Eds & reporters suppress
news for job reasons
Have just read with interest Gerry McAuliffe's
analysis of the collapse
news service (Sept.-Oct.) and realize he raises two issues
which ought to be squarely addressed by the current Royal Commission on
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
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.
Focus on death of U.S. reporter
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
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
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
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
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
cause for concern and study.
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
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
We learned from Amnesty
International that Ali has been, apparently, released "on compassionate
suggests four channels of pressure that can be helpful in cases where
journalists are imprisoned:
information on how to aid those who are being imprisoned or
worse the world over for non-criminal activities contact:
journalists' organizations, in the form of official letters or
- Letters to the offending country's ambassador in this country.
- Communications to our External Affairs department.
2101 Algonquin Ave.
P.O. Box6033 Station J
Ottawa, Ont. K2A 1T1 (613) 722-1988
Amnesty International Toronto
638-5015 (Served by an answering service)
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
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:
Excellency President Chun Doo-hwan
Excellency Mr. Kyoo Hyun Lee
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.
299 Sherbrooke St., Peterborough, Ontario K9J 2N7
(Amnesty International, Canadian Adoption Group 46, Peterborough)
Vancouver Sun writer catches
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
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
"breathless" item surfaced in the Vancouver Sun. And it was
me, along with two other News
reporters, who spent three-quarters of an
hour briefing Valpy on Kamloops politics—including the names
local contacts (that's what I meant by naive)—thereby giving
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
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
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
Valpy objects to his journalism being called
Perhaps plagiarized would be the better term.
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
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'
• To upgrade the standard of journalism
reporters and the public about the role of the news media in society.
• To inform reporters about existing working conditions and
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
• To speak out against the increasing influence of advertising
editorial copy, and give the reporter a voice independent of these
The fee for a 1981 membership is $10.
Kevin Cox, Hamilton
John Miner, RR No. 3, Vanessa
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.
Published in Sources Winter 1980/81
Sources, 812A Bloor Street West,
Suite 201, Toronto, ON M6G 1L9.
Phone: (416) 964-7799 FAX: (416) 964-8763
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