So, to recap, we have in Vancouver two major dailies owned by the same company which has (or had in 2013) a partnership with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers to “leverage all means editorially, technically and creatively to further the critical conversation” on the “importance of energy to Canada’s business competitiveness”.
In Postmedia daily #1 we have an editorial strongly in favour of corporate grants to our education system by a petroleum company.
In Postmedia daily #2 we see an op-ed by an individual who has in the past received an honorarium from the CAPP and who is vocal in support of developing Canada’s petroleum industry, equating it with patriotism.
Undoubtedly Postmedia journalists retain full editorial independence and any hint that this could be a real or perceived conflict of interest arising from the aforementioned partnership with the CAPP is ridiculous and if you do have questions you’re probably a troll or a bully.
UPDATE: Paul Chapman of The Province and Jeff Lee of The Sun thoughtfully weighed in on the subject of the CAPP partnership on Twitter and insist, and I believe them, they have never felt any pressure to change, modify or ignore a story, etc.
But this isn’t so much about the newsroom than the editorial room and business operations. It’s about who gets to appear in the op-ed pages and when. And the safeguards in place. For example, on Dec. 4, 2013 an advertorial ran without attribution on the Vancouver Sun entitled “Born to the Challenge: Janet Holder’s B.C. roots make her the perfect lead on Northern Gateway.” It was only when a rebuttal was submitted that we, the public, found out that it was advertising. Another advertorial ran without attribution in the Postmedia owned Regina Leader-Post in error.
How is the public to perceive all this? That’s really the question. It is really so outrageous to wonder that a media company in financial difficulty, that has slashed newsroom budgets and staff, might balk at crossing a group that has a strategic partnership?
As the another outlet’s code of Standards and Practices note: “The trust of the public is our most valued asset. We avoid putting ourselves in real or potential conflict of interest. This is essential to our credibility.”*
*Something noted by Kirk LaPointe, in another career.
UPDATE 2: Tom Hawthorn reminds us of the time Dan Murphy’s cartoon was pulled at the Province after pressure from Enbridge.
“‘If it doesn’t come down, Enbridge says they’re pulling a million dollars worth of advertising from Postmedia, and if it doesn’t come down, I, Wayne Moriarty, I’m going to lose my job,’” Murphy said Moriarity told him.
As mentioned, isn’t that the real danger?
FINAL UPDATE: While the issue of the advertorial remains, it should be noted for the record that The Province gave space yesterday to Emma Gilchrist of DeSmogBog to write a rebuttal of Vivian Krause’s op-ed AND the Sun issued the following correction to it’s editorial:
Fazil Mihlar went from the Fraser Institute to being an editor with the Vancouver Sun to being the Assistant Deputy Minister in charge of the B.C. Liberal government’s oil & gas initiatives. Joining other journalists who have moved seemlessly from the pages and television screens of big journalism into the employ of those they were reporting on and, supposedly, serving as watchdog over on the public’s behalf (Hi, Pamela Martin!).
During his time at the Sun, Mihlar wrote countless articles in support of oil and gas projects (Example. Also: See here). Can we really say he was acting on the behalf of the public interest during his tenure?
That’s a rhetorical question.
This is a big problem for the field of journalism. A big problem, and I’m sorry that people like Vaughn Palmer don’t see what the big deal is. The public need investigative reporters, not court stenographers or industry spokespeople. Even if it’s just a perception of a conflict of interest, perception counts. And in this case I don’t think it was merely perception. The record speaks for itself.
P.S. I’m sure Mihlar is a very nice fellow on a personal level.
UPDATE: Here is Mr. Mihlar’s LinkedIn profile. You’ll note he has an M.A. in Public Administration, a B.A. in economics, a “diploma” in Marketing and, notably, no degree/certificate/diploma in journalism. Yet he was Editorial Page Editor at the Sun 2003-2012. Guess which
degree diploma he got the most use out of?
