Megalomedia - Wake up to your news

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The times, they are a-somethin'

Hey all. Just a quick update today to say that there are going to be some major changes in my life coming up that are going to have an impact on this site. I'll post more details when I get a clearer picture of what it all means to Megalomedia. So no criticisms today? Well, okay, maybe a couple. Remember when Uzbekistan was all the rage? Those protesters got shot, a bunch fled to Kyrgyzstan . . . any of this ring a bell? Well, Canada has agreed to take 50 of those protesters as refugees. But unless you read the Globe, Star or Gazette, you wouldn't know that. And I still don't understand why the Post isn't covering the Arar Inquiry. CanWest has a great reporter there in Neco Cockburn, who is providing the most thorough coverage of the whole thing. Yet despite controversial testimony such as this, the Post remains silent. Sorry it's short and sweet folks, but mosey on over to adsthatsuck.blogspot.com and take part in the debate over the Post's wrap ad. It's good times.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Plethora of problematic pieces

Ok, before we get going here, I want everyone to repeat after me: They were undercover cops. They were undercover cops. This is the one fact that a lot of people are omitting from their reports and commentaries on the shooting of an unarmed, innocent man in the London subway. Despite what Peter Worthington and his letter-writing supporters would have you believe, the brown guy had no way to know that the angry mob of gun-toting white men chasing him and yelling for him to stop were cops. Cops that shot him seven times in the head. Okay, on to today's coverage. Continuing the fight for freedom I am really concerned about the resurgence in "us vs. them" thinking lately. I thought we'd finally accepted that "terror" is a complex entity comprised of many different elements, but lately, we've slid back into this reactionary, polarizing discourse on the nature of the threat. Here's a few examples. First, Marcus Gee in today's Globe cites the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, and notes that the killer was a relatively-affluent, Dutch-raised Muslim who was motivated by antiquated notions of Islamic fundamentalism. No argument here. But then he some how extends this argument to apply to each and every jihadist, and dismisses suggestions that some terrorist cells are motivated by aggressive Western foreign policies. Apply that thinking to the other side. Would anyone dare suggest that each and every American soldier is driven by the same motivation? No, of course not. Some soldiers enlist because of a sense of patriotic duty. Some do it because they're poor and it gets them a free education. I assume some do it because they like to kill. There are myriad reasons that U.S. soldiers enlist, and it's unrealistic to try and pretend that the situation is different with jihadists. Another example: Bruce Garvey's column in the Post's Issues and Ideas section today deals with Canada's complacent approach to terrorism. I can't link to the piece because the Post blocks access to it and Google News can't seem to find it, but Garvey makes a few lovely arguments. Allow me to post and refute: He dismisses concerns about racial profiling by saying "to my recollection, the vast majority of the terrorist evil-doers who've struck struck the West traced their roots to the Middle East or South Asia. (The notable exceptions: a Jamaican-born British bomber, the executed Timothy McVeigh and, if we're going to count failed attempts, Richard Reid)." That's quite the recollection, good sir. Impressive that you've already managed to forget that the four failed London bombers were from Somalia and Eritrea, which are in Africa. Garvey then goes on to complain that "the liberal cause celebre" is the shooting of the Brazilain man in London. I won't repeat myself, just know that Garvey, like so many others, fails to note that the cops were undercover. There's more, but it would take too much time to post everything. Just digest this little conclusion: "The civil libertarians would do well to recall that during the last great war the British fought six decades ago, censorship and restrictions would have prohibited any of these events from even being reported." I'm encouraged to see that four years into this great war on terrorism, the U.S. is finally starting to recognize that terrorism isn't a clearly-defined enemy (story is here, but it was also in the CanWest papers and a few others). I hope the chattering classes get the memo and start contributing something worthwhile to the national debate. Whaddya mean they're related? All this talk about Hans Island has people wondering about Canada's ability to patrol the arctic. The Montreal Gazette and Toronto Star both ran editorials today underlining the seriousness of the issue. They both stressed that Canada needs to be able to protect its Arctic sovereignty. Odd then that they both passed on this CP story. I don't understand how papers can editorialize on issues as though they exist in a vaccum. It happens all the time. Some outlet will bemoan Canada's weak borders and pass on a wire story about a major drug seizure at the border. In this case it's even more surprising because it would have added to their point. It's just really frustrating. Parting shots First of all, hooray for Jeffrey Simpson. He takes the premiers to task for asking for dedicated education money from the feds after lobbying for years for lump sum transfer payments. Anyone who's heard me rant knows this topic is near and dear to my heart. So Simpson gets a big hooray. Oh, and guess who's going to be supplying and servicing (no, not like that, perverts) our troops in Afghanistan? If you said Canada's homegrown war profiteerers SNC-Lavalin, you'd be wrong! It's Halliburton! Read all about it here and pay special attention to the fact that they spelled Halliburton wrong.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Post takes selling out to a whole new level

