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Eds & reporters suppress news for job reasons

Have just read with interest Gerry McAuliffe's analysis of the collapse of Globals news service (Sept.-Oct.) and realize he raises two issues which ought to be squarely addressed by the current Royal Commission on Newspapers.

The first and most obvious is the mounting impunity with which mega-media owners are scrapping local and even regional reportage in favor of network or wire service pap, in all but the largest papers and stations. Here in Victoria, we have been chronicling the increasingly distasteful joke that the merged Times and Colonist have become under the Thomson regime. Three weeks ago, for example, the sum difference in local coverage between the Sunday morning Times-Colonist—deadline 10 p.m. Saturday—and the Monday afternoon edition, was five sports stories. Not even in a city of 200,000 newlyweds and nearly-deads could things be that quiet.

What is replacing this coverage was best identified by Peter Desbarats, in the same issue, when he referred to style versus substance. Substituting personality for content not only prevents news from being published, it also ensures that the substitution itself will not be considered news. Thus McAuliffe despairs as to why the other media sources wouldn't report the Global affair in more depth. Where is the public's right to know protected in that attitude?

It has often intrigued and annoyed me that for the sake of not fouling one's own nest (one never knows whom one might want a job from some day) reporters and editors will suppress stories of management bungling, capriciousness and outright consumer fraud in the media industry that would win Pulitzer prizes were they done on somebody else's business. Writing them for Content, though laudable, does not satisfy the demand for a full public accounting of these abuses. Here's hoping the royal commission does its homework well, and most important, makes sure that the story it has to tell manages to get past the airball editors who have ignored it so far.

Derry McDonell,
Editor, Monday,
Victoria, B.C.
Focus on death of U.S. reporter twists situation

Your recent article on repression of journalists ("Censorship of the Bullet," Sept.-Oct., 1980) said only the following of Nicaragua: "American TV reporter William Stewart was shot dead by a soldier while working as a foreign correspondent for ABC."

That statement is irrefutable. But it is also irrefutable that the soldier belonged to the National Guard for Anastasio Somoza, the late Nicaraguan dictator who was ousted by a popular insurrection more than a year ago, in July, 1979. Shouldn't the author of your article, Lee Lester, have noticed that the government had changed? Shouldn't he have avoided giving the impression, without any evidence, that the new regime's policy towards foreign journalists is the same as the old one's?

Stewart's death, seen on millions of North American television sets the same night, likely played a significant role in convincing the American public of the inhumanity of the military dynasty their government had propped up for 45 years. Somoza's reign of terror—against nearly all dissent and his bilking of the country's wealth for himself—had not been effectively conveyed in the media.

Similarly, it is the American reporter's death that is noted in Content, rather than Somoza's attacks on free expression by Nicaraguans. In fact, that death was an accident compared with the assassination of Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, publisher of the leading opposition daily La Prensa.

No doubt Stewart's death is the outstanding Nicaraguan media incident in the sources of Mr. Lester and most of the rest of us—mainstream North American media—but surely that too is cause for concern and study. 

Eric Mills,


Imprisoned journalists can be helped

I am shocked to see the name of my former colleague, Salamat Ali, among those journalists who have been imprisoned as a result of government displeasure with their stories. It is outrageous that such a thorough and fair writer as Ali should be sentenced to a year's hard labor for a piece in the Far Eastern Economic Review. I worked for Ali in 1970 and 1971 while he was executive editor of the Bangkok Post and he always maintained the highest standard of fairness and accuracy in his own commentaries, as he insisted on the same high standards from others.

Please send me more information on his case and kindly advise me on the most effective ways to pressure for his early release.

Irwin Block,


We learned from Amnesty International that Ali has been, apparently, released "on compassionate grounds."
Amnesty suggests four channels of pressure that can be helpful in cases where journalists are imprisoned:
  1. Through journalists 'federations.
  2. From journalists' organizations, in the form of official letters or telegrams.
  3. Letters to the offending country's ambassador in this country.
  4. Communications to our External Affairs department.
For further information on how to aid those who are being imprisoned or worse the world over for non-criminal activities contact:

Amnesty International
2101 Algonquin Ave.
P.O. Box6033 Station J Ottawa, Ont. K2A 1T1 (613) 722-1988

Amnesty International Toronto

(416) 638-5015 (Served by an answering service)

Amnesty International
1800 Blvd. Dorchester O. 4th Floor Montreal, Que. H3H2H2 (514)931-5897


A letter-writing campaign is underway to appeal for the release of South Korean journalist Kim Tae-hong. Kim, former editor of the Korean edition of Reader's Digest and former president of the Korean Journalists Association, has been adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

On May 17, 1980, Korean journalists protested government censorship of their coverage of the Kwangju riots. Later that day Martial Law Regulation No. 10 was promulgated, banning all political activity and imposing complete censorship on all media. Between May and August the government interrogated 34 journalists, 18 of whom were released. It closed 617 publishing firms and 172 newspapers and caused the dismissal of an estimated 400 journalists on such grounds as that they were "lacking in anti-communist zeal" or had joined the strike to protest military censorship.

