” In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” ~ George Orwell

In the course of conversation with several  acquaintances recently, the topic of media bias – or lack of it, shall I say –  popped up. Of course, I thought it pertinent to ask whether anyone was aware that  the company that owns both our big  local papers , and other media conglomerates, have  made donations to political parties.

To say that everyone’s faces were shocked, is to understate the reaction.

  ” No! The media isn’t allowed to do that! Isn’t there a law against it? How is that fair?” 

Shrugging my shoulders, I told them there is no law against it. Sometimes the donations are quite large, as well. One example is Canwest’s $50,000 donation to the BC Liberal party in 2005.  Rogers Communications Inc. , owners of various media outlets, donated $20,o00  to the Liberals in 2007. 

While newsroom editors might make the claim that no organization or political party can or will influence how the news is reported,how can the public be sure this is true?   Neither company donated to any other political party, only the BC Liberals were on the receiving end of such good will.

The  Vancouver Province and  The Vancouver Sun have  also long-held lucrative government advertising contracts that generate significant revenue, and  if there was ever a video that demonstrated more clearly how the BC Liberal government manipulates the media in BC, this is it. Watch  Charlie Smith from the Georgia Straight  host a very telling interview with Gordon Campbell.

This week,  Sean Holman of Public Eye Online and The Tyee, has revealed yet another instance in which the integrity of unbiased news reporting by The Sun and The Province newspapers is again under fire… here is an excerpt:

    Sun, Province to Promote Governments’ Homeless Message

CanWest newspapers co-sponsor government-run public relations centre in Downtown Eastside during Olympics

Vancouver’s two major newspapers are sponsoring a government-run centre that will tell international media covering the 2010 Winter Olympics about how the province is dealing with homelessness issues in the city’s troubled Downtown Eastside.

Media observers say The Vancouver Sun and The Province should investigate the veracity of the information that will be presented by the centre, not sponsor it. But The Province’s editor-in-chief has said that sponsorship deal would only create a conflict of interest if it had been arranged by the paper’s newsroom — which it wasn’t.

~ snip~   

“It’s a conflict of interest. Newspapers shouldn’t be in the business of promoting anything like that. They should be reporting it. And, if they do report on it (now), it becomes suspect because they’re involved in it,” he said.

“If this centre turns out to be a bust or whatever, they’re not going to report on it honestly because they’re part and parcel of it. There can’t be arms-length reporting of something in which you’re involved.”

Four firms connected to the real estate development industry have also signed-on to sponsor the centre.

READ the entire article by Sean Holman, HERE, or HERE, and as usual I recommend that you also check out the comments section that follow. Sean has also posted an update to this story HERE, listing  some of the other( real estate) companies involved in sponsoring the booth.

Retired reporter turned blogger, Harvey Oberfeld, has covered another aspect of such interference in unbiased and unadulterated news reporting, and that is the medias involvement in the news during the 2010 Olympic Torch run. In this blog post, Harvey makes a good point about why broadcasters should not have accepted positions as torch bearers during the run across Canada:

Talk about conflict of interest! Surely the public could be forgiven if they fail to believe that, after accepting this  ”honour” at the Olympics,  these on-camera  “talent” will also give us an honest or critical assessment of what’s really going on during the Games … and not just  hype  designed to support and project  a positive image of happenings at the Olympics. 

I have no problem with individuals, companies, community organizations, public organizations supporting the Games. I personally hope they work out terrifically for Vancouver, B.C.,  Canada and all the athletes and participants.

But the media who cover the games and activities should NOT also take part in them.  Period!

Harvey has continued to follow this issue in his most recent post, ” 2010 Freebies: Media MUST Come Clean “, where he calls on the local media to divulge any and all freebies they have received from VANOC, the Olympic sponsors( Coca- Cola, RBC, etc),and government agencies/crown corporations, prior to games reporting. This, so we know from what angle that reporting comes from. Here’s an excerpt:

To ensure a “clean” Games from a journalistic point of view, I believe the media MUST come clean beforehand.

Has VANOC or Games sponsors provided any free passes to simply VIEW (not professionally cover) events for any media staff: whether executives, managers, staff  or their family members and friends?