It finally happened. When I was the editor-in-chief of Carleton University's independent weekly newspaper the Charlatan, I was approached on more than one occasion by our advertising department with requests from adveritisers to put ads on our cover. The requests ranged from simple banner ads (the likes of which appear at the bottom of most major daily papers) to one extreme request to wrap the paper in an ad. It appears the Post had less restraint than us. This is not the front page of the paper, despite what you might think. The paper is actually wrapped with a Mazda ad, which covers the entire back page and half of the front. Here's the kicker though, they actually ran the left half of their masthead on the ad page. So you pick up the paper, and the masthead runs seamlessly across the front page, but the left half runs over an ad, while the right half runs over the exposed part of their A1. Unreal. It's probably hard to visualize, so I'll try to find a way to get a picture of it up here as soon as I can. UPDATE: Here it is: But my favourite part of the whole debacle is that above the masthead on the ad half, they tried to further the illusion by including their standard teaser - to a story about Mars developing chocolate-flavoured candy with a photo of a Mars bar accompanying it. At least Mazada paid for their ad. Your news, brought to you by Mazda and Mars. Peter Worthington doesn't know when to shut up After his callous "in Britain, police now shoot suspects. Good," line yesterday, Worthington skipped his chance to move on somewhat gracefully by penning this piece of shit. He suggests that police in London had no choice, given that the guy was wearing a heavy coat and ran from police. Uh Peter, you forgot to point out that they were undercover cops. That's a pretty substantial fact to ignore. Imagine you're a brown person in a city gripped with xenophobia after a spate of bombings. You're in a subway station when suddenly a group of gun-toting white men in plain clothes starts screaming at you and running at you. I don't have the time (I'm doing the MediaScout again today) or energy to disect all of Worthington's points, you'll have to wade through his alarmist, racist diatribe yourself. My personal favourite part is where he blames Muslims for the policy that led to the shooting of an innocent man. Is it all bad? Thankfully, no. Fifth Estate and Globe and Mail veteran Ron Haggart penned a Megalomedia-esque piece on the coverage of the shooting in today's Globe. Read it and love it, right here. Okay, that's good for today. Don't forget to check out the Scout for more sparkling insight.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The rage returns

It happened this morning. After weeks of relative optimism, I found myself trembling with rage at work again. After being at war with "terror" for almost four years, it seemed a few weeks ago like we had advanced somewhat in our international discourse on the matter. Sure, there were those who clung to the belief that Georgie's war on the evil doers was directly responsible for elections in Lebanon and the like, but on the whole, rational debate was up and fear-based rhetoric was down. We were even talking about famine and AIDS in Africa, of all things. Then London was bombed. And it all went to shit. We're backsliding at an alarming rate. I'd like to call attention to a few specific pieces that painfully illustrate this fact. First, a Peter Worthington column. When last I checked, it hadn't been uploaded to the Sun's website yet, but I'll check later in the day and post a link if I can find it. UPDATE: It's right here now. To give you an idea of the tone, it's called "This is war - so pick sides." He starts out by criticizing the CBC (and by extension, BBC, Reuters and many other respected outlets) for not using the word "terrorist" in their coverage: "It is difficult to imagine a more foolish and silly dictum -- as if 'taking sides' is the greatest sin in journalism. It's like right and wrong. Some things are just plain wrong -- and suicide bombers blowing up buses and subway trains is one of them." Well, thank goodness that we have Worthington to serve as humanity's arbiter of right and wrong. He follows that gem of a paragraph with this bizarre statement: "In Britain, police now shoot suspects. Good." Then returns to his anti-CBC diatribe, followed by criticisms of Canada's inability to deport the entire Khadr family and Hassan Almrei. Congratulations Mr. Worthington, for reviving the intolerant "us vs. them" mentality that I naively thought we'd moved beyond. For a much more rational take on the CBC terminology edict, check out Norman Spector's column today. You said pieces, as in plural Yes I did. Worthington's rant is the best example, but for those with subscriber access to the National Post, have a look at George Jonas' column today, he provides context for the war vs. evil by explaining that this war on "terror" is simply the latest in the "clash of civilizations" that dates back 1,400 years. Jonas also pops up in the Citizen, with an anti-CBC offering that makes me wonder if he and Worthington compared notes. That one's not online at all, but it's on the editorial page of the hard copy if you have access. Shoot to Kill! When I fled Ottawa for the serenity of a weekend in the woods, British police had just killed someone in the London tube. At the time, it was widely reported that the killing was - in the words of London police commissioner Ian Blair - "directly linked to the ongoing and expanding anti-terrorist operation." I snidely remarked to my incredibly patient girlfriend that it was good to see that the bombings hadn't changed life in London, just like Tony Blair said, but I had no idea the extent of the insanity of the story. I thought it was bad enough that they killed an unarmed suspect in a subway station, but I assumed they at least had reason to believe he was "directly linked to the ongoing and expanding anti-terrorist operation." It turns out that "link" was that he was brown. And he had the nerve to wear a coat on a warm day. That is enough to justify jumping on him, pinning him to the ground (according to some reports, anyway), then firing five shots into his head, point blank. I was encouraged to see that this story got a lot of play in our papers. As Anne McLellan said, we need a national debate on the terrorist threat, and people have to be aware that granting extraordinary powers can have tragic, lethal and unacceptable consequences. I fear, however, that some outlets (Ahem, Citizen) may be missing the point, especially when I read the following headline and subhead on A1: Elite officers had no choice: They must shoot to kill Instant death is the only way to stop a suicide bomber Please note that the absence of quotation marks or attribution. It doesn't say "Elite officers had no choice: Police" or "Elite officers 'had no choice.'" It is presented as fact. And in case you may think it was simply an oversight, check out this lead:

