How did Canadian journalism implode? By stringing words and saying nothing at all.

Three unrelated articles from three Canadian newspapers are riddled with a whole lot of nothing, but seem to be saying something. That is quite a feat, and Canadian journalism has a knack for it.

Andrew Coyne’s column in the National Post is interesting on many levels. It is artful. He seems to be arguing against bailouts, as I have been, and suggests that journalism should look inward, as I have as well.

Until you read it carefully.

The problem, according to Coyne isn’t about the core — but that journalism had clumsy forays into making their products in tune with digital media.

It is a whole let more problematic than just that. It is more than a cosmetic misstep: the entire profession has never questioned itself, how it conducts itself, how it gathers facts, how it analyzes them, and then disseminates them to the public. It never questions why it never got empirical. It never questioned its own folksy logic. Its entire mindset never kept up with the times. It is a relic of a bygone era because when you have all of the control, you think that’s Truth and not a fixed reality that can change at any time. He is still walking lockstep with the rest of that dead profession.

The second article is this knee-slapper from the Toronto Sun filled with innuendo and sophistry that seems to condemn one of Brown’s accusers without actual proof or logic. She won an award from CTV as a university student. So what? I interned at CTV when I was in j-school. I also won an award from a woman who her and her husband worked at the Hamilton Spectator. I have no pull or connections with either organization. I had a column with the Spec — and it amounts to nothing. I didn’t get the scholarship because I knew the woman or her late husband.

I did visit her in the isolated nursing home a few times after I won the award. She had no pull, either, and I never asked or tried to network with her.

So she won an award — so what? Brown was a politician in Barrie for many years — I am certain he schmoozed with those who work at CTV’s Barrie affiliate station — why didn’t the Sun mention that?

And speaking of pull, who chummy are the staff at the Sun with Brown? Have they disclosed any of it in their hatchet job or in their publication in general?

They really should.

Because they have a glaring confirmation bias because of it.

The Sun did elect to mention that Brown “passed” a lie detector test.

Again, so what?

As I have said before, lie detector tests mean zero.

And when you are the one who hires the lie detector firm, it means even less. So what? You can take the test until you pass — the company that you hired can ask loaded questions to your favour because you are the one paying for it. You also can be a sociopath who can not get rattled, or you can merely be deluded with no sense of reality.

You can pile up an article full of non-facts all you want, but there is nothing in the piece that has any merit. It is pro-Brown propaganda meant to shade and skew, but merely draws attention to its own glaring holes.

The third is a pair of articles from the Toronto Star is an example of puffery dodge.

It is hyped as an “investigation” with Ryerson University — and for all the puffery, it boils down to common knowledge that is easily accessible: how much jurors get paid according to province (something easily obtainable to an average citizen), and that jury pools come from those who own a house, also not a big reveal.

The article is in response to the Gerald Stanley verdict. A white man shot a young First Nations man and was acquitted because the all-white jury believed the defence theory that the gun accidentally fired.

But the Star’s spin masks the real issue that turned the Stanley verdict into a watershed moment: the town where the trial took place had a First Nations population at about 40%, but it was not as if the pool was exclusively Caucasian. The defence lawyer merely picked off potential jurors based on race until he rigged the racial make-up to be all white.

That was the central problem. This is not to say the system isn’t dysfunctional and archaic, but the central flaw was not who was called to serve jury duty — it was that the accused’s lawyer literally could have a White’s Only decree and the courts could indulge him.

So it doesn’t matter who is in the pool — it is who is allowed to actually serve that is the bigger problem. The Stanley trial was not in Ontario — so the fact that Ontario pays the least than the other provinces also would not have made a difference in the Gerald verdict. Those jurors were paid more and began as a more diverse racial make up from the get-go.

It didn’t matter who much the juror were paid or the skin colour of those responding to the summons — the outcome was the problem, meaning even if the government paid more and had a more diverse pool coming in — the outcome would still be the same.

But that is the problem that felled Canadian journalism — they dance around central and critical issues as they tackle everything else save the thing that must be confronted.

Three different newspapers. Three different articles. Three different subjects with different reporters from different ideological schools.

And all of them make the same error in the same way, informing no one, but skewing perspectives so we cannot even begin to find a solution to any of our problems.

How bad is Torstar doing?

In one of those shooting the hippo moments, they are talking about job cuts and shooing away those interns.

