Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, who sponsored the legislation. The only papers that carried the story were the Windsor Star, Montreal Gazette, Edmonton Journal and Ottawa Citizen. A group of seven African leaders, including the newly-reputable Moammar Gadhafi, rejected any intervention in Darfur by non-African troops. They also reaffirmed Gadhafi's role as chief negotiator between the warring parties. This story ran in the Montreal Gazette, Edmonton Journal, Winnipeg Free Press, Calgary Sun and Windsor Star. Allegations of American interrogators defacing the Koran have been around for several years, including in reports in the U.S. and international press. Several former Guantanamo Bay detainees stood by their claims about the desecration. I'm going to write more on this in a bit, but there was an Associated Press story available to our wire-copy-loving media and only the Montreal Gazette, Edmonton Journal and Vancouver Sun decided to run anything on it, despite the ongoing coverage of the Newsweek controversy in almost every major paper. The Ipperwash inquiry heard tapes from a phone conversation recorded the day before OPP officers shot and killed an unarmed native protester in 1995. The conversation featured OPP Inspector Ron Fox, the force's liaison officer for aboriginal affairs at Queen's Park, explaining his worries to Acting Superintendent John Carson, who headed police operations during the crisis. Seems Insp. Fox was worried that top-level government officials (including then-premier Mike Harris' executive assistant) were on "a testosterone high" and not ready to listen to concerns about police intervention in the standoff. As has been the case with all Ipperwash coverage, CanWest completely ignored it. Only the Globe (a recent arrival to the Ipperwash scene), Toronto Star and London Free Press got the story. Canadian fighter jets were deployed to escort a Boston-bound flight from Milan to an airport in Maine after a passenger on board matched the name of someone on the no-fly list. It was later proven that the guy with the same name wasn't the no-fly guy. This was in the Montreal Gazette, Cape Breton Post and Calgary Sun. Getting frustrated yet? Me too. There were actually a few more, but these were the biggest ones that I could see. Who knows what didn't make any of the papers. Newsweek controversy Okay, a Megalomedia reader asked earlier this week what I thought of the whole Newsweek controversy, and given that the story is still making the papers, I'll share my thoughts now. First and foremost, I've ranted before on the willingess of the press to go with off-the-record sources. It's dangerous because when shit hits the fan, the press is left holding the bag (mixed metaphor alert). However, this is the sort of story that warrants an off-the-record source, because it's not likely to come out any other way and despite what right-wing nutbag Dennis Prager (see today's National Post) would have you believe, this story does need to be told. The right-wing pundits in the U.S. did what you'd expect, they took this story and used it to illustrate the liberal media's bias. What gets me is how the major media in Canada left Newsweek out to dry too. Newsweek handled this pretty well. When it became clear that their source may have screwed them, they appologized. When the source recanted, they retracted, despite having other sources that backed them up and accounts from several former detainees. But to read the comments in the Canadian press, you'd think they'd done something the rest of the press wouldn't dream of doing. Hypocrites. The fact is stories like this run all the time. The difference here is that this story was the straw that broke the camel's back and prompted some riots that, sadly, turned violent and fatal. As for the source, I can't believe that so many papers are buying the Pentagon line. Here we have a government department that has routinely lied to make their point (WMD in Iraq, for one), under the umbrella of an administration that admits to paying journalists to lie for them. Why is their word suddenly credible in the face of several other witnesses? Why should I suddenly believe Donald Rumsfeld. The fact is, I have no idea whether what Newsweek wrote was true or not. Neither do the columnists, editorial writers and pundits who were so quick to attack what was said to be a very reputable magazine. It's a he-said, she-said debate and to accept either side's spin as truth is irresponsible.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Scouted Out

Wow. Just finished my first MediaScout post. Hopefully by the time you read this, you'll have received an email with my name on it (if you've signed up). Those who didn't get around to getting on the list can see it at www.mediascout.ca very soon. I got to comment on most of what I wanted to comment on, but I had planned on doing a Megalomedia post today as well. Yea, that's not happening. I'm totally spent physically and intellectually right now. Once I get the hang of the MS style I should be able to do both in a morning, but for today, you'll have to get your daily analysis in MediaScout form. Cheers, j

Monday, May 16, 2005

So. Umm. Do you like. . . stuff?

