Blogger and tech journalist Jeff Jedras has a good analysis of the moral panic that swept through the Parliamentary Press Gallery last Friday (and previously touched on here).
The leading lights of Canadian journalism had had the news cycle snatched from their grasp not once but twice the day before, and not by the customary culprits in the PMO but by a pair of tweeters, one obscure (the PEI man who kicked off the wildly popular #tellviceverything meme) the other anonymous (@vikileaks30).
After floundering unhappily for 24 hours in the turbulent wake of these citizen journalists, the gallery regrouped Friday for an all-out assault on @VikiLeaks30′s “despicable” exposé of ministerial hypocrisy, supplemented by feckless efforts to unmask the fiend.
It should be noted that had @Vikileaks30 given their documents to a journalist who chose to publish a story based on them, then the media would be reminding us how important it is to protect the confidentiality of their sources. Even competing outlets wouldn’t try to unmask another journalist’s confidential source. That’s just not cricket, old boy.
What the media reaction to @Vikileaks30 really shows though is how angry, and perhaps frightened, they are about losing their traditional role as the gatekeepers of news, the people that get to decide what we, the unwashed masses, need to know and what we don’t need to know. Journalists are used to being in the know, to having the inside details, the scoop. It helps make up for the low pay, long hours and heavy drinking.
Jedras is onto something here. Obscure tweeters had exposed the media’s failure to make a story out of the well known (to them) disconnect between Vic Toews’s sanctimonious public pronouncements on family values and his own tawdry infidelities. That embarrassed and angered the gallery. When the Ottawa Citizen claimed to have linked the offending twitter account to a House of Commons IP address, it propelled the flock into a frenzy of denunciations and a hunt for the malfeasor.
Except that, as Jedras pointed out, most of these same news organizations had already made their own passing references to Toew’s messy divorce. He compiled a litany of these media mentions, in the Winnipeg Free Press, Canadian Press, the Vancouver Sun, and the National Post. They were, to be sure, only fleeting mentions, each consisting of a bare-bones sentence or two. No major media outlet had fully reported the story, though the details were all on the public record.
Compare that reticence to the same media outlets’ treatment of a scandal involving NDP-affiliated Toronto City Councillor Adam Giambrone, whose 2010 campaign for mayor came to an abrupt halt after the Toronto Star exposed his escapades on a City Hall sofa with a 19-year-old student blissfully unaware that his would-be worship had a long-term, live-in partner.
The Star’s respected National Affairs Correspondent, Linda Diebel, broke that story in lurid detail, whereupon the same journals that would later denounce @Vikileaks30 pounced on the scandal with a vengeance, publishing comprehensive followups until they succeeded in driving Councillor Giambrone from office. So entranced was the National Post with the story that it followed up a year-and-a-half later — after Giambrone had moved to another city — with a snide “where are they now” reprise of the incident.
That would be the same National Post that denounced @Vikileaks30′s recital of the unreported facts in the Toews case as a “further debasement of the Canadian political conversation..”
Do as I say, not as I do, at least when Harper cabinet ministers are involved.
H/T: Charlie Phillips
[UPDATES appended at end]
Contrarian reader SL shares our ink-stained correspondent‘s distaste for the Saint John Telegraph-Journal’s malodorous apology to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. She wonders why departing Harper Communications Director Kory Teneycke included the precise timing of his decision to resign so prominently in his resignation talking points. The second paragraph of the CBC story reads:
Teneycke said he told Harper just after Canada Day and before the G8 meeting in Italy earlier this month that he was going to step down.
That would be, uh, just before the Prime Minister did or did not consume the sacramental Host at Romeo LeBlanc’s funeral. (The timing of Teneckye’s decision appeared in the sixth paragraph of the Toronto Star story.)
If the Irving-owned Telegraph-Journal’s groveling apology was brokered as part of a deal that included Irving-owned Halifax Shipyard’s efforts to woo federal shipbuilding contracts, maybe Teneycke, Harper’s third director of communications in 3-1/2 years, decided the backroom machinations could do permanent damage to his career. Or maybe not.
Another piece of speculation, promoted by CTV and the always impartial National Post, holds that the whole wafergate scandal was a Liberal set-up. As CTV’s Bob Fife put it (at 10:30 into the aforementioned video):
I’m told the Liberals passed the story on to young Jamie Irving, who is the publisher of the paper. He passed it on to the editor who put it into the paper without checking it out, and today the editor has been fired and Jamie’s father has suspended his son for 30 days, and I’m told the Prime Minister is pretty thrilled with that decision.
So T-J editor Shawna Richer is indeed out of a job, but somehow publisher Jamie Irving (that last name has a nice ring) escaped with a 30-day suspension—facts the paper neglected to include when making a clean breast of the matter. (An Irving spokesperson now acknowledges that the pair have been relieved of their duties, but still will not reveal their employment status.)
National Post columnist Seve Janke points the finger at former NB Liberal MP and current Ignatieff staffer Paul Zed based on, well, zero evidence (“I’m not saying Paul Zed had anything to do with this”), except that Zed “is related by marriage to the Irving family, having been married to Judith Irving, the granddaughter of K.C. Irving.”
The operative words there are “having been.” The couple is divorced, so perhaps Paul is no longer whispering sweet nothings into Judy’s ear, or Cousin Jamie’s for that matter. Nevertheless, Janke wants Ignatieff “to direct Paul Zed to uncover the identities of those did the deed and who had knowledge of it.”
Oh my, my, my. Does the Post actually pay for this crap?
