Megalomedia - Wake up to your news

Monday, February 27, 2006

Scene here first

Every day I open my mailbox, hoping to be invited the next music reporters convention when they decide where the next "scene" is going to be. Every day I am disappointed. Yesterday's New York Times Magazine uses a profile of Broken Social Scene to describe how Toronto is North America's newest "scene." To wit: Musically, you could say that Toronto has become a nicer but less aesthetically coherent version of Seattle in the early days of grunge. Broken Social Scene is Toronto's Nirvana, without — so far — the troubled-rock-star antics or the anomie and with a social agenda that puts collective music making above individual success. The second album, "You Forgot It in People," is dedicated to "friends, families and loves." Really? Seattle? I mean, I agree with that Toronto's music scene is lacking "troubled-rock-star antics or the anomie" but the music coming out of that city is also lacking any resemblance to grunge music. Last year, the NYT pissed off Montrealers by "outing" their scene to the world (thereby killing the scene, according to idiot scenesters). Now they've moved on to Toronto. In reality, this isn't a terribly important story. But it kind of gets to me because 1) Broken Social Scene has been making music for years, has been noticed for years and therefore isn't news and 2) nothing is new is happening in Toronto's music scene. Music reporters love music. So when they hear two good bands from one city, they buy a first-class ticket, a suite in a downtown penthouse and pretentiously pencil in the news. There's good music being made everywhere, independently of a recognized scene. Write about the music. Ditch the crap about the scene. I mean, what's the next "scene" going to be? Calgary? Update: Apparently the Globe and Mail read my comments and wishes to correct my last sentence. The next scene is actually going to be in Edmonton.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

You can lead a scribe to water. . .

Alternative title: Why Joe won't get accreditation for the next budget lockup I wrote about this for the MediaScout earlier this week but it continues to frustrate me, so all you Megalomedialites get to read about it now. As many of you likely know, Stephen Harper replaced his director of communications on Monday. You can read about it here, or if you prefer a knob-pollishingly ass kissing recap, read this. That in and of itself isn't big news, though it did prompt some analysis about the less-than-ideal job security in the PMO. What IS news, at least in my opinion, is that new director of communications Sandra Buckler is a former lobbyist. Harper et al. didn't try to hide that fact; it was apparently included in the press release (though I can't find a copy of it. Hey, who writes a press release to announce a new director of communications? Weird). But for some reason, nobody did much digging into her background, save for a couple of journos who took the time to list some of her former clients. Odd. I seem to remember a lot of coverage of Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor's lobbying history. In fact, wasn't a crack down on the Liberal lobby culture a major part of Harper's campaign? Granted, there's nothing illegal about lobbying, nor is there anything illegal about hiring a lobbyist to be your communications director. But when you've made a crack down on the lobby culture a major theme of your campaign, shouldn't someone take the time to run a few Google searches just to see what the aforementioned lobbyist was up to between stints with the Conservative party? Here's a good place to start. Or, if that gives you an error message, go here and enter Sandra Buckler's name. Now, does everyone have their list of Buckler's clients? Good, let's start Googling! Of course, before we engage in this little exercise, let me make it perfectly clear that I am NOT connecting Buckler to any kind of wrongdoing. She registered her lobbying activities and deregistered (unregistered?) before going to work on the Tory campaign. Now that we've cleared that up, let's have a looksy at that client list. Royal LePage Relocation Services. If that name doesn't ring a bell, you probably didn't work as a media monitor on a DND contract. There were some concerns raised a few years ago that Royal LePage acted less than scrupilously in their dealings with the government. Since everyone else gets to hide behind Parliamentary privilege, I will too. Check out this Hansard entry and Google more yourself if you want. Canadian Payday Loans Association. This is the association that represents, obviously, the payday loans companies. MoneyMart and the like. Recently there were concerns raised about the levels of interest charged by these companies. There was talk of federal legislation but to my memory, nothing came of it. I stand to be corrected on that. CCFDA. What the heck is the CCFDA? Oh, the Canadian Coalition for Fair Digital Access! Well, digital copyright issues and the recordable media levy haven't been in the news or anything. Once again, let me reiterate - there's no reason to believe Buckler did anything wrong. She registered properly and deregistered before working (officially at least) with the Tories. That said, she lobbied on behalf of companies/groups that do work with the government. In the last two cases listed above, she was working with groups with a vested (in the case of CCFDA, stated) interested in changing or affecting legislation. Now she has the ear of the PM. Is it illegal? No. Is it unethical? Maybe. Is it slightly hypocritical on Harper's part? I think so. Is it worth coverage in the mainstream press? Abso-fuckin-lutely.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Why the new look?