The timing is very interesting, when their leader is making rounds demanding the federal government give them some money. Is it a coordinated optics campaign? I do believe they are in trouble, but their proposed solution makes much of this hard to believe on the face of it.

Their forays into the digital have been bad. They do not know how to do journalism, but they do know how to present narratives with super evil bad guys they taunt on a daily basis.

I remember interviewing one of the managing editors for an article for Presstime about the debut of a new rival, the National Post. He said that the Star had seen other papers come and go, and they’d see the Post come and go, too. (He later denied he said that to my editors, and I had the taped interview that confirmed that he did. He promised my editors to apologize to me, but that never happened and he is no longer alive to make good on it).

Is the Toronto Star going to disappear before the Post? Neither is in a good position, and while the National Post never did get the traction they needed to be entrenched to an audience, the Star did have it many years ago, and then got cocky and squandered much of that goodwill. When the city you cover is a mosaic, and your structure stubbornly stays patriarchal, you are playing a game that you will lose.

But if its fortunes are as bad as they say they are, the city, province, and nation should not bail them out. Not one. The rot is too far into the core of the profession, and what this country needs is a replacement for journalism that starts fresh from scratch.

Not this mess.

 

Dear John Honderich: News producers squandered their power. The taxpayers owe you nothing. Stop the fear and pity tour and start looking how your profession destroyed itself.

It is very telling that Chair of Torstar John Honderich is having to recycle a column he wrote in the Toronto Star on January 26, 2018 where he throws a temper tantrum because the federal government wasn’t funding the dysfunctional Canadian newspaper industry.

So Torstar recycled that same flawed column on InsideToronto.com today, and then go on Newstalk 1010’s Jerry Agar’s radio program.

Once upon a time, Honderich’s decrees would have been considered important.

They aren’t, of course. This is a Fear and Pity Tour.

He doesn’t get it, and if the Chair of a newspaper company doesn’t get it, neither do any of his underlings.

And it explains a lot about why Canadian journalism dropped dead.

On the program, he blames Facebook and Google for taking the bulk of classified ads and not putting that money back in journalism.

Sorry, they won the spoils of that gladiatorial battle, and they can do with that booty whatever they want. Advertisers went to Facebook and Google because they reach a broader audience who were more receptive than they were over at newspapers. Classified ads and their ilk were never naturally decreed to be used for funding journalism; journalism lost those valuable dollars for a reason.

So Google and Facebook owe the newspaper industry nothing.

But then he goes off on the federal government as if the government owes the newspaper industry a dime.

Honderich thinks the partisan non-profit model of some American media outfits is a good thing. Its not: it’s propaganda used to support political ideology because that is going to be the only way you are going to shake down people for pity cash. They are not journalism. They are a modern version of the Partisan Press that had to change its ways because that model doesn’t actually work.

He then talks about getting funding through copyright protection, meaning information becomes less accessible. You are giving facts, and it is bad enough newspapers such as the Star scrape ideas from other outlets and people (and yet he has the nerve to complain that radio shows “rip and read” from newspapers on the program) — and now you want copyright protection for it when journalists are notoriously sloppy when it comes to giving proper credit and attribution of where they got their ideas? The legal fallout would be disastrous.

He wants some of the money the CBC gets, not realizing CBC is a crown corporation, and it is wiser and more strategic for a government to have one broadcaster they can babysit, then spread their cash to more outlets.

Honderich then muses that since Canadian magazine and book publishers get government money, so should journalism outlets, never questioning just how bad is Canadian publishing if it needs government funding for its survival. If you cannot make a go without constant government funding, your industry does not actually exist. It is fake.

The fact that now not even newspapers can survive without taxpayer money shows you a problem that exploded out of control because we never bothered to find the way to make it pay all on its own.

In other words, if Canada cannot produce quality journalism without a government welfare check, then you do not have journalism, let alone quality journalism. Period.

But the biggest knee-slapper is his suggestion that the government pay for news outlets’ lawyers. There are poor people being harmed as we speak and are in desperate need of good legal council — so you just want to snatch funds away from them? Really? Then you are as tyrannical as the boors you imply you are keeping accountable.

There are more pressing groups, such as First Nations people, who have been waiting far longer than newspapers. Get a number and go to the back of the line, like everyone else.

Yet both his advertising campaign/newspaper column, Honderich makes not a single mention of how those in the Canadian media landscape were at fault in any way, or need to make a single modification to their behaviour. He paints his ilk as noble, faultless, and blameless.

No, Mr. Honderich, that is not true. That is not accurate.