LONDON - The most elite members of London's finest call it "the shot of excellence."

It's a single gunshot through the mouth that snaps the spinal cord and instantly kills a suspected suicide bomber. And it is the essence of Scotland Yard's controversial shoot-to-kill policy, known as Operation Kratos, so-named for the Greek god of strength.

It's as though Mike Blanchfield wishes he could be the one pulling the trigger in the name of good vs. evil. Read the article in its entirety here. Parting shots Okay, there was some more stuff I wanted to talk about today, but this is running long already, so I'll just toss up some links and save some analysis for another day. First, the Star picked up an opinion piece by Aaron Mate, a journalist who actually goes to Haiti to report on it. Novel idea. It does a good job of highlighting how dismal Canada's performance has been in the country since we backed the overthrow of a democractically-elected president. Read it here. Second, I didn't get to see the CBC documentary on the U.S. right-wing media when it aired, but I was just told I could find it online. From what I hear, it's like Outfoxed, but without the hypocritical use of gimmicky presentation that frustrated me so. I intend to curl up on the couch and watch it (yay iBook portability) later today, you should too. It's here. Okay, that's enough for now, I have to go seethe.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Okay, so I lied

I had to post this. From today's Toronto Star: Racism not factor in killing by Peter Edwards The inquiry into the shooting death of Anthony (Dudley) George shouldn't be allowed access to records on OPP discipline of officers who made racist remarks, and lied on the witness stand, a lawyer for the province contends.

Kim Twohig also argued yesterday there's no evidence that racism played a role in the killing of the native activist.

Twohig made the comments as she supported a move by the OPP and its officers' union to block the inquiry from seeing force disciplinary records regarding the police operation at Ipperwash Provincial Park a decade ago.

Her comments were criticized by native elder Clifford George. . Those involved in the probe "might as well give up if they're not going to give us the whole record," he said. He and others contend it's wrong to block release of disciplinary records of officers who made racist comments on tape and other force members who made souvenirs commemorating the standoff.

Twohig told the inquiry that questions of racism were not a factor in the trial of Acting-Sergeant Kenneth Deane, who was found guilty in 1997 of criminal negligence causing death.

But, George family lawyer Murray Klippenstein said questions about racism have lingered since his shooting Sept. 6, 1995, when OPP officers marched on the park, occupied by natives.

The lawyer noted OPP officers were captured on tape the day before the shooting, when one called a native Canadian a "great big fat f--- Indian." "We were thinking if we could get five or six cases of Labatt 50 we could bait them," one officer says. A colleague replies, "It works in the south with watermelon."

Why isn't anyone else covering this story?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Allegedly, reportedly and other things that don't cover your ass

Wow. It seems the media have moved beyond the irresonsible, subtle and somewhat understandable libelling of yesterday to the outwardly contemptable libelling that makes people hate the press. I present Exhibit A, which was actually a supplemental piece to another libelous story. Or if you prefer your news CanWestified, here's Exhibit B and Exhibit C. These stories move beyond libellously reporting that the husband was charged in the death of the wife to acting on the assumption that he did it. I honestly don't know what to say. There's no excuse for this kind of thing. I hate that papers report charges in the way they did yesterday, but I can almost understand it. It's a thin line of distinction between "John Doe was charged with murder. Jane Doe's body was found in a ravine," and "John Doe was charged with murder after Jane Doe's body was found in a ravine." Today's examples though are inexcusable and make me angry. They've convicted this guy. The media need a good kick in the ass. I'm doing the MediaScout tomorrow, and I plan on going off on this subject a little bit. Given that their subscriber list is a lot longer and more diverse than mine, maybe someone will take notice. That's all you have? Yea, sorry. I was actually seriously thinking of taking some time off this site for awhile, before this Edmonton case broke. I think I need to recharge my batteries a bit, because I haven't been giving you guys the kind of material I was churning out even just a few weeks ago. To that end, I'm not going to update the site tomorrow. I've been asked to the do the Scout again, and I really want to focus on that, cause I plan to go guns blazing on the libel thing. I'll be back Monday after a weekend of CFL football and camping. I'll be regenerated and reinvigorated and ready to take on the press once more. So have a good weekend. And check out tomorrow's Scout. Barring something unexpected, it should be good. Oh, and check out the comments from yesterday's post, there was an interesting back and forth on all things libelous.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Megalomedia: Libel free since 2003