Again, I’m sure he’s a very nice fellow. This is not ultimately a comment on Fazil Mihlar. What this really speaks to is the Vancouver Sun and how much faith you, the public, should put into it.
I’m confused. Are these tweets from the editor of the Vancouver Sun…
…or an advertisement? Come, my friends, gather round this magic screen and be regaled by tales of a modern miracle!
UPDATE: On a serious note, Mihlar is arguing with a straw man. Who is denying that our carbon-based economy has made modern life possible? That’s not the debate we’re having – it’s whether we want to continue to have carbon-based energy sources make modern life possible, because it comes at a costly price, as Mother Jones points out today:
Yesterday three stories dominated my Twitter feed.
The first was the news that the Government of Malaysia had employed a conservative writer of my acquaintance, Joshua “Tacitus” Trevino, to write stories (or subcontract out to others) favourable to the Malay government and/or critical of opposition [and pro-democracy] figures. And that he did, failing to disclose to the publications he wrote for that he was operating as a marketer rather than as a journalist. Failing to register too, with the US government that he was serving as a foreign agent (ie. someone in the employ of a foreign government) – a serious offence that could lead to jail time (they allowed him to retroactively register to his great good fortune). He even lied when confronted by another journalist.
His tweets after the story broke indicate a lack of remorse. Or an awareness he had betrayed his [extreme] conservative values by advancing the interests of a repressive [and Islamic!] government. The only thing wrong, to Mr. Trevino, was that he got caught.
The second was the continuing fallout of Tom “Conservative Godfather” Flanagan.
He demonstrates the fundamental flaw in libertarian thinking with his involuntary reductio ad absurdum. Let the marketplace decide, goes the mantra, but there are markets that simply should not be created, and child porn is obviously one of them.
“Obviously?” Not, it seems, to an ideologue like Flanagan. As Michael Harris asks, where does he think child porn comes from? It’s just pictures, right? The radical immorality at the heart of libertarianism is brutally revealed.”
The last is closer to home – the “ethnic-gate” scandal, which continues to unfold. Now the ethically challenged nature of the B.C. Liberal government is well-documented but what is interesting is the reaction by the Vancouver Sun’s editor Fazil Mihlar which is, more or less, there is no wrong-doing here.
I will outsource to Ian Reid that appropriate response to Mr. Mihlar’s lack of understanding of the law, the rules that govern the B.C. civil service and ethics in general.
But it really struck me that these three stories are related and are rooted in a certain strain of conservatism. You can add in the foibles of the federal Conservatives too – Bruce Carson, Dean Del Maestro, Tony Clement, the F-35 affair.
They all display a similar set of ethics. A set of ethics that stands apart from the traditional maintream understanding of what ethics means.
And I am beginning to believe there is a sort of grand unified theory out there that explains it all. I can’t really express it coherently yet, but I don’t really think it’s “mere corruption”. The philosophy of Ayn Rand plays an important part and it’s view that it’s the market and not the state or society that determines morality and ethics. Whether any of the figures mentioned above are direct devotees of Rand or not, her ideas have infected modern conservatism and modern conservative political parties. Certainly, in this country, through the Fraser Institute and certainly through the “Calgary School.”
UPDATE: Paul Krugman
For years, the Heritage Foundation sharply criticized the autocratic rule of former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, denouncing his anti-Semitism, his jailing of political opponents and his “anti-free market currency controls.”
Then, late in the summer of 2001, the conservative nonprofit Washington think tank began to change its assessment …
Heritage’s new, pro-Malaysian outlook emerged at the same time a Hong Kong consulting firm co-founded by Edwin J. Feulner, Heritage’s president, began representing Malaysian business interests. The for-profit firm, called Belle Haven Consultants, retains Feulner’s wife, Linda Feulner, as a “senior adviser.” And Belle Haven’s chief operating officer, Ken Sheffer, is the former head of Heritage’s Asia office and is still on Heritage’s payroll as a $75,000-a-year consultant.