I hate when people change for the sake of change, so I suppose it's time for some self loathing. Actually, I'd had a few people tell me the greenish-grey on green writing was hard to read sometimes, especially on laptop screens. Plus, it' s coming up on the first anniversary of Megalomedia (I believe the traditional gift is a tin of Green Giant corn) and what better way to ring in a New Year of media seethe? Lemme know what you think.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Memo to journalists

The gambling ring will only be a question for Gretzky in Turin if you ask questions. Please stop pretending it's not something you have total control over.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

It's a good news, bad news kind of thing

So, it appears CBC has decided to keep their "Reality Check" segment. I suppose that's a 'yay,' though I reiterate my belief that reality checks should be part of every story. There is a 'boo' here, however. Check out this "Reality Check" on Gordon O'Connor's sketchy history as a lobbyist. Silly me, I though the "Reality Check" was where the CBC got beyond the sound bites and spin and tried to shed light in an objective way. This, to me, seems more like an opinion piece or a somewhat biased analysis piece. There's any number of excerpts from this piece that strike me as decidely un-reality-checkesque, but this one is especially good:

But asking the right questions in a parliamentary committee is not the same as making the final judgment on multimillion or multibillion-dollar contracts that are being sold by former colleagues and, one assumes, friends.
One assumes, does one? See, this one would have assumed that assumptions don't belong in a "Reality Check." But this one would also have assumed that the irony of having one of Paul Martin's biographers write a piece examing conflict of interest in Martin's rival's government would send warning signs to the CBC crew. Shows what I know. Post Script: In the interest of shameless self promotion and providing convenient links to coverage, check out my MediaScout post on O'Connor.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Libelled by an anonymous source - it's a Megalomedia wetdream

By now I'm sure most Megalomedia readers (at least those in Canada) have read about the charges facing Rick Tocchet. He responded to the charges, and in so doing, consented to potentially libelous statements, so I can say here that he has been named in an investigation into an illegal gambling ring in the US. What I won't repeat here is the name of the other people identified in the stories as being involved. For one, they haven't been interviewed and therefore, haven't had the chance to respond. Futhermore, they weren't even named in the formal press briefing. Almost every Canadian article on this story cites an Associated Press article that cites an anonymous source. Let's put aside the libel question for now, it's been discussed on this site before and undoubtedly will again. Let's instead focus on the anonymous source element. Using an anonymous source is (in theory at least) a last resort decision made by an editor. Such sources should be used only when there's a pressing need to do so and when the editor has every confidence in their source. In this case, there is no way each media outlet could have checked this source. They're running libelous speculation based on someone else's anonymous source. That's a risky fucking decision and an absolutely irresponsible one.

NY Times vs Globe and Mail

It's not a battle you see often. The New York Times' single Canadian correspondent, versus the Globe and Mail's army of bureau reporters scattered around this country. Plus, the Globe and Mail is a Canadian paper, so it knows more about Canada than those Yankees, right? Wrong. Yesterday, the British Columbia government pledged to protect 5 million acres of coastal rain forest in a complete reversal of previous policy. It's a wonderful step forward and you would expect the Globe to send a reporter to the actual forest to report. It's not far for the Vancouver bureau. Instead, the paper opted for a CP wire story from Vancouver, complete with a press conference quote and what I assume is a phone interview with a Sierra Club spokesperson. The NYT, on the other hand, sent Clifford Kraus to Hartley Bay, British Columbia, to report on the announcement. In fact, Kraus was able to report on the announcement in today's paper, while the Globe will have to wait until tomorrow, as the CP story came out after the announcement. The Globe wire copy just covers the news. The NYT story gives background on Native logging rights, logging in British Columbia and how the new deal breaks new ground in how governments are balancing the rights of Native Canadians, logging companies and the preservation of nature. The Globe story simply doesn't. It's one thing to use wire copy for an international story. But to not report on events in your own country as well as a paper from the United States is shameful.

