Wednesday, June 09, 2010

In Case You Missed It....


....Paul Willcocks recently caught the NaPo editorial page writers being, what I would describe as, hypocritical in the extreme.

Mr. Willcocks, on the other hand, would likely be much more diplomatic in his description.

Regardless, what he has to say is well worth the read - it's here...

Please go read it before you continue reading anything down below, OK?





Now, those who have spent any time around these here parts know that Mr. Willcocks and I have had a pretty good relationship over the years.

It all started when I took a run at Frank McKenna that Paul thought was ill-advised and a bit unfair.

He then was good enough to take the time to clearly explain why he thought that was the case, with context.

And after that we went back-and-forth for a bit, all the while both listening to reason. It was a great discussion and we've had many more since.

All of which just serves as a prelude to telling you that one of the things that Paul has educated me on over the years is the tight-rope that one must constantly walk on when if you want to seen as an honest observer when you work for a large circulation daily that that has a readership with many points of view. And this tight-rope walking becomes doubly-difficult when you are attempting to do it while working within a large consortium of news outlets.

Thus, I understand what a big deal it is for him, as an editorial writer for the Victoria Times-Colonist, to take a run at his counterparts at another paper in the same stable.

However, in this case the contradiction was egregious and, it would appear, was driven, at least in my opinion, by political bias*.

Thus, I think Mr. Willcocks should be widely applauded for pointing it out.


Because if more in his position were willing to call a spade-a-spade, I honestly believe that public discourse would be much better for it.

Collegial blogger extraordinare, and fellow attention payer, Norman Farrell beat me to the punch on this one......Norman actually goes deeper on the implications of the hypocrisy/double-standard, but I wanted to give you all the personal side of the story on this one as well....
*Mr Willcocks makes some other suggestions about what could have given rise to the two very different points of view in the comments, here....



paul said...

My partner, a – mostly – ex-journalist and I joke that the last thing you want to hear from someone who reads one of your columns is “Whoa, you’re brave.”
I make no judgment about why the National Post’s views on drunk driving have changed over the years. It could be a new attitude from an editorial board with new members. It’s still worth noting though, as it would be if a politician’s views shifted so dramatically on a public policy issue.
In a long run doing this work, as a fairly typical example, I don’t think I’ve self-censored because of a fear of repercussions or a hope for benefits. (You can never be sure.) As a manager, I’ve had advertisers boycott over a news story – which is their right - and published stories that I knew the newspaper’s owners were not going to like. One personally threw a reporter out of the building of another family company because he didn’t like the reporting in the paper on issues affecting their other businesses. But he never asked me to kill the stories.
And sometimes critics are right. Stockwell Day, when he was a minister in Red Deer – not the cabinet kind – came into complain about unnecessary details in a feature story on child sex abuse. He was right.
The theory is that if you serve readers well, advertisers will be keen, the business will thrive and the owners will be happy. I’ve worked for five or six owners now and not one has ordered a different approach or even pressured for one. (Not that everyone was always thrilled.)
The tightrope, especially for a columnist or editorial writer, is about the readers. Newspapers, and TV and radio, have a diverse audience. If I’m writing to inform or persuade, I have to start in a place most readers accept and then go from there.
And the whole point is to be read by as many people as possible, especially people disinclined to share your analysis.
That’s one of the worrying things about blogland. There is a risk of a Glen Beckedness in which like-minded people celebrate and reinforce each others’ shared views, whatever they might be. (That’s why I like the detours here into busking and science and life. A Mountain Goats or ukele fan could end up reading about something serendipitously.)
Of course, it’s an issue in traditional media too. There was a clever headline last summer in the Kelowna Daily Courier on a letter criticizing a column: “If Willcocks likes it, it must be bad.”
If people think they know what the column will say, why should they read?
Since I am going on at length - this Internet thing, if it lasts, is problematic for journalism.
In the old days, back in the last century, we decided what stories readers would pay attention to and put them in the newspaper or on the TV news show. Trust us, we said. We’re professionals.
Upwards of 85 per cent of people read a newspaper. They had a shared interest in community issues and a base of common understanding (flawed, maybe, but a base).
Today, editors get a report every day on what stories people clicked on when the visited the website. Odd pets do very well.

RossK said...

Thanks Paul--

At length comments, especially when they have so much to say, are always most welcome...

Now, regarding the 'other stuff' I occasionally post-up here that is not about odd pets and/or starlet booze-bracelets, I was pretty sure you might comment on my little foray into playoff beards and the ghost of a former Flyer that used to sport a most fantastic one.

(and I'll edit the post to reflect that it was my conclusion regarding bias)


kootcoot said...

I'm attracting riff-raff over at the House lately - I am not impressed by enabling pukes......

Mr. WillyNillyCocks bravely attacked me for calling Les(s) "than brilliant" on his attack on his betters from the blogosphere. As far as I'm concerned neither one does much for the world and mostly just soil the remains of dead trees. In Mr. WillyNilly's case he from time to time pollutes the morning airwaves of my local CBC before I'm awake enough to hit the off button on my radio as well. Why people who have nothing to say get the big bucks (well any bucks) is as hard to understand as why the financial wizards who construct, create and/or fix nothing get the really big bucks.