Posts Tagged ‘News Media’

No facts please, a Toronto Star editorial.

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

It is always assumed that editorials in newspapers are more about opinions than facts. And that makes the Toronto Star just as biased as the National Post. The other day the Star’s editorial was a full-bore, full column support for our prime minister’s pipeline. Like the PM, it was small on facts but big on hyperbole.

It promised you that it would take the average reader six minutes to read the editorial. It would take a generation to forgive. Mind you, like a stopped clock, the editorial was occasionally right. Yes, the original pipeline is more than 60 years old. Yet, they are going to heat the contents of the line, increase the pressure and add a second pipe along side the first, to effectively triple the throughput.

And then they start to lie to the reader. They say “Sending the oil through a pipeline, rather than by more dangerous rail, to Vancouver won’t increase the province’s carbon footprint.”

Other than implying that railways are an unsafe way to transport goods, this is a doubly ridiculous statement. The pipeline is not just being twinned. It is being repurposed to carry diluted bitumen from the Alberta tar sands. That is not ‘oil.’

Converting bitumen to ersatz crude oil is the most polluting process carried out by refineries. The refining process for bitumen creates tonnes of carbon slag. And if your refinery is in Alberta or is one of the ‘tea cup’ refineries in Northern China, you are still producing this carbon to pollute our earth. We only have one earth at present and we need to think of that occasionally.

If the editorial writer assumes that the excessive pollution of Canadian bitumen does not weigh on Canadians and come back to us, the writer has no understanding of the earth’s atmosphere.

But the writer tells us: This is the opinion of the Star’s editorial board. Do not bother us with facts.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Circle your wagons; they’re on the warpath.

Saturday, June 15th, 2019

And here we thought war rooms in politics were a thing of the past? Now we see that the Toronto Sun has resurrected the idea with a one-time liberal in command. This must be the companion war room that PostMedia, owners of the Sun, promised Alberta premier Jason Kenney to complement his war room against the ‘lying’ eastern media. This includes those particular media that do not approve of Kenney’s province shipping highly polluting tar sands bitumen in pipelines or any other way.

I checked out what must have been a podcast coming from PostMedia’s Sun war room. I was not impressed. It was a seemingly tired diatribe against prime minister Justin Trudeau. It was, what it was.

But it seems Paul Godfrey and friends are taking an ‘anything goes’ approach to this election campaign. While PostMedia publications are well known for their conservative bias, bias might be too mild a word for their current stance.

Despite Trudeau’s insistence (to this time) that he is intent on finishing twinning the Trans Mountain pipeline, it is not fast enough for Kenney and PostMedia. It is not really ideal for democracy when you consider that PostMedia with both the Herald and Sun newspapers in Calgary and both the Journal and Sun newspapers in Edmonton dominate Alberta media with a combined daily circulation of well over two million copies.

PostMedia is majority owned by American Media Inc. (AMI) which has a stayed indictment by the southern district of New York federal prosecutor office on condition of good behaviour for three years, until September 2021. This possible prosecution was over some improprieties believed to be in support of Donald Trump’s presidency. It was because of this that AMI was forced to sell the National Enquirer and other similar publications.

Canadians have never been too impressed with the National Post or any other PostMedia publications. I tend to think of them as Paul Godfrey and Conrad Black’s legacy.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

War Rooms from the political past.

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

It started back in the late 1970s and 80s when Senator Keith Davey, some of us liberal apparatchiks and the marketing communications experts, who volunteered their time, started to look on other parties as enemy combatants. I was even quoting Carl von Clausewitz’ On War when talking about campaigning to groups of party faithful. It was a stretch, but also fun, talking about beating your opponents with a war-like strategy.

The idea became somewhat passé later in the 80s when we were contending with the Mulroney government in Ottawa. It was also when a couple of New York advertising guys, Al Ries and Jack Trout, came out with a book on Marketing Warfare. It was practically Campaigning 101. We had to concede that the opposition could also read.

But the best war rooms in politics or in war are the ones nobody knows about. You can brag afterwards if you really want but in any election campaign I ever ran, the only person allowed in the committee rooms with an ego was the candidate.

This concept of a war room has become so common that PostMedia in Toronto wants to buy in on the action of Alberta premier Jason Kenney’s Energy War Room he is setting up to fight what he considers to be disinformation and lies by special interest groups in the coming election. Just why a newspaper would want to so blatantly support a province and a party in interfering with the federal election, leaves me cold. Mind you, PostMedia gave up all pretentions of neutrality in elections a long time ago.

