Who’s Vancouver’s assignment editor?

Glenn Beck

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I seem to have missed an interesting discussion while I was away. Sun reporter Jeff Lee posted a blog entry – On “lazy pack journalism” at Vancouver City Hall, which is itself a response to CivicScene’s Jonathan Ross theory that the local media have allowed a few partisan outlets to dictate the stories they pursue, without much followup to regards to their veracity. Lee defends his own journalistic integrity – effectively I think – but concedes many local news outlets have cut back on civic coverage for economic reasons. On certain subjects, such as local economics, Lee is a little bit more biased than I think he realizes (his coverage of the “Fair Tax” issue seems to accept the argument and rhetorical boundaries set by the anti-tax people a bit too uncritically to my taste).

But I don’t think he’s a partisan, per se.

Although people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, I think Ross has a point. As has been pointed out elsewhere, CityCaucus’s Mike Klassen has become an almost ubiquitous presence on TV and radio. How should the professional media treat him? Is he a journalist? An “opinionator”? If he’s breaking stories, and reporters like Jeff Lee take those stories up, shouldn’t he be subjected to the same set of journalism ethics they, theoretically, are? For example, Mike recently posted 2 stories with a similar problem: no proof. One, the Mayor alleged desire iPhones for his staff (the City runs on Blackberries apparently). Despite receiving a categorical denial from the CoV’s communications dept., he sticks to his guns:

We’ll stick to our original story unless someone can prove categorically that the Apple device purchase was not in the works.

In other words, “prove a negative, assholes”. In support he offers…nothing. No emails. No invoices. Nothing. Only a “we’re told…” and a promise of a future FOI (shouldn’t you have done that first?). Ditto a later story where he claims the Hornby Bike Lane was to be constructed in August, only to be “dumped because of the increasing public controversy” (having heard this particular theory before, I’ve been keeping an eye out and have noticed nothing of the sort on the City’s roadwork webpage since July).

Sure Mike has connections inside City Hall. Maybe his sources could pony up some memos. Works for Wikileaks.

What responsibilities should reporters like Jeff Lee have in all of this? At what point do the Mike Klassen’s lose credibility? When will Alex Tsakumis’s crush on Glenn Beck and embrace of climate change denialism cause him to be placed in the “do not call back” file? I mean, if he clearly embraces crackpot standards on one subject, doesn’t that undermine his theories on, say, Ark Tsisserev’s firing?

We see this sort of thing clearly in the States, where the Republican/Fox noise machine has 1 in 5 believing Barack Obama is a Muslim. I know Vancouver politics have a history of viciousness, but…please, can we cut out that crap here? Two years ago, I wrote:

It’s truly great, democratic, and empowering that anyone can start a blog and potentially reach a broad audience – but it does not follow that you deserve a mass audience by virtue of simply being “a blogger”. Quality of content still counts…There’s nothing wrong with being proudly partisan, but if City Caucus doesn’t up the quality of their arguments, their audience will simply be the base of the NPA and will always remain so.

I, er, might have overestimated the local media. Jeff Lee aside, er, of course.

Update: Whooboy, I’ve missed alot. In the comment section of this story posted on the Vancouver Observer, Norm Farrell reminds us:

Is this the Canadian member of the Olympic Journalists’ Association, the cozy group of friends who understand whose hands to wash for favours? And, is this the same Canwest Olympic reporter who was paid to write for the Olympic Review, a journal published in advance of Vancouver 2010, paid for by the IOC? Some might question the ethics of a professional journalist doing freelance work for remuneration paid directly or indirectly by the subjects of the journalist’s regular beat. Mr. Lee has demonstrated how he feels about independence and conflict. Some of us may conclude that his objectivity is not perfect.

Um. Hmm. Perspective changing.

Update 2: There have been “developments”. Frances Bula has a great post on this.