Has VANOC or Games sponsors  assisted (even if they paid for them) any media executives, managers, staff or family members and friends to obtain TICKETS to any sporting events or social gatherings?

Have VANOC or Games sponsors provided ANY KIND  OF FREEBIES to media members???  ANY KIND OF FREEBIES!

Have any government bodies, Crown agencies,  companies  or individuals provided any FREEBIES related to the Games to media members or assisted in obtaining TICKETS to any events?

The media must come clean!

In the most gracious manner, Harv has even offered the use of his blog as a confessional of sorts, for the local media to set the record straight.

So far, the silence has been deafening.

It is important to note that the Society of Professional Journalists have posted on their site, a code of ethics.  Among these voluntary guidelines, are sections devoted to  acting independently, and being accountable :

Act Independently
Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.

Journalists should:

 —Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
— Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
— Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
— Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
— Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
— Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.

Be Accountable
Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.

Journalists should:

 — Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
— Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
— Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
— Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
— Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

Clearly, one has to wonder what new journalism graduates must feel like when they enter todays newsrooms. After all, you spend 4 years being taught ethics, morality, and the importance of unbiased reporting, find yourself  full of youthful righteousness  ready to show the truth…. and  then step on the newsroom floor only to find the news you are assigned to report is very different from the news you should be reporting. That you can’t piss off the advertisers. That there isn’t enough of a budget to do a diner review, let along an in-depth investigative piece on the real story of non-profit billing practices. That bad government news stories are run on Fridays and good news ones they want to pump are run on Mondays, and that all those  other clever young journalism graduates  of past are now nothing more than flunkies paid to shill for the “bad guys”.

How disappointing the reality of some modern news organizations values can be, how tragic the consequences are. Citizens are now often faced with having to decide for themselves what is truth or spin, what is real or altered, what is contrived or motivated by hidden factors they have made public.

Sadly, it would appear the famous words of George Orwell are still as relevent as they were when first spoken:

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

13 thoughts on “” In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” ~ George Orwell

  1. Marc Edge tells of an inaccurate column in the Van Sun by right-wing think tank admirer Don Cayo. Edge wrote a detailed letter disputing Cayo’s statements but it went unpublished. He asked the person who edits letters and was told his response was due to be published but was pulled by Editorial Editor Fizhal Mihlar, the former Fraser Institute guy.

    I experienced a like response after an inaccurate Vaughn Palmer column. My polite letter demonstrating Palmer’s errors went unpublished.

    If you examine their letters or op-ed type articles, you will note that very little is allowed that does not reflect the newspaper’s central bias.

    In another example, those who listened to Bill Good interviewing sports columnist and Olympic contrarian Dave Ziran Friday morning will have noticed how Bill Good was trying to minimize each statement of his guest and push the pro-games agenda. Good wasn’t very successful because Zirin’s arguments are logical, well argued and not biased or emotional.

    I think Good actually contributes to the negative view of the Olympics by trying so hard to convince us that we should be smiling and feeling good for three weeks, regardless of our true opinions.

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  2. salvatore bennedetto

    “I experienced a like response after an inaccurate Vaughn Palmer column. My polite letter demonstrating Palmer’s errors went unpublished.”

    Kind of like your selective printing of rebuttals to your musings.

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  3. Laila

    Thank you for the link Norm, I’ve already read it and it is a good example of what we are talking about here.

    I don’t listen to Bill Good, but I will check out the odd excerpt from the audio vault if one comes recommended, usually to demonstrate something inaccurate he has stated,or for a particularly blatant Liberal push for 2010. I have been reading the daily show lineup online,and it reads like an Olympic promo at times. For example, today a topic of concern was if Vancouverites are going to embarress themselves with their ” Debbie Downer” attitudes.

    Besides the fact that Debbie Downer sounds more like a porn star name than an attitude, he has so far shown himself to be so far removed from the average ” real” persons lifestyle and income, that he has now begun to insult the very listeners one would think he should be trying to woo. This may all backfire on him, this blatant Liberal bias, when the 2010 show is over and the reality of British Columbia’s fiscal situation is again revealed by Campbell.

    What, is Bill going to suddenly start going on the offensive, or will he stay true to his colours and defend the governments actions again?