Wow, slow news day. Today's post will be kind of short as a result, but tomorrow. . . Tomorrow I get to test out my new, bigger soapbox. If you haven't gone to the Maisonneuve magazine website to sign up for Media Scout yet, DO IT NOW! Follow the link above, the signup link is on the left side of the page, below the magazine cover. I'm not just whoring Media Scout because I'm going to be writing for it, it really is the premier media watchdog in this country. So sign up now, I'll wait. . . Okay, here we go. Look ma, no sources! I've wanted to write about this for awhile and since today is a slow day, I'm going to do it now. The media's fascination with Access to Information legislation seems to be growing, and with good reason. Getting access to internal government documents can equip journalists with a really valuable tool. But with great power comes great responsibility, and too often, the documents become the story instead of supplementing it. There's an example of this in today's Ottawa Citizen City section - David Pugliese's story on National Defence's quest for new office space. This story has been developing for awhile and the Citizen has done a good job of staying on it, so Pugliese's story actually offers more context than the average ATI story, but it's still indicative of the trend. Pugliese leads with a DND report written in January 2004 that suggests Kanata as a prime location for the new DND HQ. However, he later contradicts this by citing another report obtained under ATI last week that said DND is looking for three main office locations, including one in Hull. That report was newer, so one could argue that it holds more sway than the Kanata report. But in reality, both of these are just internal reports for consideration. The problem with Access requests is that the results are random memos and reports with no real explanation as to how they were received or processed. Pugliese hints at this, when he quotes a DND source who says they are actually nowhere near deciding where to put the new HQ. Too often, "reports" and "memos" are the only sources in these stories. The rush to get a scoop trumps the need to provide context and balance, and misleading or confusing stories are the result. Tell me a story I was at a media conference in Washington D.C. earlier this year, where Reason magazine editor Nick Gillespie was one of the presenters. He made an interesting point about the reliance on familiar narratives in journalism. He used "designer drug" stories as an example, noting that pot, acid, e and now meth have all been reported on in the same manner, because the stories are easier to digest that way. The coverage of the uprising in Uzbekistan reminds me of this same sort of thing. There you have two competing narratives and you can see the international press trying desperately to figure out if this is a Sri Lanka-esque Islamic uprising or a Georgian democratic revolution. The truth is probably somewhere in between, but it's easier to try and decide on an apt comparison. The situation there is made worse by the fact that the Uzbek government has cracked down on foreign and independet media, so most reports are secondhand anyway. It makes sense that journalists want to draw similarities to other events, such comparisons are a good way to help your reader understand what's happening, but the media has a responsibility to ensure that they understand the situation themselves before trying to simplify it for readers. Graeme Smith in the Globe does a great job underlining the complexity of the situation in his story today (filed from Moscow, oddly enough, I guess that's as close as you can get these days). It's here That's about it for today, though it's worth noting that the Toronto Star's Antonia Zerbisias has started doing her own Media Blog. Thus far it seems to be focused more on U.S. television coverage of things, sprinkled with a few self-indulgent props to Star reporters and stories, but it'll be interesting to see how a mainstream columnist takes on the Canadian media. You can bet some CanWest bashing isn't too far off.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Oh man, now we've embarassed ourselves in front of Mali

The president of Mali had ringside seats for what had to be one of the lowest days in our Parliamentary history. This is getting ridiculous. Harper says that Martin set the budget vote for next week in the hopes that sick MPs would get sicker and be unable to vote? That's fucking awful. And now he's going to stall Parliament to try to force a vote, ensuring that nothing gets done. Way to piss away any credibility you had left, Harper. While the Post carried on its tradition of buying into Conservative spin hook, line and sinker, the Globe's John Ibbitson pointed out that Martin's decision will allow sick MPs to make travel arrangements well in advance. If you ask me, hauling them to Ottawa for a vote that you know the government will not accept as a confidence vote is more detrimental to their health than giving them a week to get their affairs in order. I'm embarassed that these people are our elected representatives. I encourage everyone to watch Question Period today. Our MPs are acting like children and it sickens me. Balanced reportage for terrorists? No thank you. The Citizen ran an interesting little story on Air India today. Apparently, there were a bunch of documents that were declassified in 1996 that showed tapes of conversations involving the man suspected of being the mastermind behind the bombing weren't listented to for months after. Despite never being convicted (he was killed before he could be), the article calls the man a terrorist. And it contains this gem of a line: "The revelation, contained in documents declassified in 1996, but never before reported on, leads to a shocking conclusion. . . " Not only did the "news" report draw conclusions, it drew shocking ones. That's some good reporting there. And in the "you've got to be kidding me" file. . . As part of its ongoing coverage of the Michael Jackson trial, the Toronto Star ran a one-source story suggesting Jackson sold his Neverland Ranch. The source? The National Enquirer. That's right, the most famous supermarket tabloid in world reports that the ranch was sold and that warrants a story in the largest-circulation newspaper in Canada. Unbelievable.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