That is not realistic.

You are the Chair of Torstar. The buck stops with you.

It is you who has to make the internal changes to take on the external ones.

If your plan is to keep throwing fits and begging the government for money as you keep on the status quo, you do not understand what being a Chair means.

That is not a plan. Why should the government fund newspapers when your audiences keep falling? Why would they sink taxpayer money into a black hole? What’s in it for them?

Newspapers have bred arrogance within their own rosters. You sniffed haughtily at citizen journalism on the program. Yes, the little people are not as well-trained as your journalists who have no clue how to connect with those people who would rather do it themselves than trust the press.

That distrust did not come from nowhere. It came because journalists perpetually ignored all the signs around them, and then people walked away.

The people do not want newspapers. The government doesn’t need you.

Do you understand you have become beneath both.

Buried. Six feet under.

Journalism is dead. Don’t ask the taxpayers to fund the corpse. They’d rather invest it in the living, not the dead.

 

Toronto Star, find your own ideas elsewhere. Not this web site.

This Toronto Star has a February 11, 2018 article‘s topic from Sabrina Nanji (“How Ontario Tory leadership front-runners took a ‘shortcut’ to the political stage”) should sound very familiar.

That’s because I had written about the same topic on February 6, 2018. (“What do you need to be the leader of the Ontario PC Party? First degree relatives who held positions of power in the government: how journalistic narratives gloss over rigs).

I wrote my piece right here five days before.

And no, there is no acknowledgement of my writing in the Star article.

Coincidence? If it happened on the same day, yes. But five days ago? By then you are scouring online (obviously done if you have a laundry list of political “dynasties”); and if the idea has come up before – and it did come up before), you have to either acknowledge it, or find something else to write about. There is no excuse in 2018 for this kind of behaviour.

Even if there has been a group of people writing a similar topic from a similar angle, you still have to acknowledge the collective sentiment. Reporters have no problem showing similar-themed Twitter posts, giving credit to those posters; so they actually know how to do this whole attribution thing.

But not when it comes to more substantial pieces, where you can get credit for sounding smart and original without having to be either.

Shame on the Toronto Star for it. Come up with your own ideas. I am out here in the wilderness all on my own without a single person, organization, or government handout giving me any sort of assistance, and I come up with my own ideas and research daily.

Journalism’s confirmation bias in the Powerball Jane Doe saga: their narratives never consider alternative explanations.

The Toronto Star has a silly column on the Delaware woman who won over a half billion dollars just doing the slacker thing of buying a lottery ticket and now she is suing to remain anonymous.

The Star’s take is very instructive: they are taking an anonymous say-so that she is afraid for her safety — and then the reporter lists some cases where there was trouble after a lottery win.

The article has a severe case of a confirmation bias: only looking at evidence (or in this case, unrelated anecdotes) that seems to confirm the theory, not the ones refuting it.

Why is the Star taking an anonymous woman’s word as the gospel truth? The press in Canada has been in a tizzy for anonymous women making #MeToo claims — but then turn around and not question an anonymous claim on another matter?

Journalists use anonymous sources all the time (I never did use anonymous as a reporter until I was asked to write the book OutFoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s was on journalism. I was given two thick binders of interview transcripts from the movie in their entirety, but while the vast majority were on the record, three former Fox News employees were anonymous — and no one bothered to tell me who they were. Well, I am not an old school journalist for nothing — just based on the content of the interviews, I managed to find out the identities of all three within ten minutes. Usually, people would think having already completed interview transcripts would make things easier, but I had to verify everything independently, and that was a nightmare, especially given the tight timeframe I was given. Since I could be confident with what I had, I could use all three anonymous interviews for the book; otherwise, I would have had to skip any one that I could not pin down either the identity or the content of the interview. I literally slept one hour a day in the five months I had to complete the project); so the waffling stance on such sources is interesting.

But in this case, the reporter chooses to gloss over any other theory why someone who just won a massive amount of money would be behaving in such an obstinate manner.

First of all, if you do not want to have your name and face plastered all over the place after winning that much money, don’t play the lottery offering that kind of money. You knew what you signed up for, and no one owes you a dime. If you cannot even smile for the camera and let people know who you are because that is too much for you — don’t play. No one put a gun to your head.