The only problem is that Jason Kenney is not the type of person with whom you want to share any kind of room, let alone be on the same side in an election. Kenney is misogynistic, a mean-spirited schemer and a generally nasty politician.

He explains his rationale for an Energy War Room is to police the eastern media. He wants to make sure that they never use the word ‘bitumen’ when talking about what Albertans call the highly polluting, high-carbon, ‘heavy oil’ from the tar sands.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Saluting Salutin.

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

Maybe you have never wasted much time on reading Toronto Star writer Rick Salutin. I have never considered his opinions of importance or particularly well founded. I have had the impression, that the Star editors just keep him on standby to fill empty spaces in the next edition. His recent effort discussing the B.C. referendum on proportional voting is probably a good example.

Here is Salutin, a week after the results were announced, panning the referendum and claiming that B.C. voters rejected a more democratic voting option and stayed instead with what he refers to as the odious first-past-the-post. You have to admit, this guy knows where he stands.

In a country where even six-year olds are encouraged to send a letter to Santa Claus, Salutin thinks using the services of the post office are too much for our young voters. This is why he objects to the mail-in voting used for the referendum. He thinks it was mainly those risk-adverse seniors who turned thumbs down on change.

He uses the example of the Swiss, who hold more referenda than Canadians and use the mails as well. He notes that most Swiss referenda lose, though it is not clear what point he is making. When visiting Switzerland, I have found progressive to be a somewhat rare human condition.

I lost track of where Salutin was going when he started talking Chartism (a mid 19th century human rights movement) and he then got into railing against neoliberalism. He also seemed to be concerned that the referendum was brought on by the sense of entitlement among the Green and NDP parties to gain them a larger representation in a proportionate legislature.

But he does not seem to want them to have expanded representation because they are not left-wing enough for him. Too bad.

And then he goes on to discuss non-parties such as the Yellow Vests in France. I like to think of them as more like the Occupy Movement in North America—but with flame throwers.

Luckily, I read the entire piece by Salutin. He had thrown in an ‘OTOH’ that I did not understand and something similar. At the end, he had an “IMHO’ which I believe means ‘in my humble opinion.’ I can really appreciate that he is humble about it.

But it would help if the Toronto Star gave Mr. Salutin some copy editing assistance.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Holding Honderich’s Hypocrisy.

Saturday, October 13th, 2018

It is this writer’s observation that John Honderich of the Toronto Star can be among the most puffed up of self-important Canadians. In an opinion piece on page two of his own publication the other day, Honderich bemoaned the lack of financial support for journalism by the federal government. He appears to resent that federal government advertising goes to the media that provides the lowest cost per thousand impressions.

What really galled in this self-serving whining was the list following the story of the 137 newspapers in Canada that have been closed over the past decade. It was interesting going through the list and marking the newspapers where Honderich and TorStar sent out the pink slips. Hypocrisy makes it hard to tell what Honderich is really complaining about!

There is no doubt that the world of journalism is continuing to change. We can be impressed with some of the digital conversions of great papers such as the New York Times and the Guardian in England but Canadian journals trying to convert to digital existence have not been particularly successful to-date. In fact, TorStar did a better job on its first digital iteration than it has done on the latest confusion.

But my problem is that the wife has taken to adding up what we are spending on news media. Reading the Toronto Star in print form over breakfast every day costs a heck of a lot more than I spend on this web site each year. Babel-on-the-Bay.com is a fun hobby. Reading the Toronto Star has always been a habit.

What worries me is that the Trudeau government and his cabinet ministers in training might start to throw money at traditional media. All they would accomplish would be to create more delays in bringing Canadian journalism into the 21st century. Newspapers, radio and television have to find their own path to the future.

We could get better results for Canadians though by putting the money into teaching our kids how to spell and use reasonably understandable grammar. No doubt language can change and improve over time. We should never have to grow old and have to listen to and read absolutely appalling English and French. Better language skills enable all of us to be more easily understood in an increasingly complex world.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

In defence of local media.

Friday, May 18th, 2018

It came as a surprise the other evening to learn that for the past two years, NDP activist Gerry Caplan has also been a resident of Barrie, Ontario. He had been invited to participate on a panel of mourners for the late, and frankly unlamented, Barrie Examiner newspaper. By the time Torstar wrote fini on the Examiner saga, it had been through more hands than a Dunlop Street hooker on a busy night.