Granted, the site didn't exist until 2005, but 2003 rhymed better. But wow, let's talk libel. As I've explained on this site before, Canada has some pretty strict rules on libel. You can not link someone to a crime, no matter what the police or anyone else says. You can report that someone has been charged with something, and you can report the details of a police investigation, but you can't link the two yourself. It seems silly, as any logical person would probably make the connection, but in Canadian law, that's their problem, not yours. In the interest of not libeling the poor man myself, I will simply link to the stories. I have no idea where that puts me legally, but I'm pretty sure nobody's coming after me. Globe and Mail. They libel him right in the lead. See if you can spot it. National Post. This one isn't as cut and dry, but there's some serious inneundo going on there. CBC. It's right in the headline. I'm not going to profess to know everything about media law, I'll leave that to TKOB in the comments section, but I know these reports are irresponsible. The guy has not been convicted. In the eyes of the Canadian legal system he is innocent. And in the eyes of Canadian libel law, these media reports, specifically the Globe and CBC, are libelous. Canada needs a good, high-profile libel suit to take the media down a few pegs. The problem is that the press has created a really powerful environment wherein any attack on a journalist is an attack on the freedom of the press. People don't want to take them on, and I can't really blame them. But the situation is getting out of hand. Why use 500 words when 200 will almost suffice? So the Globe ran an interesting little piece today, have a look-see here. It left me with a few questions, namely: 1) What sort of information, exactly? 2) Are Canadians returning the favour? 3) Why was this reported on by the U.S.-based Associated Press? 4) Why didn't a single Canadian outlet bother assigning a reporter to this? Seriously, they say that names will be provided. Will there be any context, or will this lead to more cases of mistaken identity that ground flights or prevent travellers from flying? What system does Canada have in place anyway? Last I heard the whole thing was in a bit of a flux. I guess the Globe deserves some credit for reporting it at all, but I really want to know more. And I don't think I'm alone. Given the concerns about information-sharing agreements these days, Canadians deserve a bit more context. And as a fun little kicker. . . I have to say that I read this and nearly shit my pants. Pay special attention to the headline and paragraph seven (as though I had to point that out). Apparently the Toronto Sun's editorial page is now reserved for transcripts from chat rooms. Stay tuned for tomorrow's hard-hitting ANY 16/F WANNA CHAT??? expose.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Did I mention I hate mondays?

Wow, things didn't go well at the ol' government gig this morning. Let's just say my frantic MediaScout writing was interrupted by a return trip to the office. Oh yea, I'm doing the Scout today too, so this will be a quickie. In the "things that warrant coverage" file. . . Only the Gazette picked this story up from the New York Times. Given Canada's commitment to the U.S.-led spread of democracy, shouldn't it have received bigger play? Stupid story, serious point I read this and thought, man, what a brutally sensationalized story. Seven other papers, including the Citizen ran the story, each in a ridiculously sensational manner. That's an obvious problem, but not what makes it Megalomedia worthy. No, what gets me is that it was a CP Wire story. And it was updated later, as several other papers (notably the Toronto Star) reported. Clearly a few editors went looking for something light and stupid to fill a hole in their paper and picked this one off, then forgot about it and went to press. In this instance, it's not a big deal. Only Guelph residents were ever threatened by this FLESH EATING LIZARD, and the CP wire copy was taken right from the Guelph paper. They were kept informed. But it's indicative of the over-reliance on wire copy and the lack of attention to updated stories. Anyone who took part in my trial run of the Actionline remembers what happened when the Post didn't do their legwork. It's a stupid story. But it's also shoddy and irresponsible journalism. And that's not cool. yargh, I'll do better tomorrow folks, I promise. For now, check out the Scout for more media analysis fun.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Lawrence Martin: Honorary Megalomediac

