The Vancouver Scrum

On the move!

Agh! You’re still here? My new site and weblog, is now up and running; new posts are building up over there, never to be mirrored here. Go! What are you waiting for? All the stuff worth keeping has been migrated over to the new server, and I don’t anticipate making any more posts here.

Bloggers and webmasters: Update your links! Simply replace with in your blogrolls or bookmarks to point to the new site. Old posts will remain on this server for as long as the people at Blogger/Google allow them to remain; unfortunately, I’m not going to bother to come up with any way of converting permalinks on this blog to their corresponding posts on the new site. Yes, I plead laziness. I also realize the irony of switching away from Blogger just it starts to add features that the demanding blog nerds insist upon.

Thanks for reading and linking, and see you over at!

—Ian King, December 13, 2004

Wednesday, August 04, 2004


We don't need no Chinese wall

Former federal environment minister David Anderson blamed his firing, in part, on a camapign by the oil lobby and its allies in the editorial boards of the Calgary Herald and National Post. Herald editorialist Charles Frank disputes that, claiming that his efforts at getting bums tossed out of high positions is pretty poor. He then drops this gem about the paper's anti-Anderson campaign.
Yes, we did give the former minister a rough ride over his determination (along with that of his boss, former prime minister Jean Chretien) to have Canada sign the fatally flawed Kyoto Accord.

But given what was -- and still is -- at stake (the economic well-being the nation, for starters) someone had to stand up and point out that the government at the very least, was obligated to let Canadians know the personal and financial costs of implementing an agreement like Kyoto.


And while my colleagues on the editorial board and the news pages [emphasis added] were often caught up in the battle to help Canadians receive a true picture of what signing on to Kyoto might mean for all of us, I have to confess that I was among the most strident critics of the former minister.

Unfortunately, as much as I'd like to take credit for Anderson's demise as an officer of the government, my track record at getting important people fired during my career suggests otherwise.
Ah, the band of brothers that is the editorialists and reporters, arm in arm, fighting the anti-Kyoto fight! But wait a second; what happened to the separation between the boardroom and newsroom -- otherwise known as the "chinese wall" that allows reporters to do their job (gather and present facts in a reasonably fair way) while allowing the opinion-mongers to do theirs without poisoning or slanting the paper's reporting. Frank has implied that this wall's been torn down, and the news articles on Kyoto were shaped to reinforce the editorial board's stance.

So, either we've got a bullying lot of editorialists at the Herald who are telling the staff how to report on certain stories (translation: don't screw with the energy industry) or, worse, a newsroom staff that have turned at least part of their reportage into editorializing passed off as news. This is fine in an opinion journal, but not in a newspaper. Kinda reinforces the old prejudices about the Herald being the weak sister in the old Southam (now CanWest) newspaper chain.

AND ANOTHER THING: When, oh when, will McGill's Observatory on Media and Public Policy's final reports on the election coverage of seven of the country's dailies, including the Herald, hit the web? They posted daily summaries through June 25th, but no final report, nor a paper-by paper breakdown similar to the very instructive one published in mid-campaign, which showed how each how each party fared and the mix between campaign-related news and op-eds in each paper. (PDF) In that report, OMPP's researchers found that the Herald and National Post were both the most negative of the seven papers surveyed when it came to the Liberals (the Herald, in fact had no articles portraying the Grits in a positive light, but plenty of Conservative-friendly pieces), and the most favourable to the Conservatives. That part's not surprising; both the Herald and Post tilt to the right side of the spectrum. Where they differ is in the mix of opinion pieces to reports; the Post's election coverage was made up mostly of opinion through the survey period, while the Herald split 68% news to 28% opinion. The Vancouver Sun, which had about the same news/opinion mix, was much closer to being neutral overall towards both major parties, despite having its own squad of conservative editorialists and a national-affars columnist (Berbara Yaffe) who has been generally supportive of both the Conservatives and its progenitor Reform and Allaince parties.
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