If a government falls in a forest, but three MPs aren't there, does it make a sound?

Well it looks like the Conservatives did it. I'm not talking about the vote. I'm talking about getting the mainstream press to completely buy in to the "no confidence in the government" spin line. While most papers did a good job of reporting that two Liberal cabinet ministers and one independent MP were absent, that key nugget of information seemed lost on the editorialists and columnists. Had all three voted with the Liberals, the vote would have been a tie and the Speaker would've broken it - the Liberal Speaker. MIA were Irwin Cotler (at a funeral for a close relative), John Efford (getting medical treatment) and Chuck Cadman (bed-ridden with cancer). Does that seem a bit callous to anyone else? Cadman has made it clear he can get to Ottawa with a few days notice, but the Tories kept him in the dark knowing that his vote was not guaranteed (Cadman has said he's not sure if he'd vote for or against the government). What do you think that little stunt did to his voting conscience? There are many reasons to support bringing this government down. My personal favourite is that nothing is getting done right now because everyone is focused on bringing down the government. But seeing the editorial pages awash in Conservative spin makes my tummy hurt. But . . . but . . . we installed the good guys, no? The Globe and Ottawa Sun reported that the Haitian Supreme Court is ready to overturn the convictions of those involved in the massacre that saw supporters of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1994. There are suggestions that the U.S. (and Canada) backed government in power might have a hand in it. I don't want to get into the he-said, she-said nature of the story too much, because frankly, I don't know that much about the Haiti situation (thanks to the media ignoring the story, more on that later). What I do know is that Aristide was a democratically-elected president who was overthrown in a coup that was supported by both Canada and the U.S. The media seemed to walk away from the story after Aristide was thrown out, despite the fact that there is as much (if not more) violence and poverty there today. Whether or not the sitting government is behind the overturning of the convictions is, frankly, irrelevant at this stage. The Canadian media has a responsibility to stay on this story. Canada was involved in the coup and Canada has police personnel in the country attempting to run training operations. It's shameful that more papers didn't pick this up. Ipperwash Inquiry: Not just for the Toronto Star anymore The Globe makes its bold entry into the coverage of the Ipperwash Inquiry, reporting on the testimony of the ranking OPP officer on scene at the time. Better late than never, I suppose. Welcome to the show. The Citizen and some SunMedia papers chose instead to report that Dudley George's family has set up a webcam to monitor the proceedings. Hmm, maybe it's because Canada's largest media chain isn't covering the hearings . . . Sgro update The big papers all got the Sgro news, though CanWest was more concerned about how the ethics commissioner handled the case. Oh well, at least it's there. I hate Christie Blatchford Man, she really represents the worst in column writing, doesn't she? Check out today's gem, where she gleefully abuses the priviledged status of Gomery testimony and libels the hell out of senior Liberals in Quebec. All in her patronizing, high-school English essay style.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Cue Chicken Little