Oh man, I can't say enough good things about Lawrence Martin's column today. Seriously, click here and let the magic of Google News take you past the pesky registration screen. Do it now. I've never agreed with a column more. I was actually going to post my thoughts on the latest terrorism coverage, but I can't put it any better than he does (at least not without using the term "douche bag" once or twice). Read it. Read it now. I can't stay mad at you Damn it. I want to be pissed at the NHL. I really do. But seeing Ron and Don on The National last night. . . I can't wait for the season to start. I want to be critical of the media for assuming they know what's in the deal before it's released, but sports reporters are all about cushy relationships with sources. I'm pretty sure they know what's in there. So let's get on with it. Bring back the Jets, bring back the Nords and let the Coyotes and Hurricanes die a natural death. Wow Joe, you're overly optimistic today Yea, this post really lacks the scorn of most, doesn't it? Well, I'm doing the MediaScout again today, so I have to make this quick, but most of what I saw today has been commented on before: Ipperwash: There's a great little spat going on at the Inquiry between the OPP superintendent who was on the scene (the one that accused the Harris government of being trigger happy) and government lawyers who say he's overselling the whole thing. Since the Globe and the Star are the only papers that seem to care, allow me to throw this link up so you can read more for yourself. Africa: Remember Live 8? Me too. I was all optimistic that the papers would actually start to care about Africa. Then London happened. Read more in today's Scout. Philippines: In a country where the last president (and at least one before him) was overthrown in a popular revolution, a large and growing protest calling for the president to resign barely makes a ripple. Explain that. That's all for today. But have I mentioned you should read Lawrence Martin?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Almost there. . .

Man do I need a weekend. Renegades at home against the Stamps, band has a gig. . . it should be a good one. Those cheese-eating surrender monkeys are on to something There's an opinion piece by Daniel Pipes in the Post today that really made my head hurt. The Post didn't put it online, but you can read it here. It starts out logically enough, saying that Britain has been too leniant on terrorists compared to France. Fair enough. He cites several sources to back up his point and offers concrete examples. Then he moves onto his praise for France's draconian anti-terror laws, which permit interrogation without a lawyer, lengthy pre-trial incarcerations, and evidence acquired under dubious circumstance. I wouldn't call those good things, given that they run contrary to accepted standards of justice and the rule of law, but he's welcome to that opinion. Where it really goes off the rails is when he cites the French hijab ban as proof that France is harder on terrorism. Rather than cite examples and sources to back up his conclusions (as he did earlier in the piece), Pipes adopts the mind-boggling tactic of listing examples of how the French hijab ban pissed off Islamic fundamentalists, yet then argues that France is less vulnerable to terrorism. His conclusion: "The British have seemingly lost interest in their heritage while the French hold on to theirs: As the British ban fox hunting, the French ban hijabs. The former embrace multiculturalism, the latter retain a pride in their historic culture. This contrast in matters of identity makes Britain the Western country most vulnerable to the ravages of radical Islam whereas France, for all its political failings, has held on to a sense of self that may yet see it through." So, he's saying that multi-culturalism and a sense of tolerance makes you more vulnerable? I don't see how that follows. And since he doesn't bother to explain the link, I'll just have to assume he's full of crap. It's worth noting that Pipes gets a lot of play in right-wing papers around the world. He's not just some schmuck. According to his website, he's an expert on radical Islam. Makes me wish he could formulate an argument a little better. That's it? Pretty much. It was a damn slow news day and I'm still not feeling so great. Lack of sleep and extreme heat don't make for an insightful Joe. Before I go though, I want to direct you all to the Star's Carol Goar today. She weighs in on the debate we had on Megalomedia earlier this week about mankind's capacity to care. The Star requires a subscription, but if you click here, Google News will get you around that. I'm on the MediaScout tomorrow, but I'll try to save a few delicious insights for you here. And I have to post this link again. Scott McClellan is such a weasel.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

It's not the heat. . .

Actually, yes it is. It's the heat. And it's the humidity. I live in a basement apartment, I have a fan running full speed, I keep the curtains drawn and the lights off, and I still break a sweat sitting behind my trusty iBook typing for you nice people. Bloody hell. I didn't sleep well last night (see above diatribe on the heat) and I've been working on MediaScout all morning, and I just lost the post I'd written thanks to a blogger glitch. Argh. I don't have it in me. I'll try again tomorrow, sorry people. But the Scout is good today, go read that. OH! And read this. Better yet, click on the "video" link and watch, starting at about two minutes in. It's freakin' hilarious. Apparently the White House press corps got their balls back.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The times, they are a'changin