I congratulated Dr. Caplan later for bringing a bit of humour to the discussion. I was less than pleased with the performance of the moderator Robyn Doolittle, a working journalist from the Toronto Globe and Mail. She offered clear evidence that she had no idea of what a community might be or how you hold it together.

The other two panelists were walking wounded from the demise of the late community newspapers in Barrie and Orillia. One was the former editor from the venerable Orillia Packet and Times and is obviously struggling with his new career as a reporter for an Internet-only newspaper.

As a one-time managing editor, I could have easily told them the realities of Torstar killing the Examiner and keeping its weekly grocery flyer wrap called the Barrie Advance. The editorial content of the Advance is only there as a form of bilge balancing but it is the only print media in a city of over 140,000.

Regrettably Barrie is not a community in itself. As a Barrie matron explained to us when we came here, you have to have three generations in a local cemetery before you can say you are from Barrie. It is a city of 30,000 with 110,000 interlopers who just live here. It is the fastest growing city in Canada. City council tries to please the 30,000 real Barriites and ignores the rest of us.

I tend to look at Barrie as a challenge in communication. As a former political activist, I look at the problem of reaching people in two electoral districts that split the city in half and add rigidly conservative rural areas to each half. The federal conservatives gerrymandered it that way to keep the area voting conservative. The local liberals had no clue they were being shafted.

While I found the panel discussion interesting, the lack of understanding of how to pull the community together was the panel’s problem. Nothing accomplished; we went home.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Donald Trump Lite and the Ontario PCs.

Sunday, March 11th, 2018

After spending Saturday afternoon watching Rosemary Barton and CBC News struggling with the Ontario Conservative fiasco, I was not sure whether the party or the news media did the worst job. It was embarrassing. I actually paid the CBC $6.85 plus GST for the right to watch that screw-up on streaming video. And I want my money back.

I spent a career working on news conferences, conventions, political rallies, candidate selections and leadership contests across Canada. I always worked to the rule that whatever happens is supposed to happen and you live with it.

But I never considered that you could have a disaster such as the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leadership announcement.

The worst of it was that nobody seemed to be in charge. There seemed to be nobody willing to deal with the news media. There was no information shared with the attendees. They waited for hours without anyone coming to the microphone to apologize for the delays and then they were sent home without answers. Like wayward children, they were sent to bed without their supper.

What really amazes me is that when you are using computer collection of data (such as voting) that you would not write the simple program needed to count those votes. The only time I complained about the weighting of the ridings is when I tried to simulate a program to do that in preparing Babel-on-the-Bay’s Morning Line.

I estimated that there would be less than 70,000 votes cast. It was also clear that Tanya Granic Allen was the fringe candidate. She did better than expected but still came fourth.

It was the collapse of the Caroline Mulroney campaign that surprised us. Like her father, her campaign was just hot air. She blew it.

But it was the attempt to make all electoral districts equal that left the Tories in a mess. Like the electoral college in the U.S., the Tories had an undemocratic system. In the end, Christine Elliott won the most votes and Doug Ford won the election.

All I could think of last night was that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne had a chance to resign last year. We can only hope that she takes a look at what Hillary Clinton did wrong in the last U.S. election. She has to remember that there are lots of angry conservatives in Ontario. Her and her party have to win the rest.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

What ‘New’ Democratic Party?

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

We are hearing that ‘Love is in the air’ and the New Democratic Party of Canada is facing the future to the beat of new drums. Everyone anticipates that this new day will start with the election of the new leader of the party. And if you believe all this guff, I have a fine piece of swampland in the Ontario north in which you might want to invest.

The first part of all this B.S. is the news media believing the NDP is a social democratic party. That is further from the facts that any human can throw. When the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) was founded by Tommy Douglas and J.S. Woodsworth in 1932, it was a socialist party with agrarian roots.

In 1961, the CCF became the base of the New Democratic Party (NDP). It was a deal made with the Canadian Labour Congress and the party structure was committed to organized labour. It was and still is a party of labour. That is not the basis for social democracy. Labour can best be described as organized collectivism. It is a mutual protective society. It is rarely interested in the overall concerns of its society—other than when it affects them.

Social democrats are people who can work within a democratic structure to effect reforms. They are progressives who want to build a better future for their society. They recognize the rights of the individual ahead of the collective. They build on human excellence.

But who among the four candidates really understands this need for a social democratic party? Who is the progressive? And who can lead?