Second, and more importantly, there are at least three very important reasons why gaming institutions insist on transparency:

  1. The “winner” may have stolen the ticket. In Canada, we have had convenience store workers steal tickets from customers and then claim them as their own, but it can just as easily be a personal support worker, maid, or anyone else who could swipe a ticket, and then pretend it was theirs.
  2. We have had spouses try to take the entire jackpot and leave out their partner who would be legally entitled to half. We have even had people steal a group ticket of which they were a member, and then try to have a child or spouse claim the entire jackpot. I would be very suspicious of someone wanting anonymity for that reason.
  3. Unless we have a name and a face, for all we know, the winner is bogus and the lottery is a scam. We have has insider rigging; it would not be a stretch to have phantom winners. Lottery money doesn’t come from thin air — it is the pooling of all the buyers who have a right to know where and to whom their money is going.

So there was no shortage of other scenarios the columnist could have used. Why would someone go to the trouble of a legal suit to keep her identity hidden? That is the central question here. I do not buy the innocent explanation, for example. Your life is going to radically change when you are suddenly given that kind of money, but you knew that when you bought your ticket.

I believe there are a myriad of reasons why you would go to those extreme measures to keep people from knowing you won the lottery, and this is a story ripe for local journalists to investigate. She may be hiding from someone because she is afraid of them — or afraid of being forced to hand over some of those winnings to them. Bringing up volunteerism and community is often a deflection from stating the real reason for wanting to be anonymous.

As a journalist, every time someone gave me the church and apple pie sob story, a little digging showed me something far more realistic, and almost always held the key to what the real story was. I am not saying she stole a ticket, but if I were a reporter covering this story, I would be hitting the pavement to confirm or refute my instincts with facts.

I wouldn’t be writing a column giving an unverified yarn credence. I would want to know the why of this story, and then dig from there.

Doug Ford wants to be Ontario PC Leader: Toronto journalists have a meltdown. Their loss of influence’s name is Ford Nation. And their foil refuses to crawl under a rock.

Doug Ford made Toronto journalists implode today.

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For those not in the know, brother Rob and Doug Ford are to Toronto media what Donald Trump is to American media.

The proof of their death.

Toronto media went after Rob Ford with a nuclear bomb, and he was left standing. Had he not died of cancer, he would still be mayor.

Once upon a time, the press could have driven out anyone they did not like.

But then Rob Ford could smoke crack in a drunken stupor, and his followers would have said, “Awww, how cute!”

They hated the fact that they could not tell enough people how to think.

And the Fords — whose followers call themselves Ford Nation — have influence.

Those campaign posters were in Hamilton during the mayoralty election a few years ago — with no Ford running in that city.

The Toronto Star must be in absolute meltdown mode — the Fords are the bane of their existence, and that he can announce his intentions of running for something (the way John Tory was always running for something until he won the mayor’s seat in Toronto), and people will back him.

Enough people? Enough to be a spoiler, yes.

Enough to show how much journalism in Canada collapsed and lost clout? Absolutely.

Patrick Brown was in over his head. He never had the mettle to be a serious power player. He is the small-town boy who made it so far based on rudimentary feints and ruses, but Rob Ford had far worse scandals, and he is still beloved among his Nation, even in death. Brown could not be chased away with a broom fast enough, because he is no match for the party’s oligarchs.

The Fords are one. The Mulroneys are another. This is a rare coveted seat up for grabs, and the cutthroat games are just beginning.

And the best part for them all: journalists will not be able to alter the course of events. If Trump can get to the White House surfing on Twitter as he stuck out his tongue at the press, they can do the same.

Critics of #MeToo, stop infantilizing predatory men: Why the enablers should be held accountable for their propagandistic mollycoddling.

Let’s recap the temper tantrum of the #MeToo critics: they have been babbling about a “witch hunt.”

Interesting theory.

Women have been the victims of slander and witch hunts for centuries. If a woman’s skirt is “too short” (whatever that means), or if she is intoxicated, she is immediately blamed for a man’s behaviour as if he were a little boy who cannot help himself.

Rosie DiManno is the queen of predatory-supporting sophistry, talking the misogynist’s talk. Take her opening for a recent column:

A teenage girl walks into a bar . . .

An unwelcome pass from a much older man.

“Get lost!”

That’s how you do it, stranger-to-stranger.

It isn’t rocket science.

You don’t stagger drunk back to the guy’s house and then get all damsel-in-distress stressed over a crossed-wires sloppy seduction scene, as, way belatedly, both accusers of alleged sexual misconduct by Patrick Brown have now portrayed their encounters.

I’m not casting blame.

I’m not shaming.

