On columns and sources

When I started this thing, I worried that I wouldn’t have enough material every day.
So far, so good.

Jayson Blair was a douche bag
Ham and cheese sandwiches breed terrorism, Public Safety officials said today.
Look ma, I’m a journalist!
There’s a disturbing trend in the media today – more and more stories are going to print based on anonymous sources. Letting a source go off the record is supposed to be a last resort, but in the era of the corporate dominance of the media, scoops are more important than say… facts.
Today’s Globe and Mailfeatured a story on U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice possibly postponing her trip to Canada over the missile defence ‘snub.’ Let’s do a source rundown, shall we?
“Senior American officials suggested that Canada’s aversion to missile defence is a bigger problem than the Bush administration has said publicly.”
“‘There are discussions going back and forth over timing,” a spokesman for the State Department said. ‘But it will happen when the stars are all aligned in the right way.””
“Yesterday, officials in both countries were quick to deny that the Martin government’s stand on missile defence has further strained relations, or that Ms. Rice’s change of plans is a message from Washington.”
The only attributed source in the story is Dwight Mason, former chair of the Joint Board of Defence, who wrote an article that was circulated by… you guessed it, U.S. officials.
The most frustrating thing is that the “spokesman for the State Department” in the second quote was actually named in the Canadian Press story. Why omit that?
Another example of this trend can be found in a CanWest story on the Goose Bay military installation. Apparently, there was talk of building a state-of-the-art radar station there that was going to save the base, the town and Canada’s reputation. It was going to work with NORAD and the missile defence agency, and now that Canada’s out of missile defence, U.S. officials cancelled an information briefing.
I say apparently because, once again, none of this is attributed beyond “federal officials.”
This bad boy goes a step further, because unlike the first story, this one has TWO cited sources – and they both contradict the spin!
Defence Minister Bill Graham’s spokesman Steve Jurgutis says there were no military plans for a radar base, it was all just private industry lobbying. Rick Lehner from the U.S. missile defence agency said his agency wouldn’t have anything to do with that type of radar.
I was fortunate enough to attend a journalism conference recently, where speaker after speaker argued that corporate control of the media is a good thing and that the free market of ideas would ensure that the ‘best’ stories made it through.
I would argue here that we have evidence to the contrary. These stories might very well be valid, but we’ll never know. The quotes are predictable, and therefore believable, but also very make-up-able. Why bother actually calling the State Department, we know what they will say. Let’s file this bad boy for tomorrow’s early run and call it a night.
I’m not saying the quotes are made up, I’m just saying we’ll never know.
And journalists get pissed when courts try to force them to reveal their sources.

Columnist is next to godliness
Wow, I want a column. I want to be able to spew forth shit and get paid for it.
Here’s two doozies from today.
The Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente dedicates her column today to complaining about the extensive coverage of Ernst Zundel. Almost 800 words worth of complaining.
You know who really hasn’t been in the paper’s much since he was ordered deported last week? Zundel. There were other things to cover. I like to call it “news.” Today, there were a couple of briefs in the CanWest and Sun Media chains about his supporters arguing against the deportation – briefs that pale in comparison to the length and play of Wente’s rant.
Hey Margaret, you want the Zundel story to go away? STOP WRITING ABOUT IT.
The Post’s Don Martin has a doozy too. He talks about John Manley’s call for a non-Quebecer in the PM’s chair. He notes that if a Conservative had said that, he’d be branded a racist, but since it was a Liberal, only Martin Cauchon spoke out.
Apparently, that makes it O.K. for Donnie boy to jump on the bandwagon.
He spends the last half of his column echoing Manley’s statements and concluding that “it’s a hard imbalance to stomach,” all that Quebec in 24 Sussex.
How do you say hypocrite in French?

CanWest or Sun?
Remember yesterday when the Citizen went spring break on our asses? I’d love to say that was an isolated incident, but sadly, I can’t.
It was the Post’s turn to play pornbroker today, with an teaser photo on A1 talking about the failure of La Senza lingerie stores in the U.S. The teaser photo was *giggle* a lady in panties!! OMG!! That’s so hott!!!
For the record, the actual story was buried at the bottom of the lead page of the Financial Post in one column leading to a turn.
Oh, and just so you know, a U.S. court ruled that terrorism suspect Jose Padilla had to be released or charged – thus ruling that the “enemy combatant” status – a key component of Bush’s war on terrorism – levelled against all those people who have been jailed without charge is invalid.
The Globe, Ottawa Sun, Edmonton Sun and Windsor Star got that story. Nobody else. I guess the Post was too busy with their panties.

A parting shot
I couldn’t help but notice the extensive coverage of the Lebanese government’s collapse. Good for them, power to the people and all that.
It happened too late in the news cycle to get much column response, but allow me to go on the record and predict that at least one columnist will cite it as an example of Bush’s policies succeeding in the Middle East tomorrow.
Nevermind that the lauded revolutions of the past year – Ukraine, Georgia, Egypt (sort of), Saudi Arabia (erm, maybe) and now Lebanon had very little U.S. presence involved… Bush is winning the fight for freedom!
What was that story about Iraq? Hmm, maybe that column won’t come until mid-to-late- week, gotta let that car burn out first.

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