Listening to the four candidates on Sunday in Hamilton it was obvious that Guy Caron was the thinker. The Quebec MP had the positions that he felt the party should take. What he could not demonstrate was the leadership the party needs.

Charlie Angus was up to the challenge. The Northern Ontario MP showed his empathy for the long-time party members who want to help define where the party is going. He was the only one to note the need to keep the faith with seniors and promised to advocate for them.

Niki Ashton was also in good form. The Manitoba MP showed that she was the last true prairie socialist and she stuck to her guns.

The newcomer Jagmeet Singh showed up with his drummers. The Ontario MPP brought some showmanship to the event.

What nobody brought was a future for Canada’s New Democrats.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

When a friend gives a friend a lift.

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

This is not the prime minister’s problem. It must be the ethics and conflict of interest commissioner’s problem. This commissioner acts independently and reports to parliament on those issues that might involve the ethics or any conflict of interest on the part of federally elected persons. We hear that she is currently looking into a helicopter ride for Prime Minister Trudeau and his family to reach the private island of the Aga Khan in the Bahamas.

Forget the fact that the Aga Khan is the world-wide spiritual leader of about 25 million Ismaili Shia Muslims and he is one of the most progressive (and richest) leaders in the Muslim world. The Trudeau’s spent their Christmas break visiting the Aga Khan—who is a family friend.

And what do you do when a family friend sends a car to the airport to pick up you and the family. You accept graciously. You do not worry about checking first with the ethics and conflict of interest commissioner. It would be rude to the family friend. Do you offer to pay a friend whatever the cost for driver and fuel might be? Really?

The fact that the car in this case is a helicopter is irrelevant. If you can own an island in the Bahamas, having a private helicopter is just a convenience. There is only one major commercial airport for all those islands and having a helicopter is a smart move. And since it is the Aga Khan’s helicopter you would expect it to have both first-class maintenance and maybe even some divine intervention when flying in rough weather.

The ethics and conflict of interest commissioner has a tough job. We often wondered during the Harper years where the line was drawn for the PM’s personal hairdresser. It is certainly obvious that Justin Trudeau does not have a hairdresser, no matter how badly he needs one.

And we also think that the PM and his family have a complaint for the ethics commissioner. It is about the news media. Parliament goes to a good deal of expense and inconvenience to accommodate Canada’s fourth estate. They block corridors, ignore fire regulations, set up microphones where they want and generally create a nuisance. And to make matters worse, when the PM and his family want some private time on a family break, the media are complaining that he must be doing something sneaky and secret.

Christmas might be a Christian holiday but the entire country understands that Christmas and New Year’s are important times to be with family and friends. The ethics commissioner needs to remind the press gallery about their lack of manners.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Is Mulcair peaking too soon?

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Gosh, reading and listening to some political pundits, you would think that the coming federal election is already decided. It is all over but the shouting. It is one of those times when you wish you could take all those bets from the suckers. Frankly, this political apparatchik would not bet on New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair for prime minister.

It is certainly interesting to try to imagine Thomas Mulcair as prime minister but reality keeps getting in the way. Recently we wrote about the New Democrat leader that Canada needs a prime minister, not a prosecutor. And it is easy to imagine him as a crown attorney. His style and focus in the House of Commons since becoming Leader of the Opposition has been precisely that. He goes after the Conservative government with a prosecutorial style that many crowns must envy. He is relentless, pains-taking, eloquent and thrusts deeply in revealing the error of the Tory ways.

But a prime minister has to be a leader. A person who wants to be prime minister can ill afford to get into a mud-wrestling contest with Conservative Party hatchet men. To allow himself to be accused of mismanaging funds provided by the taxpayers for the operation of MP’s constituency offices had to be handled firmly and immediately. It is an accusation that cannot be allowed to fester over an election.

He put his party policies out for all to see early. He was trying for political advantage but it was hardly an advantage when he stumbled in explaining his own plans. You have to do the simple arithmetic. You have to have the impact of new taxation at the tip of the tongue. You have to know where you are taking your party. It is hardly the role of the news media to try to explain your program.

And what is all this talk about being middle-class? The escape clause must be when he calls it his “middle class values.” That must be a person who is above being middle class but wants to be just plain “Tom.”

There must be a middle-class ghost somewhere in this on-going campaign. Everyone talks about the middle class but none of them are sure they have ever met anyone from Canada’s middle class.

Thomas Mulcair might think he has won. He might as well stay home.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me