For what it’s worth, Maclean’s Magazine’s Kady O’Malley reports that Doug Finlay, the Conservative Party’s National Director of Political Operations, is flogging the same line:
Can Michael Ignatieff assure Canadians that no Liberal staffer, executive or advisor contacted Jamie Irving or Shawna Richer regarding the Prime Minister’s acceptance of communion at Romeo LeBlanc’s funeral?
So O’Malley put the question to Ignatieff’s office. Response:
This is nonsense. We didn’t record the videotape–CPAC did. And as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Canadians need only look at the video on You Tube to see what happened.
Meanwhile, LifeSiteNews.com, a Toronto-based Campaign Life website, suspects Liberal blogger-strategist (and Chretien acolyte) Warren Kinsella‘s hand at work, noting that Kinsella has apparently changed the time-stamp on his blog to make it appear that he posted a refernce to the original T-J story somewhat later in the morning (9:53 am) of July 8 than was actually the case (6:53 am), the implication being that Kinsella is trying to obscure the fact he had advance knowledge of the story. (Pretty bad when you have to turn away from our august papers of record to an anti-abortion website for actual reporting.)
No question, Kinsella has aggressively promoted the alleged scandal, drawing “the faint outlines of a link between the shipbuilding announcement and, hours later, mincing, shit-eating apology,” which he describes as “fundamentally false.”
Meanwhile, what the hell is this?
A copyright claim by Radio-Canada? CBC spokesperson Angus MacKinnon confims to Maclean’s:
Radio-Canada requested that the footage be removed from YouTube due to copyright infringement (something it does on a regular basis). It was deemed that no ‘fair dealing’ exception was applicable in this case… [O]ur policy on fair dealing with regard to YouTube-d material [is] judged on a case-by-case basis.
Excuse me? Since when is it part of a news-gathering organization’s role to block public access to primary research sources, especially when those sources were created with taxpayers’ money? Since Harper became PM, perhaps? How much faith can we now place in Radio-Canada’s coverage of the current copyright debate, where Crown copyright is a key issue? Suckholing to the government of the day has long been endemic within the CBC, but rarely has a Mother Corp flack acknowledged it so brazenly.
Happily, Canadians can still see video evidence of Harper’s nontransubstantiation here, here, and here. The videos show pretty conclusively that, whatever Harper may have done with the Saviour’s virtual Body, he didn’t consume It promptly.
Here’s a novel idea: Could someone in our nation’s Parliamentary Press Gallery separate their puckered lips from Harper’s posterior long enough to do some actual reporting? Or does endlessly opining on the terminal inadequacy of any possible pretender to Harper’s throne keep you too busy for honest work?
Scarborough blogger Jeff Jedras parses the T-J apology in meticulous detail, pointing out additional oddities and inconsistencies.
The apology exonerates the reporters whose bylines appeared on the story on grounds that the inaccurate material was added in the editing process without their knowledge. But the story, which appeared five days after the funeral, was all about the wafer issue.
This is a daily newspaper, so they’d covered the funeral story already. So clearly the original, untainted story the two reporters wrote was more than just “there was a state funeral a week ago.” That’s not a story. The story they wrote had to centre around Harper accepting communion, was that right or not, and when did he consume it? Then some things were inserted to beef that up that were apparently troublesome.
So which part of the story is true, and which fabricated? That’s the central problem with the Irvings’ highly selective account of the events: we can’t tell. As Jedras puts it:
[T]he Telegraph Journal’s apology doesn’t really change the original story, whether you think it’s a dumb or newsworthy story or not: Harper accepted communion when he shouldn’t have, and took his sweet time consuming it, when he should have consumed it right away. All they’re retracting is “senior priest wants answers” and “he pocketed it.”
There’s more. It’s worth reading.
Blogger Stephen Taylor, who bills himself as a scientist and political analyst, and who organized rallies to protest last December’s aborted coalition government, also weighs in. Taylor notes the massive character of the edits that would have been required to sustain the apology’s odd claim that, although the central facts of the story were wrong, the reporters who wrote it bore no responsibility for the erroneous material. Then he adds an intriguing twist:
I’ve learned from a source close to one of the journalists that at least one of them may have gone so far as to seek advice and consider a lawsuit against the newspaper if the paper did not retract the story and absolve (no pun intended) the journalists of fabricating a significant portion the article.
That would be consistent with the highly unusual lengths the apology went to in exonerating the reporters.
Curiouser and curiouser. Too bad that journalism is the only public institution journals and journalists deem off limits.
Contrarian reader Justin Ling wonders:
One wonders why ‘investigating’ this non-issue (a) counts as journalism or (b) matters to anyone but the media. If he pocketed it, he did so because he did not want to offend Catholics by refusing the wafer. Shouldn’t we be focusing on the other host of issues out there surrounding Mr. Harper?
Well, of course the original story wasn’t important. It was amusing and ironic, and treated as such by the media. But then the Prime Minister blew a gasket, and the CBC invoked copyright to bar public access to the video evidence, and the Telegraph-Journal issued this astonishing and hard-to-credit apology (just as its owners queued up for lucrative shipbuilding contracts), and the PM’s director of communications resigned a year into the job. And finally, there’s the Ottawa press corps’s disinclination to look into the inconsistencies.
Contrarian reader WT observes:
Whatever else there is to be said about the TJ wafergate apology, it must rank as one of the great pooh-eaters of all time.
Mervin Hollingsworth of Saskatoon thinks we’re off our trolley:
Do you know how silly your report reads? Who cares what Harper did with the Host. It is between him and his God. Try to move on to something that all Canadians care about. This is pure speculation and garbage and a waste of everybody’s time. It truly must be a slow summer.
To be clear, which I thought I had been, I don’t give a flying fig what SH did with the Host. I care about the fallout, which reeks of dishonesty.