It seems that some years ago Malaysia’s ruling party took a good look at leading pundits and policy intellectuals in the conservative movement, reached a judgment about their personal and intellectual integrity or lack thereof, and acted in accordance with that judgment.
The market at work in the fields of morality.
Yesterday in the Vancouver Sun, Pete McMartin – in what I can only suppose is it’s important to give equal consideration to any crackpot idea as long as the crackpot idea originates from the right-wing – wrote an article on the urban development ideas of Wendell Cox. Mr Cox is described as a U.S. public policy consultant. This is true. What is also true is Mr. Cox is a a U.S. public policy consultant, visiting fellow of the Heritage Foundation and senior fellow of the Heartland Institute. The latter being infamously in the news lately. Anyway, Mr. Cox loves urban sprawl. To whit:
But densification, Cox maintains, rests on a mistaken assumption — that if a city is dense enough, we’ll get out of our cars in sufficient numbers to make a difference.
Instead, Cox wrote, densification does exactly the opposite. Most people continue to use their cars, but in a slower, less efficient flow of traffic.
But later that very same day, over the newswires…Gen Y doesn’t buy cars: study
For young adults coming out of school, many of who have incurred healthy debts, the idea of buying a car and adding to their debt leaves a bad taste in their mouths. Paying off student debts is seen as a priority, while owning a new car is a luxury. Add into the equation low wages and high insurance prices, and you’ve got a potent mix of reasons not to buy a new car.
But is it really that simple? For instance, a new Pew Research study finds that around 30 percent of Millennials move back in with their parents, freeing up more money for a vehicle. If kids aren’t paying rent, then why aren’t they buying cars?
Why indeed. Oops. McMartin ends…
Much of this in a city like Vancouver seems counter-intuitive, and given the ascendancy of the densification philosophy here, worthy of further discussion.
I look forward to a worthy discussion on whether the Sun revolves around the Earth.
Sorry, Pete. This was a dude.
UPDATE: See Gordon Price
When exactly had all this happened? “March 3.” Here it was the 26th, more than three weeks later. Why had it taken so long for [the lost bus pass] to come out?
God bless The Onion, and its pitch-perfect ability to capture the vapidness of “elite” punditry.
One would think that Elections BC would look into this attempt by an American foundation to meddle in B.C. politics. Surprisingly, Elections BC has said that there is “nothing for Elections BC to investigate.”
The Election Act does not restrict the activities of foreign groups in B.C. political matters.
American foundations aren’t sup-posed to mobilize voters in a foreign country
Did the B.C. Elections Act change between February 25, 2011 and November 15, 2011?
Why, no…it didn’t.
In the real world, its foreign corporations that exert [exponentially] more influence on Canadian policy-making than foreign NGOs. An honest debater would point that out.
Here’s how it goes. Any criticism of privatization is evidence of a secret red agenda. So if Horgan, Dix and Farnworth take on BC Rail, Hospital services privatization and the BC Ferries experiment that means, to quote the falconized Palmer, “you have to wonder how they would propose to spur job creation and economic growth”.
Read the rest. Good comments left by readers too.
I’m really beginning to wonder if the Vancouver Sun editorial staff have gone missing or are vacation or something, such is the frequency of guest appearances on our local paper’s editorial page from the Calgary Herald. Today we are graced with Alberta oil is ‘ethical’. Right. The gist: Oil produced from Alberta’s tar sands, by way of Canada’s human rights and overall environmental record, is “ethically” superior to oil produced in the other large oil-producing nations. Oh, and the claims of the Tar Sand opposing activists are false.
Such is laziness of the writers they don’t even bother with constructing strawmen. What are these “false” claims of these perfidious activists? Who knows…they are false. Ipso facto. But ah-hah, the editorialist has found an environmentalist to agree with them!
That environmentalist is Patrick Moore. While noting Moore left the green movement it doesn’t note when: 1986. It also doesn’t mention his subsequent controversial and lucrative career speaking on behalf of corporate causes. But that is neither here nor there.