That's right ladies and germs, the government is falling! The government is falling! Oh wait, except that this isn't a confidence vote, no matter how much the Conservatives and CanWest want it to be. Depsite headlines like "Liberals' fate hinges on definition of confidence vote" (Ottawa Citizen), tonight's vote is most certainly not a confidence vote. It could, however, make the Liberals look so pitiful that they'll be forced to either hold a confidence vote themselves or move their budget vote up (money votes are always confidence matters) to prove they still have the authority to govern. Either way, I hope something happens. Nobody wins when the Commons is reduced to childish insults and stall tactics. We'll miss you Ed Broadbent. Ask and ye shall receive Well don't that beat all? Both the National Post and Toronto Star feature lengthy commentaries on Darfur today, complete with context and background! The Post does so in the form of a comment by a U.S.-based professor (it doesn't tell you what kind of prof) saying that Canada should be doing more and that the 150 troops we're sending won't make a difference. I have mixed feelings on that (yes, we should do more but the 150 will help), but he goes into quite a bit of the history of the region and the current situation. The Star gives a little less of the history, but does sum up the challenges facing the people of Darfur fairly well. I hope you're watching, Globe, you could take a lesson from all of this. Coverage spree Everyone takes their own little take on the government's pre-election spending spree, with the Post actually giving a blow-by-blow account of where the money is going. What every outlet is lacking, however, is some (wait for it. . . ) context. Pre-election spending is a staple of every government, it's disingenous to suggest otherwise. By reading the coverage today, you'd think Martin was the first one to think of this. It may very well be that this government is spending more than previous, or that the initiatives are more poorly conceived, but we'll never know because there's no context. It's the opposition's job to decry this sort of spending, but that doesn't mean journalists should dutifully take notes and report what they say verbatim. ASK A FUCKING QUESTION. DO SOME RESEARCH. The reporters know what Harper is going to be talking about, why can't they dig through the history books and find out what other governments have done in the lead up to an election? If this is truly the worst example of pre-election vote buying, report that. If not, challenge Harper. Either way, be armed with the information you need. Sgro? That name rings a bell This is one of those wait-and-see things I like to do. CBC is reporting that former Immigration Minister Judy Sgro is going to be cleared by the ethics commissioner in the case of the stripper she gave a permit to. According to the CBC, the stripper only worked on Sgro's campaign for one day, and Sgro had no idea who she was. Remember how much play this story got when it broke? Say what you will about the ethics lapdog. . . sorry, watchdog, he's all we've got right now. The media owes it to Sgro to give his ruling as much play as the initial allegations. The CBC report actually got picked up in a few papers already, we'll see what tomorrow brings. Hyperbo-whatnow? Oh man, the National Post ran a brutual editorial celebrating all things Bush today. Seriously, it's nuts. The website only gives access to it to subscribers so it's doubtful that many of you will get to read it, but allow me to quote: "Few contemporary leaders enjoy the clarity of purpose and the moral foundation of Mr. Bush, and fewer still have the ability to deliver their message with the plain language and eloquent idealism of the President." "After the address, a reporter suggested to Mr. Bush that the United States might be behind the 'revolutionary' change in Georgia and Ukraine, and might be 'inappropriately meddling in the neighbourhood.' Mr. Bush replied: 'Freedom is universal. Freedom is etched in everybody's soul. And the idea of countries helping others become free, I would hope that would be viewed as not revolutionary, but rational foreign policy, as decent foreign policy, as humane foreign policy.' Well said, Mr. Bush. The spread of freedom and democracy is more than decent, rational foreign policy. It is a human imperative." Wow! Does this smack of North Korean, all hail the leader bullshit to anyone else? He's not even our President! Plain language and eloquent idealism? Perhaps I misunderestimated Mr. Bush.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Cynics of the world, unite!