Ah yes, changes are a-foot for Megalomedia. As I mentioned briefly last week, this site is now 100% ad-free, thanks to an inadvertent violation of Google's ad policy. Also, after becoming mildly obsessed with the Al Franken Show podcast, I've started planning for Megalomedia: On The Go. The project is in its infacy, but I've figured out the technical aspects of it (I think) and will be posting a test run in the next few days/weeks. As for the actual show, I'm not entirely sure what it will contain, but I'm thinking of a weekly show of about 10-15 minutes going over the major issues of the week. If you have any ideas or suggestions, lemme know at megalomedia.actionline@gmail.com. Woot. Terror! Most of the papers are still talking about the bombings that killed as many as 50 people who were on their way to work. Oh wait, did you think I was talking about London? No no, over the weekend as many as 50 people were killed by suicide bombers in Iraq. This started to bug me pretty quickly after the bombings in London. Don't get me wrong, the bombings in London were appaling, tragic and terrifying, frankly. That a country so dedicated to national security could be bombed so sensationally is horrifying. But why is it worth so much more coverage than the almost-daily bombings in Iraq? I know the answers, of course. Iraq is old news. Iraq is populated with brown people. Iraq isn't expected to be secure. But it's really hard to believe that we in the western world value every human life equally when the bombings in Iraq are relegated to briefs in the world section while London is still making A1 today. Is it the media's responsibility to make people care? Or are they justified in playing to what people want? Really, I'm not sure. But it would be an interesting experiment: Place stories in the paper by body count, regardless of colour, gender or celebrity status. I wonder what people would say? More on the terror I'm also really sick of world leaders telling us that the London bombings are proof that we must remain vigilant and increase security. Why isn't anyone asking questions like: "How have our foreign policies contributed to this tragedy?" or "Is there a lesson to be learned?" or "Could it be that we are not infallible?" Yes, the people who carried out this attack are sick, sick bastards. But hearing George W. Bush talk about the evilness of those who are willing to kill innocent people to further their cause so soon after U.S. planes killed 17 Afghan civilians kinda makes my stomach turn. As does watching a pack of reporters frantically reproducing his quotes without thinking to point out the hypocrisy. The argument could be made that it's not the right time to ask these questions. The victims are still being identified, let's just let people mourn. But the problem is that was the attitude in the U.S. after September 11, 2001. And as we approach the four-year anniversary of those attacks, we're still not asking the right questions. The Globe and Mail, brought to you by Esso This is just a little thing, but it really caught my eye and stuck with me. The Globe's A1 teaser above the headline today is for a story about Imperial Oil's headquarter's move to Alberta. They typically put the tease over a coloured background and run a photo at one end. This time the "photo" is an Esso logo on a white background, and there's no real connection to the teaser. I dunno, maybe a frame around the whole thing would've helped, but it really looks to me like the Globe is sponsored by Esso today. Am I the only one who sees that? Check out the page here. and finally. . . I haven't really talked much about the U.S. reporter getting jailed for the CIA leak story, mostly because I don't know all the details and it seems pretty complex. However, I see some parallels with the whole Homlka press freedom affair, and the knee-jerk opposition to any perceived infringement on freedom of the press, no matter what the case. I want to make clear that I don't know enough about the U.S. case to formulate an opinion, but a David Ignatius column that was picked up in the Citizen caught my eye. It's an interesting read and you can find a copy of it here.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

And so ends the capitalist experiment

Apparently my Google Ad account has been revoked. Clicking on your own links is a violation of their agreement (which is strange, what if I was genuinely interested in the services offered?). So enjoy ad-free Megalomedia, just like the old days before Joe sold out.

What to say

I hope readers will forgive me, but I'm not going to talk about the media today. See, my great-grandmother passed away last weekend, and she's being laid to rest this afternoon. I hate that I'm not at the funeral, but it just wasn't feasible to get up to Dryden on such short notice and on my limited budget. So I am going to pay my respects here. Nan was an amazing woman who certainly helped foster the love of reading that undoubtedly led me down the career path I'm following. She was the best story teller I knew, and I considered it a treat to have her read me a story when I was younger. As I got older, I used to love watching her read to my younger cousins, and truth be told, I was kind of jealous of them sitting under her arm listening to her read. I suppose I am lucky, as few people ever get to know their great grandmother, let alone have them around until they're 25. Though she was "old" for as long as I knew her, she remained sharp and coherent right up until the last few months of her life. I remember discussing politics with her just a few years ago, one of the few really grown-up discussions I remember having with her. I'll miss you, Nan. Thanks for everything.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Bias (n): 2(a) A preference or an inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment

Oh Rachel Marsden. You're quickly becoming my new favourite target. Sadly, the Post doesn't make today's Marsden column available online. It's a real doozy. Basically, she's trumpeting the values of FOX News (she's a regular contributor, though to her credit, she mentions that in her column) by saying people like the in-your-face, opinionated approach. The column is headlined "Everybody likes a smackdown," which tells you something about her opinion. It's a telling piece because it really underlines the fundamental gulf between people like her and people like me when it comes to objectivity and bias. She writes: "The old news media's problems can be summed up in two words: biased and boring." Oddly enough, she describes FOX News a few lines later as "openly opinion-heavy."So when she says "biased and boring," her problem is more with the "boring." She explains that the "snooze-inducing perma-grinners" that read the news on the other networks have a bias too, but try to mask it. "In a competitive 24-hour news cycle, branding and publicity matter. A recent poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that more people (40%) recognize Fox's Bill O'Reilly as a journalist than recognize reporter Bob Woodward (30%) of Watergate fame as one, with top-rated conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh (27%) coming in right behind and right-wing political columnist George Will trailing with a mere 7% recognition." The problem, Ms. Marsden, is that Woodward was a reporter. O'Reilly is not. He is a fiercly-partisan talk show host. But that's the problem with FOX. There's no real attempt to distinguish news from opinion. In her mind, that's okay. In mine, it's not. Sure every reporter has a bias, they're human. But the idea is that they should be aware of that bias and work to overcome it, not to embrace it and let it slant their reportage. I don't think reporters should strive for recognition, if a story is well-written, it shouldn't matter who wrote it. I would never argue that the mainstream press does a good job of maintaining objectivity, if I believed that this site wouldn't exist. But to argue that journalists may as well toss it to the wind and embrace a combattive, right-vs-left "smackdown" approach is a much, much worse idea. Conversing with Christie Blatchford I did write to Ms. Blatchford, and to her credit, she responded prompty and in depth. She made some interesting points, but I still take issue with her columns. She argues that the subject of her columns (the letters and her release) are newsworthy items, and I'd agree, but in my mind, that doesn't necessarily mean they're worth columns as well. News reports and columns are different things, and by dedicating so much space to them, I think she IS contributing tot he media circus. But I appreciate her candid response and the fact that it came so quickly. I'll post both e-mails below. Dear Ms. Blatchford, I read with great interest your column of June 25, when you declared that you had "Karla fatigue" and you no longer cared "what she eats, wears, says, does or, God forbid, believes — unless and until she breaks the law." I too was convinced that the media had gone above and beyond their role as guardians of the public good and instead become overly obsessed with trivial details about her life behind bars and pending release. You can imagine, then, how surprised I was to see you dedicate two subsequent A1 columns to Ms. Homolka since. I am left to ask, were you assinged to these pieces by an overzealous editor with no regard for your personal conviction? Or have you overcome your self-diagnosed bout of fatigue? I agree that the public deserves to know about Ms. Homolka's life outside of prison as it relates to the possibility of her re-offending. But I hardly see how an amateur analysis of her letters and handwriting (especially when the related story about handwriting analysis essentially debunks the practice in the closing paragraphs) contributes anything to the public good. The media has a great responsibility to society, one that was upheld by the court rulings in the media's favour. The worst they can do now is piss away that credibility by become hyper-obsessed about every step Ms. Homolka takes. Thanks for reading, Best Regards, Joe Boughner -- the answer to your question, joe, is neither. i certainly said i was weary of homolka, and i am. i also said, i believe in the final paragraph, that i intended to cover her only when there was a genuine news event -- as indeed there was when we had access to her never-before published letters and again yesterday, with her lawyers in court in montreal, which is where i was, and her surprise TV interview afterwards. like it or not, and i like it no more than you, this is a big story. it was particularly so yesterday, when virtually every newspaper in the country put the story on the front page. my personal convictions are that i will not write about her gratuituously or to no end, but that when it is warranted -- and in my business that means when she makes news. i will not stalk her. i will not wait outside a prison for her, and i did not. i will not ever publish her address or anything that might put her in jeopardy (though frankly, i don't believe she is in jeopardy). i am, unfortunately, very well-informed about homolka and this case. i covered the original disappearance of kristen french; i covered homolka's plea bargain, and i spent three months of my life in 1995 covering bernardo's trial. i know it inside out. that makes me a valuable resource on the subject. and yes, i am sometimes asked by my bosses to write about her. i was, last week, when the press vigil outside the prison began. i didn't go. i was asked again today to write about her, and i did, because i believe i have something to say. i am not the slightest bit obsessed with her -- 10 of my last 75 or 76 columns have been about her, each time tied to a news angle. in the previous decade, once she was away in jail, i bet i didn't write twice in all that time. and i would be happy as a clam if i never have to do so again. but i have to say i consider rape and murder important matters, not trivial. they are also inherently sensational, but what is sensational is the awfulness of what was done, not the reporting of it. the press does indeed owe the public responsibility. i believe i have kept my end of that bargain, and i intend to keep on doing it. cheers cb Homolkafest Day II I won't dwell on this, but I want to point out that both "national" newspapers had stories on the effect of Homolka saying she wanted a Tim Hortons iced cappuccino on the company. The Post actually ran it on A1. Way to uphold the public good. No word yet if Timmy Ho's is going to take my colleague Steve's advice and introduce a Homolka-ccino. Parting shots Okay, this is getting too long, but I wanted to toss in a few stories here. The Citizen offers up a really interesting, in-depth look at the problems facing Nigeria as part of the whole G8-related focus on Africa. This is damn good reportage and the sort of thing I've clamoured for both here and in the MediaScout. Sadly, they also devote their prime space on A1, above the fold, to teasing to their own article, as though they realize such contextual reporting is a rarity worth celebrating. Oh how I long for the day that going in-depth on the issues of the day isn't itself newsworthy. The biggest article is here, and you can see the front page photo of the special section by clicking here. Remember that bit I said earlier about reporters identifying their bias and trying to work around it? Yea, that's not happening here. I wonder what Steven Edwards thinks of the UN? And check out this site. It got some coverage in today's paper, and rightly so. It's kickass.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