David Emerson is a whore

I figured I would be the first to post an "Emerson is a whore" headline because I'm sure the press will jump all over the defection of a former Liberal MP to the Conservative Cabinet. I mean, last year, when Belinda Stronach crossed the floor before a crucial budget vote, the press was outraged (except the CBC story I just linked, which was kind of criticized). Most columnists aren't available online anymore, but their opinions ranged from this to this and a whole lot worse. Emerson, it turns out, isn't such a big deal. Sure, pundits, like Don Martin on Global last night (not available online) were mad, but the language of the Stronach defection was far gone. In fact, if you Google "Belinda Stronach defection" and "David Emerson defection," the results don't even compare. This is all a bit troubling. Pundits and columnists refuse to use the crude language they used in the Stronach party-swap when commenting on Emerson's. Though I don't usualy make political judgments on this site, I think it's time for one. If the press isn't going to go by the same standards, then I sure will - David Emerson is a whore.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The troubles with Mr. Dick

Here’s a lovely story and correction that I was alerted about recently. The story was called “Life After Losing” and it was written in the Ottawa Citizen on January 29 on page A8 by Deirdre McMurdy. The story dealt with what former cabinet ministers and MPs have done in the past after losing elections. One notable example that was highlighted in the lead was a fellow by the name of Paul Dick. Several paragraphs down the reporter says what happened to poor Mr. Dick. And I quote… “For example, fellow Tory Paul Dick, who served as minister of supply and services in the governments of Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell, hit hard times after his 1993 defeat at age 53. After suffering personal bankruptcy and divorce, Mr. Dick ended up taking an entry-level job at a brokerage firm. That, despite his previous experience as a lawyer, assistant Crown attorney and minister of a $6-billion department that underwent a merger and a complete re-engineering under his watch.” And now let’s check out the correction, sorry, apology that was written on February 3. “An article published on Sunday, January 29 entitled "Life After Losing" contained erroneous information about former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Paul Dick. Mr. Dick has never been bankrupt and his divorce occurred prior to his election defeat in 1993. The Citizen apologizes to Mr. Dick.” How do these things actually happen???

Friday, February 03, 2006

No pictures, please

Can I make a suggestion of the press? Could you please stop publishing photos like this one of our politicians: I mean, I don't like all of our country's politicians. But I do believe that they are all doing the country a pretty valuable service and they are all reaosnably smart people. What is the CBC's justification for running a photo of Allan Rock looking like he's trying to crap out a watermelon?

Much ado about something

It's amazing to watch how quickly newspapers will rally to the defence of any perceived slight against a free press, especially when so many are so silent on other rights abuses. I remember reading many editorials throughout the ongoing security-certificate debate that asserted that there are natural limits on every freedom. A fair point, even if I don't agree that it applies in this case. Which is why I'm a little dumbfounded by the uproar over the cartoons first published in a Danish newspaper back in September. Not by the uproar in the Muslim world, but in the seeminly-universal opinion among editorialists in the Western world that the papers had every right to print the cartoons and damn the Muslims who got upset. Did they have the right to print them? Sure they did. Do the Muslims have the right to be pissed? Of course they do. I don't think they should be threatening the lives of European citizens but to pretend they don't have a legitimate grievance is disingenuous, to say the least. When the first paper decided to print those cartoons, they had a decision to make. Was it worth offending thousands (millions?) of people to make their editorial point? (Speaking of which, what was their editorial point? That seems to have been lost in the coverage of the whole thing). Sure they had the right to print the cartoons, but there needs to be a balance. The freedom of the press is something I hold very dear but I also recognize that with that freedom comes a sense of responsibility. What you have a right to do and what you have a responsiblity to do are two very different things. Anyway, reading back over this post I don't think I've made my points as lucidly as I'd hoped. But check out this web-exclusive comment from the Globe, written by an editorial cartoonist. He says what I'm trying to say in a much better way:

As a cartoonist, I understand and support the editor of the Jyllands-Posten and his action in promoting the fundamental importance of free speech. Democracy has always been a messy business and mistakes in judgment are a constant risk. If there was any error in judgment, perhaps it lies in the fact that the artists were asked to comment on the validity of a specific religion's taboos. Under the rules of a free press, it's fair game - but to what end?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Haiti!

As much as I dig it, I don't read the Toronto Star too often (save for MediaScout days, of course) anymore, so I missed Antonia Zerbisias' column on Haiti yesterday. Luckily, in a shameless but welcome act of self-promotion, she built on it on her blog yesterday. To azerb (as she is apparently called in blogoland), I say, welcome to the good fight. For my take on the situation, read this or this or this or this or this or this or this . Or better yet, just read this - one of my finer rants to date. See? I can play self-promoter too! In all seriousness though, the lack of coverage of this story is an embarassment.