Telegraph-Journal apologizes to the PM – feedback

An ink-stained wretch (and contrarian reader) offers a few tart observations on the Telegraph-Journal’s strangely unelaborated apology.

I find something stinking with the Telegraph-Journal’s wafer story. They bent over backwards to apologize and apparently the editor and publisher paid the price. But I haven’t seen any reporting that took this any further. Did the Catholic officials cited in the original stories who apparently were so mightily offended by Harper’s alleged act change their tunes? Who got the quotes from the church people? What contact was there between the PMO and the TJ? Did higher ups in the church get involved? God (literally) knows.

This is the whole thing about monolithic press ownership. This kind of digging probably isn’t going to happen. The Irving papers won’t touch it. The CBC won’t want to offend Harper. CTV couldn’t be bothered. Canwest can’t afford to chase it and wouldn’t want to offend Harper.

We all know the Irvings’ business interests such as oil and shipbuilding require a high level of goodwill with Ottawa. And we could see how upset Harper was about the original story. What happened here?

There’s been lots of commentary accepting the apologetic paper’s take that the story was bogus and then slamming the paper and journalists in general. Disappointingly few folks are skeptical about this attempt at burial.

Papers print so much stuff, they inevitably get things wrong sometimes. It’s an honorable thing when they have the integrity to fess up. But the T-J’s refusal to offer any details on how this story went wrong is, at the very least, inconsistent with transparency and accountability. Compare that to the New York Times’s ruthless self-examination when editors discovered that a favorite reporter had been making stuff up.

The most curious thing is the apology‘s assertion that there was “no credible support” for the original story’s claim that “a senior Roman Catholic priest in New Brunswick had demanded that the Prime Minister’s Office explain what happened to the communion wafer.”

The original story quoted that senior priest, Monsignor Brian Henneberry, vicar general and chancellor in the Diocese of Saint John. Were the quotes made up? Taken grossly out of context? The apology said the reporters who covered the funeral were not responsible for the mistakes, so who was? If only to clear the air of the suspicions raised above, the T-J should explain.

Somehow, we doubt they will.