Wow, a guy doesn't get around to reposting his daily rant and people get testy. Thanks to everyone who posted or wrote to me about that, I guess people really are reading this bad boy. WARNING: Self-promotion ahead. Media rants follow. As I mentioned last week, I was in Montreal discussing some possibly exciting developments for this site and media watchdoggery in general. I'm pleased to announce that I have joined forces with the fine folks at Media Scout (see link to the right, or go to www.mediascout.ca). Starting sometime this week, I'll be writing the daily e-mail briefing for them once or twice a week. This is insanely exciting. If you haven't been to their site and signed up for the daily e-mail, I urge you to do so now. Media Scout is the premier media watchdog in this country, something that we've been sorely lacking for too long. I'm really proud to have been invited to take part. In addition to joining their team, I also pitched the idea of the Actionline to them and got an enthusiastic response. The details have yet to be hammered out, but I would expect you to be hearing about a much larger, much more sophisticated Actionline in the next few weeks or months. All this to say that I'm really stoked about where this is all headed. I started doing Megalomedia as a way of sharing my rants with friends, but I soon decided that I'd like to do this for a living. Media Scout is a step towards that goal. Canada doesn't have anyone like Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) to act as a watchdog for the media, yet our media is arguably more concentrated and corporate than theirs. It's time to stop being complacent and start doing something about it. What does this mean for Megalomedia? Well, I intend to keep on blogging, as the kids say. The Media Scout gig will be once or twice a week and the Actionline stuff won't be whipped up in a day like the first one was. Ideally, this will all just mean more traffic to the site and more debate in the comments section. Speaking of that, I should get down to business. Darfur in the press, Joe's still not happy Argh. I should be glad that the genocide in Darfur is starting to get some coverage and that Canada is actually deploying soldiers there. And I am. But man, could we PLEASE get some context in our reportage? The Globe's Bill Curry reported on Bill Graham's attempts to convince people that the mission in Darfur wasn't based solely on trying to win support from recently-independent MP David Kilgour. Frankly, I believe him. But in trying to stretch the story and give some background, Curry quickly outlines the other Canadian contingents in or headed for the country. 'A' for effort, but given that the Globe never reported on the Canadian deployment to Southern Sudan, it is a bit of a stretch to assume everyone will understand what you mean by "Canada has already committed 31 soldiers to act as advisers to the UN Standing High Readiness Brigade in Khartoum. . . " or that the UN brigade he refers to is mandated to monitor the peace agreement in Southern Sudan, not Darfur. The Post runs a similarly frustrating editorial, in which they decry the lack of action on Sudan and say the Canadian contribution isn't enough to make a difference. It's cute to see the suddenly pretend to care about Africa. And I'm sure it's purely coincidental that it comes at a time when the Conservatives are looking to mount an election campaign that will undoubtedly criticize the Liberals' committment to the military. If the Post is so concerned about Darfur, why has it taken this long to do any substantive reporting on the crisis? TERROR! FEAR! OBEY! TERROR! The Post leads with the spine-chilling headline "Influx of terrorists" and warns us all that a government report revealed that "a number of 'jihadist returnees' have arrived back in Canada from other countries and some may intend on committing acts of terrorism." That's pretty much the extent of the new information. It goes on to quote the report giving the same info as the lead, then devolves into rehashed tidbits about Ahmed Ressam (the "alleged" Millennium Bomber!) and Fateh Kamel (the "alleged" former leader of a Canadian extremist cell), among others. Let's extrapolate that lead, shall we? A "number" of these guys have come back to Canada, and "some" may want to blow shit up. From that we can assume that not all of the aforementioned number want to blow shit up, just a few. And given that 2 is a number, one could argue that only one jihadist returnee is kicking around planning to blow shit up. One would probably be wrong, but since the report didn't offer any numbers to refute one, one is going to sit confidently at one's desk and drink some V8 Low Sodium. The amazing thing is that there was a CP story today about a CSIS report on the rise in Islamic extremism in Africa that contains much more troubling information, but the Post took a pass. In case you live in some sort of hell where the Post is your only source of news, here it is. Why would the Post pass up on a much better story with more new information that would serve the fear-mongering agenda they love so much? Perhaps it's the implication in the CP story that poverty plays a role in driving people to extremist groups. See, that's what Chretien and a few others tried to tell people a few years back, and the Post was indignant. The idea that poverty caused terrorism was nonsense! Oh, and they would have had to actually report on Africa, and who wants to do that? AIDS, poverty, civil wars. . . that shit's a downer. Okay, this is getting long enough. I wanted to talk about a few more things, but this post is already a beast. Go sign up for Media Scout and be part of the revolution.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Lost Post Part II

erm, this wasn't supposed to happen with my new iBook. But I was in the process of publishing today's post and something went awry. I'll repost it later today, but I'm too sleepy to type it all again now. -j

