Own goals

Mike Klassen has a bone to pick with the Canadian Journalism Foundation. See, they gave an award to The Great and Auld Enemy, The Vancouver Observer. For “excellence in journalism” in the small/local media category. The CJF, Mike says, is “coming under fire” for this outrage, though fire from anyone other than Mike Klassen is a mystery.

In support, Mike quotes [supposedly] 4 “veteran” Vancouver journalists, none of whom wanted to go on record. Anonymity is granted. It’s an important principle of journalism that you grant anonymity when a source requests it….in this case, and by remarkable coincidence, 4 times in a row. Apropos of nothing, here is the New York Times policy on anonymous sources:

In routine interviewing – that is, most of the interviewing we do – anonymity must not be automatic or an assumed condition. In that kind of reporting, anonymity should not be offered to a source. Exceptions will occur in the reporting of highly sensitive stories, when it is we who have sought out a source who may face legal jeopardy or loss of livelihood for speaking with us.

Jeepers, the Vancouver Observer must have mob enforcers working for them.

Whatever. Also in support, Mr. Klassen cites BCBusiness Magazine. Mike states:

Linda Solomon was featured beside City Caucus in a 2011 feature article in BCBusiness Magazine titled “The Politics of Vancouver Blogs“. Vancouver Observer was cited as a site with “clear political allegiances” to Vancouver City Hall and Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Although what BCBusiness magazine actually said was…

Much in the way that Solomon’s apartment merges workplace and home, however, the world of online journalism highlights the narrowing separation between politics and the media in a city where Mayor Gregor Robertson posts on Twitter regularly and a province in which a radio host, Christy Clark, left her job to become premier. Websites and blogs from writers with clear political allegiances, which once only commented on news from traditional outlets, are now breaking news and supplying stories for reporters. Consequently, they are inspiring accusations of biases and low standards from city hall, even as its staffers scan these sites for updates.

I guess City Hall doesn’t like the Vancouver Observer. Unless the phrase “clear political allegiances” was referring to [cough] another website.

Whatever. For me the interesting part is BCBusiness Magazine had no problem finding and citing veteran Vancouver journalists who, oddly enough, seem at ease going on the record about named Vancouver blogs. For example, here is a senior local journalist discussing one of The Vancouver Observer’s competitors:

In a Sept. 13, 2010, Globe and Mail column, Gary Mason described [City Caucus] as an “educational and useful blog,” but one that “is embedded with blatant bias, personal attacks, juvenile vituperation and hypocrisy.”


OWN GOAL 2: In the comments of this City Caucus blog post, Vancouver’s Poet Laureate writes in defence of allowing journalists to go off the record:

FYI, here’s one reason why journalists, people linked to the city hall, or in business with the city in general, prefer to speak from behind anonymity.
Remember how the Vision appointed Top Hack dealt with … The Press?
Here, for your enjoyment some extracts…

They then go on to describe the displeasure of named, on the record journalists over a “gag order” at City Hall for staff.