Appeals for the release of Kim, held in Sudeamoon Prison in Seoul, should be carefully and courteously worded. You can point out Kim's arrest appears to contravene Article 19 of the Universal Delcaration of Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of opinion and expression. Write to the following:

His Excellency President Chun Doo-hwan
The Blue House, Congno-gu
Republic of Korea

His Excellency Mr. Kyoo Hyun Lee
Korean Embassy
151 Slater St., Suite 608
Ottawa, Ontario KIP 5H3

The appropriate salutation is "Your Excellency", "Yours respectfully" and "Sincerely." If you get a response — any response — please forward a copy to me.

Clifford Maynes,
299 Sherbrooke St., Peterborough, Ontario K9J 2N7
(Amnesty International, Canadian Adoption Group 46, Peterborough)


Vancouver Sun writer catches Kamloops flak

Obviously a tender nerve has been struck (not to mention a tender ego).

I'm referring to Michael Valpy's sanctimonious, self-serving letter in Content recently in which this supposed professional from the big city press detailed how he "discovered" the great patronage scam in Kamloops.

(Or as Michael so artfully puts it "mushed up into the hinterland to finger the provincial pulse." I can think of places where he put his finger ... and he arrived by jet, by the way.)

Anyway, truth to say, it was me who broke the story in The Kamloops News, as even Valpy admits, some five months before his aptly titled "breathless" item surfaced in the Vancouver Sun. And it was naive ol' me, along with two other News reporters, who spent three-quarters of an hour briefing Valpy on Kamloops politics—including the names of local contacts (that's what I meant by naive)—thereby giving him the basis for his banner, front page screamer in the Sun.

That story wasn't "discovered," it was stolen. And stolen when it was more deserving of being called history than "news."

And even this wouldn't have bothered us if Valpy had shown the grace to at least acknowledge the source of his entertaining efforts. But no, he instead lectures Content's readers on how "bloody hard" he works producing a column five days a week.

What gall! Perhaps a few strains of violin music should be played. Writing is obviously such a strain for Michael.

A couple more points. Valpy's cavalier treatment of the Kamloops press demonstrates how easy it is for the community press to be exploited by the big city media. Collegial co-operation is a fine thing but co-operation shouldn't be a one way street.

I say this because Valpy's reference to my story as "little more than a vague allusion to the whole affair" is nothing short of a bare faced lie—or in Watergate parlance—an "inoperative statement." And to prove my point I enclose a copy of my story and invite Content's editorial opinion on whether it's an "allusion" or a bona fide hard news story.

Finally, I invite Michael Valpy, the fearless investigator of patronage in Kamloops, to explain why he never writes about patronage in Vancouver, patronage in Ottawa or, for that matter, patronage in Bells Corners.

Valpy objects to his journalism being called "breathless."

Perhaps plagiarized would be the better term.

Gerry Warner, 
Kamloops, B.C.


Reporter group being formed in Ontario

A group of reporters from weekly and daily newspapers has decided to form the Ontario Reporters' Association. The association believes reporters in Ontario need a body to represent their concerns and to put forward their goals and aspirations. With increasing concentration of ownership in the industry the need for a forum to express our concerns is essential.

The first action of the association will be to present a brief to the Royal Commission on Newspapers protesting the loss of jobs.

Specific goals of the Ontario Reporters' Association are:

• To upgrade the standard of journalism through educating reporters and the public about the role of the news media in society.
• To inform reporters about existing working conditions and their rights under the law. ie. publication of minimum wages and maximum wages offered across the province.
• To give reporters an organization that can represent their interests to all levels of government on such issues as freedom of information, closed meetings, and the treatment of reporters by public officials.
• To speak out against the increasing influence of advertising on editorial copy, and give the reporter a voice independent of these business interests.

The fee for a 1981 membership is $10.

Kevin Cox, Hamilton
David Judd, Simcoe
John Miner, RR No. 3, Vanessa

(Ed.: Mailing address of the association is Box 353, Simcoe, Ont.)


Here something, more or less, is found in nothing

I cannot agree with Barrie Zwicker's contention (Lede Copy, Sept./Oct.) when he asks how anyone could "want less of nothing." Au contraire, I would hope that we all want less of nothing and more of something! There's too much of nothing in the print media the way it is, a little less of it would be welcome.

Kurt Baumgarter,
Nepean, Ont.

Published in Sources Winter 1980/81 

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