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Smoked Meat Mission Redux

I am going to keep this post brief, cause I'm off to Montreal today and I need to get ready to roll. Hopefully in the next few days I'll have some big news about this site for you based on my trip, but in the meantime, let's rant. The Star sinks to Citizen levels A few weeks ago I posted about the Ottawa Citizen returning to their Spin, Counterspin, Truth analysis pieces that featured prominently in their election coverage last fall. There's another one today, with Jack Aubry deconstrucitng the role of the NDP and Senate in keeping the minority government afloat. Sadly, the Toronto Star fell victim to the same trend, with The Spin, The Claim and The Verdict by Tonda MacCharles and Sean Gordon. Let me explain something here. This is the media's job. This shouldn't be a special feature. What the Citizen and Star are doing is essentially admitting that the bulk of their news coverage is spun. By providing context on one issue, they are underlining the lack of context that plagues the majority of their pages. The problem is that because of the pressure to get the scoop and be the first one on every story, mainstream dailies frequently publish stories with one source giving one side of a story. These stories are followed up the next day with the other side's response and eventually the reader gets lost in a sea of rhetoric. And papers are forced to invent Spin, Counterspin, Truth-style analysis. A better solution would be to deconstruct party talking points and provide context in every story. When did the idea of balanced reportage become a novelty? The Post shows its true colours I don't have time to go over all of these one-by-one, but the Post has some real gems in their comment sections today, including a Post reporter arguing that newspapers are still a legitimate medium despite plummeting circulation numbers (no self-interest there); a military historian arguing for new energy policies, not because our reliance on oil is killing the planet but because oil revenues are going to "the enemy" (undefined, of course) and countries that haven't had to work for their wealth and therefore don't respect democracy; and an editorial on how teens can't make decisions for themselves and it's good that the state is there to tell them how to behave (based on both the Florida teen's attempts to have an abortion and the Jehovah's Witness who doesn't want a blood transfusion). Phew, that's some good neo-con'ing.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Happy Press Freedom Day!

I never thought it would get to the point that I'd lose sympathy for Juliet O'Neill. But after a solid 16 months of the Citizen parading her across their pages at every minor milestone in her legal battle, I'm pretty tired of it all. Yes, what happened to her was brutal and offensive, but how can the Citizen expect to report on it unbiasedly? Today, it's front page news that O'Neill won a press freedom award from the National Press Club. Accompanying the story is a photo of the Citizen's front page from the day after the raid. There are elements to the story that are worth reporting, such as the comments from the award jury, the fact that the raid sparked international attention and it's probably even worth updating the legal battle surrounding the raid on her home and office. But the first quote in the story shouldn't be from the editor-in-chief of the paper. Nor should the second quote be from the executive editor. The story gets more twisted on the editorial page, however, where the lead editorial compares O'Neill to the editor of a Chinese paper who received a UNESCO award for his work. The Chinese journalist spent five months in a Chinese jail and can no longer work. O'Neill had someone go through her panty drawer. The opening lines of the editorial ooze with the sort of self-indulgence that makes me loathe the mainstream press: "Chen Yizhong works in China; Juliet O'Neill works in Canada. Both are journalists, and both have suffered intimidation and threats, just for doing their jobs. The are comrades in a fight for freedom that never ends." The kicker really cracks me up though. "Press freedom is a right, not for journalists, but for all people. Free and independent media are an essential component of democracy - and anyone who cherishes our democracy has a duty to help defend that free press." An independent media? I guess they have a different definintion than I do. Southern Sudan is a-okay, let's just move on This National Post story baffles me. "Peace deal clears way for massive rebuilding: Southern Sudan." The story opens: "In the rugged plains of southern Sudan, Africa's longest war dashed the simplest hopes of two generations. Yet the signing of a peace agreement between Sudan's regime and southern rebels has at last cleared the way for one of the most ambitious reconstruction and development schemes in recent history." With that lead and headline, you'd think the situation is southern Sudan was pretty good eh? Oh wait, the context comes later. Rampant poverty, no paved roads, landmines strewn across the dirt roads rendering them impassable, illiteracy, high infant-mortality rates and a lack of direction from government officials . . . the article concludes that "Until this is resolved, southern Sudan will be incapable of absorbing the huge sums promised by international donors." So, how has the way been cleared for rebuilding, exactly? To further the frustration, this is a reprint of a Daily Telegraph story from London, so there's not even any Canadian content such as the amount of money Canada has contributed or the fact that Canadian soldiers will be deployed there. I think there's also a responsiblity to clearly articulate that southern Sudan is NOT Darfur, which is in the west. I don't know that the distinction is clear and writing that there's a peace deal in Sudan could lead people to believe that the genocide in Darfur is over. It most certainly isn't. The Post outdoes itself Early in my Megalomedia days I took some shots at the CanWest papers for ensuring a pretty lady above the fold as often as possible. Please don't mistake my lack of follow-up posts to a change in practice, they still do it. Today's Post even manages to get two famous hotties - Sandra Bullock and Pamela Anderson - on A1. Bullock is in an above-the-masthead teaser to an arts story, while Anderson is a standup teasing to a story in the business section about her KFC boycott. Makes you wonder if the choice of a bunch of phallic-looking carrotts for the teaser to the antioxidants story was a coincidence.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Happy May to all