The human rights angle is a red herring. Are human rights arguments being leveled at the Alberta Tar Sands? No. Are environmental groups required to utilize human rights arguments? No. Environmental groups use environmental arguments. Human rights groups use human right arguments.
But isn’t it better to purchase oil from Canada than, say, Saudi Arabia the way some argue it’s better to purchase Fair Trade coffee (which, btw, lots of conservative think is bunk)? One has to remember that, while Canada benefits from royalities, oil isn’t purchased from “Canada”. It’s purchased from oil companies. And guess what? The oil companies in the Tar Sands are the same oil companies in the Middle East, Nigeria, Venezuela, etc.
The WikiLeaks disclosure was today seized on by campaigners as evidence of Shell’s vice-like grip on the country’s oil wealth. “Shell and the government of Nigeria are two sides of the same coin,” said Celestine AkpoBari, of Social Action Nigeria. “Shell is everywhere. They have an eye and an ear in every ministry of Nigeria. They have people on the payroll in every community, which is why they get away with everything. They are more powerful than the Nigerian government.”
And while we are told the aforementioned House of Saud is too heinous to purchase oil from, they are apparently not heinous enough to sell them weapons. In fact, they’re Canada’s 3rd largest customer for arms.
Today’s Vancouver Sun has an article titled “Al-Qaida on brink of using nuclear bomb”. It is a most misleading headline. It’s actually a reprint from the Daily Telegraph which, while not my favourite British newspaper by a long shot, at least gives it’s version of the article the title “WikiLeaks: al-Qaeda ‘is planning a dirty bomb'”. A radiological “dirty” bomb and a nuclear weapon are not the same thing. One is nasty and can kill people. The other is nasty and can kill a whole lot of people. ie. a step up from a typical IED v. a true weapon of mass destruction. You learn this, sort of, in the body of the Sun article, but most people will scan the headline and freak out.
Actually reading the cable that directly relates to al Qaeda further dilutes the sensationalism. Here it is in full:
21. (C/NF) Terrorist acquisition of WMD was the next topic of major concern. Although there was a limited assessed capability for al-Qaeda and other groups to acquire WMD, the intent was clearly present, and there were ongoing credible reports of attempts to recruit the needed expertise. A “dirty” radiological IED program was assessed to be under active consideration by al-Qaeda.
Get that? al-Qaeda wants a dirty bomb [surprise!] but lacks capability. Things they would also like: Sharks with lasers in their eyes and a secret volcano headquarters. Furthermore, the Sun warns:
A leading atomic regulator has privately warned that the world stands on the brink of a “nuclear 9/11”.
In the Telegraph, we learn this regulator is Tomihiro Taniguchi, the deputy director-general of the IAEA. The Telegraph links to a cable seemingly in support of this (given the link is attached to the words “nuclear 9/11”) – but there is no mention of “nuclear 9/11”, Tomihiro Taniguchi or any mention of nuclear terrorism. What gives? Linked to the wrong cable? In fact, none of the links to cables seem to support the claims in the main article. Example two – “Acute safety and security concerns” is placed in quotes as if it’s, you know, a direct quotation. But the linked cable has no such quote. Ditto “small time hustler” in Lisbon. In this last example, the cable describes a substance seized by Burundian Intelligence that had been offered for sale by a local businessman. Of note: “There was no radiation alarm, and no other technical inspection of the material has taken place.” My quotes are in fact a direct quote. There is no mention of Lisbon, Portugal.
Most of the article relates to the lack of security around uranium mines and other such sites. What is missing in these later cases is any link to or even mention of al-Qaeda involvement.
What gives? This is either really sloppy or really deceptive. And this being the Torygraph and Vancouver Sun, I know which side I’m on: Both!
Stories about “dirty bombs” are nothing new. They come out every few years. Remember Jose Padilla? The question about the latest one is why now? And in pondering that the ongoing Egyptian revolution – and possibility of client state charting it’s own path – looms large. Scare stories are needed to undermine public support for the protesters.