I know where Karla Homolka lives

No I don't. The title of this post was a blatant attempt to bring in new readers. If you've been duped into clicking your way here, welcome. Wait, Karla Homolka was released? Guess what today's big story is? If you said the killing of 18 Afghan civilians in a U.S. airstrike, you'd be wrong. That wasn't big at all. Nope, the big story was that Karla Homolka, aka "the Devil" aka "the Schoolgirl Killer," was released from prison. The media, fresh off another rebuked attempt at limiting coverage, latched on to the translated transcript of the only interview she gave (to Radio-Canada, en francais) and began the arduous task of deciding whether or not she was truly repentant. Ironically, water-cooler-gossip about the nature of her rehabilitation aside, the coverage was fairly legit and justifiable. After weeks of speculative bullshit and senstationalistic tripe, Karla's first day outside prison was met with reasonable coverage - and it was Karla that thew them the bone. Had she laid low and began her life in the shadows, I'm sure things would have been even more tabloidesque than they were. Given that she's not planning to talk to the press anymore, I guess that means the Karla-Cam starts tomorrow. Christie Blatchford is moving to the Star Okay, so I don't know that for sure. But what other option does she have? Clearly she's being forced to write more about Karla against her will. How else can you explain the second A1 column on her since her "I'm tired of Karla" piece last week? Obviously some overzealous assignment editor is forcing her to add to the media onslaught. I have no doubt that Ms. Blatchford is drafting her letter or resignation now, much like she did when she fled CanWest for the perceived safety of the Globe. For those that are new to the story, allow me to recap: "I'm tired of her. I have Karla fatigue. . . I don't care, any more, what she eats, wears, says, does or, God forbid, believes - unless and until she breaks the law." - Christie Blatchford, June 25, Globe and Mail, A15 "Are you as fed up with Karla as I am?" "But Ms. Homolka's letters, even on their own and necessarily somewhat out of context, are nonetheless instructive." - Christie Blatchford, June 30, Globe and Mail, A1 "She gives as good as she gets - again" "Here, for after all she was talking about her life now, not those she helped end, Ms. Homolka's voice cracked a tad, and she was a little verklempt . It was akin to the child who slaughters her parents and then throws herself upon the mercy of the court as a pitiful orphan." - Christie Blatchford, July 5, Globe and Mail, A1 "No silence from this lamb" Read those last two quotes again. No, better yet, click here and allow Google News to get you past the subscriber-only firewall and find these columns yourself. Does that sound like the musing of someone who doesn't care, "what she eats, wears, says, does or, God forbid, believes?" Or does it sound like a hypocrite milking a story for all its worth even if it means pissing away her credibility? I think I'm going to send her an e-mail later today, asking what gives. I'll let you all know if I get a response. and the Megalammy goes to. . . the Winnipeg Free Press for being the only major daily not to run Karla on A1! And in other news CanWest saved the day! Read all about it in this CanWest publication. I wonder if they ever dislocate their shoulders patting their own backs?

Monday, July 04, 2005

Of penguins and prisoner abuse

In a break from tradition, I'm doing the MediaScout on a Monday, so I'll have to keep this entry fairly brief. It's for the best though, it was sort of a slow news day. They grow up so fast It seems like just yesterday we were giving them their first guns and tasers, now look at those Iraqi security forces. All grow'sd up and abusing prisoners, Daddy would be so proud. Yet only the Toronto Star saw fit to report on it. The story, which was available on both Reuters and Associated Press (though I can't find a linkable copy online), noted that Iraqi government officials said they'd crack down on the abuse, just like Georgie! I suppose an argument could be made that it doesn't really affect Canada, but remember, we're helping to train Iraqi police forces. Were any of them involved? Hard to say, given that nobody reported on it with a Canadian reporter. But it's the sort of thing we should know, no? Peter Worthington slips off the edge of sanity, embraces senility SunMedia's Peter Worthington is a cantankerous old bastard who rarely warrants mention on this site. He writes about two topics, the military and an animal sanctuary in Picton that seems to be his secondary cause celebre. However, today he goes off on a bizzare tangent that begins like an elementary school report and somehow devolves into a quasi-homophobic tirade against same-sex marraige. Read it here, it's one of the more baffling columns I've encountered and makes a strong case in favour of mandatory retirement. Ok, I was going to go off on a little G8 tangent, but it would just end up repeating much of what I said in the MediaScout, so you can all just read it there (huzzah cross promotion). That's enough for today, I've got to wrap up this Scout and get it to the masses. Cheers!