Holy crap, it's May. Anyone know where April went? I could have sworn I'd left it here somewhere. But 'tis the season of renewal; birds are singing, trees are in bloom and the UN is starting to review the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. I love that the U.S. - the same country that developed and is now selling the 'bunker-buster' bomb - is critical of Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs. Bush points to their activities as an example of the failure of the treaty. Mr. Pot, meet Mr. Kettle. Maybe if Bob Geldof wrote a song. . . The Canadian Press put a story out on the wire yesterday about last year's legislation aimed at providing cheap drugs to Africa. Apparently the Jean Chretien Pledge to Africa Act (yes, its real name) has not led to a single drug being exported to Africa yet. Technicalities and a lack of interest among pharmaceutical companies in doing humanitarian work (I know, I'm as shocked as you) are to blame, according to the story, which you can find here. Despite many CanWest papers getting the story, including the Montreal Gazette and Edmonton Journal, the National Post and Ottawa Citizen took a pass on the story, as did the Globe and Mail. How they can ignore this story is beyond me, especially given that it was written and sent to them by CP. Normally they're all over wire stories. I guess the Globe figured it met its Africa quota with Stephanie Nolen's Uganda piece (a good story, by the way, it's here). And CanWest heavy-hitters passing up a chance to bash the Chretien legacy, that goes against everything I know to be true. It's not like this is a small story. The original CP story (papers often chop the copy, so depending on which paper you read, your story may differ) quoted Tony Parmar from Doctors Without Borders; the president of the generic drug association; an Industry Canada spokesperson; Stephen Lewis, the UN's envoy on AIDS in Africa, and Liberal Senator Jim Munson. Munson and Lewis are media darlings who get covered for almost everything they do, and DWB is certainly a high-ranking source on international affairs. By popular demand, a medical 'story' When I first started Megalomedia, I was asked to keep an eye out for bogus medical stories. I'm wary of most health stories printed these days, especially those that cite "studies" without giving much detail about who funded the studies. Today's story on transcedental meditation is a perfect example. As reported in today's Ottawa Citizen (page A8, but there's an above the masthead teaser as well), "Transcedental meditation found to extend life: Study." That's the actual headline. The story also ran in CanWest bretheren Vancouver Sun, Victoria Times-Colonist, Calgary Herald, Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Province. It reports that a recent study showed transcendtal meditation, made popular by the Beatles in their most strung-out phase, can lower stress and reduce the risk of heart disease. Pretty impressive stuff eh? Who did the study? ". . . says lead author Dr. Robert Schneider, director of the Center of Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management in Iowa." That word, Maharishi, that looks familiar, where have I seen that? For the answer, let's turn to the paragraph immediately following the attribution above. "Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought [TM] to the West in the 1960s." That's right, the study that found TM can extend your life was done by a university founded by the founder of TM. Compare these websites, the official transcendental meditation website here and the university's website here. Look similar at all? The story itself actually goes on to explain that "the team checked death records alone, meaning they don't have personal information on whether people in the mediation group changed their lifestyle to lower their risk of getting sick" and that "Dr. Schneider cautioned larger and longer studies are needed." But why let context get in the way of a sensational headline and lead? And finally, I want to share this with people. It's not Canadian media stuff, but I think it fits the bill for a Megalomedia posting. FOXNews has reporters in Iraq, this is the sort of report they see fit to file. Go to www.foxnews.com and click on "Only on Fox" in the right-hand sidebar. Then select "Bon Appetit." Pay special attention to the obligatory but glossed-over reference to the Haliburton scandal and weep for the state of the media.