    Sal, you seem kind of cranky lately. Have you got your belt notched in too tight?

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  4. Leah

    “It is important to note that the Society of Professional Journalists have posted on their site, a code of ethics.”

    All sound ideas, seldom practiced by anyone in the CanWest family by the look of it. Is it, therefore; safe for us to assume that they don’t know what the words “professional journalist” mean? Looks that way to me!

    More to the point, does it look like there’s any hope for change?

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  5. Laila

    Well, that is a voluntary association, after all ! And you know what I think? Integrity is hard to come by these days, in light of how hard it has become to hold onto a job in radio, tv or print media these days. Who is going to speak up and put themselves out there when a paycheque is at risk?

    That code of ethics is everything that I’ve always believed a good journalist would hold onto like a lifeline. To me, if you don’t have your integrity, you have nothing.

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  6. Skookum1

    Re rhe advertising-contracts and related bias, I’ve been disappointed for a very long time that Adbusters has not “gone after” this issue and in fact seems to turn a blind eye to BC politics, focussing instead of consumerism-only oriented material. They’ve had their own tiffs with our governments, but given their high-moral-ground on the use of communications as propaganda, you’d think they’d be “all over” the corruption of the BC media by political bias.

    Lalia, although I’m far afield lately and as overwhelmed by the mass and complexity of the institutionalized lies and distortions we’re daily faced with from the BC Govt, CanWest et al, I’m wondering if “we” collectively could put together (in short order, since time is of the essence) a press kit of sorts about all, or as close to all, of the scandals and wheedlings and contortions of truth that the Olympic media hordes would probably like to find, but are instead led by the nose to only what VANOC and the Govt/CanWest etc want them to find.

    BC Rail/BVB and the Bennett/Barrett switcheroo (and what Paul Nettleton and other ex-LINOs have had to say about that and BC Hydro/Accenture also and run-of-the-river etc), the Haisla debacle and other examples of cooptation of the FNs, the Loukidelis affair (and Berardino/Seckel), the Maui Affair/Lara Dauphinee, VPL/Coca-Cola, Fraser Health/surgery cuts, ISU harrassment of non-terrorist dissidents, the RCMP’s inaction on “political crimes at the top” v. their penchant for tasering the wrong people, or shooting people for camping out at lakes (McLeese Lake) or having a beer in their hand out doors (the Bush Affair) ; many of these are intertwined as you know. The main premise of such a “press kit” is that, despite the national hoopla beyond the Rockies, the Olympics are unpopular, even despised, on the home turf, and this is unusual for any Olympics and THAT is why it’s newsworthy in the way of Olympics coverage; as is the notion that, for example, surgeries were cancelled in order to staff VANOC’s medical organization.

    Most of this stuff is scattered across a few dozen blogs; there’s no central “clearinghouse”, or maybe some kind of “communal blog” or joint wiki where articles on the various topics could be formulated and interlinked. I’ve muddled around names for such an online “newspaper” several times – the Western Clarion, the New Columbian, or something catchy, maybe, like The Hammer.

    BTW yesterday I went to the LA Times website (http://www.latimes.com) to see if they had any copy yet resulting from an interview one of their reporters did with Dustin Rivers, a Skwxwu7mesh blogger critical of the Squamish Nation government and its participation in the Olympics; other outside media have also interviewed him and others, so I’ll keep a watch (they’re part of the Chicago Tribune network) and there’s other places like the Huffington Post I’ve tried to alert to BC issues, since the Amy Goodman thing; and as I’ve opined elsewhere you’d hope that The Economist or one of the Fleet Street rags picks up on the Maui Affair and its relationship, potentially, to the BC Rail trial and testimonies, and how that trial seems to have been deliberately delayed as well as otherwise kept out of the public eye until after the Olympics…..I’m suggesting “we” all start a concerted campaign on the major international media, and particular voices like the Village Voice, Harper’s, etc to “feed” them stories they might miss, or not understand the importance of….I guess I should save this for an email discussion…..I raised the LA Times thing because when I searched for “Squamish” a travelogue on Vancouver/Whistler came up and it had the usual cliches – Yaletown, Shannon Falls, Granville Island…they even mentioned the trolley bus tours as part of the transit system, and were at least upfront about taking direction from a Tourism Vancouver rep. I don’t expect much more from travel writers, but it speaks to the reality that outside media will largely accept what they’re spoon-fed, and as we know between VANOC, the PAB, CanWest, Tourism BC and Tourism Vancouver and Whistler’s p.r. office, they’re inundated with soft-soaped copy. We need to inundate them as well – while we have the chance.