I’m not speculating about motive.

I am simply following the sketchy narrative as provided by the complainants to CTV, which former Ontario PC Leader Brown denied before dropping out of sight.

The hell you are not shaming. Shame on you for not having the courage to be honest with your readers.

This is the logic of bad journalism. That thinking is the very reason journalism collapsed: because you have dutiful patriarchal stenographers mommying predators.

If I had received a story about a teenaged girl walking into a bar and getting drunk as an adult male — who was absolutely sober — offered to drive her home, you bet I would start asking questions.

Right off the bat, I’d look at the age gap. An inexperienced teen versus an adult male with university education, in a position of power…and whose judgement was not clouded by alcohol. That’s an unfair fight, to say the least. What’s he doing hanging around teenagers?

A young woman like that would be ideal prey: she is alone, may not have family support, has, is impaired, and her word would automatically be considered less than the man who has now isolated her and marginalized her. If he was truly concerned, he can call a cab.

I have been the adult in situations where someone was in a vulnerable position. I have made sure the person was placed with someone qualified and trained to help them.

Now, if the man just did this once, his defenders could make a case that he erred and was an absolute moron, but doing it more than once? Not buying a Mr. Innocent narrative.

That’s the point where, as a journalist, you do the digging. You start talking and talking to everyone from his assistants, old classmates, nannies, and anyone who has seen him when he didn’t realize anyone was looking.

Once you get a rough sketch, you move on up.

You don’t put on a Wonder Woman costume and treat a man who was the leader of a political party as a lost little boy. He wants to lead an entire province, but he needs a hack to defend him when a scandal hits?

Are you serious?

I have dealt with predatory men who were extremely charming, and knew how to, as I call it, drop deniable hints at his target. He builds a rapport with someone he wishes to abuse — it is not necessarily sexual harassment or assault, but he could be thinking of fleecing someone, setting them up to take the fall for something he wants to do, and the like.

The pigeon is presented with a little personalized and well-practiced theatre act where he behaves in a certain nonthreatening way, always intimating that he is a victim, or unhappy, or nice or helpful…but should that target later relay this information to someone else, the predator can easily deny he ever did it, or that interpretation was his intent.

They pick their targets carefully.. They lure, groom, prime, and have the advantage that often is very hard to prove, but the damage is done.

It happened too many times to too many women. That’s why #MeToo has resonated and became as strong for as long as it has.

I have dodged those games from predators, but I was always resentful that I was ever exposed to those attempts in the first place.

So now we have teenagers being placed in a lion’s den…and should they expose that predator, people blame the victim.

Because people want those victims to shut up and go away, and not inconvenience some sunny narrative.

Especially those who expose a predator who doesn’t seem to be doing anything “really bad”.

People do not actually want to consider that perhaps a predator was stopped before things got worse.

They want a schoolyard full of dead children, for instance, rather than stop a bully the first time he taunts and torments a student.

Because we can think up all sorts of excuses, and it is those excuses that make predators emboldened.

But worst of all, I find it very interesting that people who speak out against abuse and get death threats and abuse for it…we barely hear the same enablers raging against that.

They also are silent when women who stand up to sexism in all its forms get abused for years.

Brianna Wu, who made her voice heard during Gamergate in 2014, is still getting abused.

Because Western culture — particularly journalism — always shelter predators.

They drool over them and reimagine them into being Great Men.

How many young women — who are never raised with survival strategies because women never had them — trust those Great Men, and then get ambushed and abused.

Then, to top it all off, they get painted as crazy liars for telling the truth.

A predator is a weakling. A predator has no talent and has to bluster, steal, and terrorize to get things he never earned.

Worst of all, he has fawning journalist groupies working overtime to protect him.

Why? If he is capable, he can stand up to the abuse women have been enduring for many, many years.

These are the men whose sins get swept under the rug with their little army of maids ensuring the worst of their acts are kept away from the public — so that no one knows the extent of their untrustworthiness.

And should someone expose that weakling, he will have no shortage of defenders mollycoddling him as they try to destroy the credibility and the lives of his victims.

So there may be enablers who don’t care if someone in power is a randy womanizer — other people do — and they have the right to know who they are supporting and voting for.

People like me have no use for people whose own family cannot trust them — or even realize who it is they are supporting.

Some people don’t care, and that’s their right — they can publicly express their support for inferior predators.

But if a predator is a predator, and he wants something from people who oppose it, we all have the right to know who we are dealing with.