    I’m doing what I can sending selected items to the Huffington Post, NY Times, LA Times, and have been meaning to send something to the Economist and/or the Independent. But it’s hard when some issues either are so fragmented across so many blogs, and/or are so complex they’re hard to sum up in a few lines; I haven’t even touched the full scope in the summary list above. The reality is that “the bad guys” have a whole bunch of staff dedicated to disseminating, and dissembling, as well as loyal followers/zombies – “cognitively infiltrating” as in the Ewart/Sunstein material (I see lots of this in Wikipedia, btw). Many of the foreign media know, or suspect, that they’re being led by the nose; but BC blogspace is so vast it’s hard to know where to point them to find “real copy”. The crew at the Portland and Seattle papers have long known about the iniquities of the BC media, and the rest of the Canadian media know, but don’t care, because they’re just as coopted (for instance, Rex Murphy thinks Gordo is just peachy-keen, and Chantal Hebert just shrugs anything out here off as typical/unsurprising and also endorses Gordo & Co.). Between CTV and CBC, even without CanWest (as if they’d gone away) all I’m hearing out here in the Maritimes is rah-rah-rah about the Olympics; there’s nothing at all about the damage these Games have done to BC, nothing.

    How can we “bring it all together” in such a way that they HAVE to pay attention?

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  7. Curly

    “That code of ethics is everything that I’ve always believed a good journalist would hold onto like a lifeline. To me, if you don’t have your integrity, you have nothing.”

    Seems to me this raises the question of whether one who doesn’t abide by that code of ethics be called a “journalist”. To my mind, a journalist is a person who adheres to a code of ethics. His/her first allegiance is to the truth. Adherence to the code of ethics is the thing that distinguishes journalists from shills, PR hacks, propagandists, ad copy writers, etc., etc.

    Sad state of affairs in BC.

    I enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work.

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  8. Laila

    Great idea Skookum, count me in, I’ve emailed you.

    Curly, thanks for the kind words and glad to see you join in the fray. Profit seems to be the only thing that counts these days, not much else.

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  9. Ahh Yes, Laila, the media DO make sizable contributions to the major political parties, at least, federally for sure. They say it’s part of their community support ..but I have my concerns, especially when they ask the feds for financial assistance or ownership concessions etc.
    By the way … as far as I can tell, none of the B.C. media have responded publicly to my call for them to “come clean” and say whether ANYONE on their staffs have received Olympic tickets/freebies of any kind. They don’t owe it to me to say..but it sure would set a lot of their readers, lsiteners and viewers’ minds at ease. Their silence is worrisome. Harv O

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  10. Laila

    It’s a shame Harv, it really is, that we would even have to ask questions like this. But then again, who would have every thought we would see The Sun or The Province sponsoring what amounts to a government propaganda booth?

    I’m not holding my breath on it, but for once, I would like to see someone do the right thing. Naive perhaps, but I really do hold fast to those old ideals of truth, honestly and integrity trumping all.

    Good point about asking for bailouts and assistance. Seems to be going around a lot as of late : )

    At this point, it would be relevant to tell all my readers I have not accepted any Olympic freebies, assistance or goodies of any kind. Crap, I don’t even think I could get downtown to any of the free events with two small kids in tow and a 2 -3 hour skytrain wait.!

    Again, you set a standard Harv, that seems a hard act to follow. Keep at it. ( and sorry for the delay in reply, but I’m swamped with work and as you can see, am having a hard time even blogging ! )

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  11. SB

    Response to harv
    Its pretty easy to see what media got we watched Global and CTV personalities get a run with the torches that alone should say enough and you know well our MSM has taken the approach anything sent in glossy news releases only read and reported in BC now sad but true makes the ones like you and Laila extremely important someone needs to tell the truth and it wont be our MSM to do so.

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