The dangers of working for hacks (or not)

As we’ve said before, there are some good journos at Sun Media, and it must be hard for them trying to maintain their integrity, and their sanity, working for a news organization ran by a Conservative partisan committed to espousing an unapologetically conservative agenda.

We think David Akin is one of those good journalists who works hard and calls it as he sees it. But we also think, since he was a personal hire of Kory Teneycke, he knew exactly what he was signing-up for and so we find it hard to be too empathetic when sources won’t talk to him because his company has ran ridiculous editorials attacking their clients, or when headline writers put incredibly biased headlines on his news stories that, to the average reader, call his impartiality as a journalist into question:

If you’re wondering, guff can alternately be defined as ludicrously false statements, nonsensical talk or thinking or, our favourite as “slang for to break wind, anally.” While they probably didn’t mean the last one, their intent is still probably pretty clear.

Now, Akin doesn’t write the headlines for his stories. Most journalists don’t. The stories go on the QMI wire, where local editors write their own headlines for the stories they use. (The Edmonton Sun used the more neutral ‘Russian bombers turned away‘) But most  people don’t know that. They see a biased headline over a reporter byline, and for them it reflects on the reporter as well as the publication. And one would think the reporter, certainly aware of that, would take umbrage, and action. (They haven’t cared in the past. — ed)

It’s also interesting to look at the different way the Edmonton and Toronto Suns handled the same Akin story. Toronto puts on a tourqed headline and hacks the story down to one source: Stephen Harper. Edmonton puts on a neutral headline, as befits a news story, and uses much more (if not all) of what Akin filed, with Harper’s comments as well as comments from Liberal MP Larry Bagnell, bringing a little balance to the issue, and the story.

This is the impact editors with agendas can have on what the public sees, and on journalists that are just trying to do good work. And it certaintly lays bare QMI’s agenda. As an aside, we also find it ironic that it’s Toronto that went all Conservative while Edmonton took the balanced approach. (They do call it Redmonton, don’t forget. — ed)

UPDATE: We’re told on Twitter by Sheena Goodyear, whose twitter bio says she edits and writes news copy for QMI, that Akin wrote that headline himself. So perhaps we need to reassess our blame of Sun copy editors for bias in the Toronto Sun headline. If so, apologies to semi-anonymous copy editors. And questions for someone else. We’ve asked Akin about it on Twitter. We’ll update with any response.

UPDATE 2: It is pointed-out to us that, while we thought the Edmonton and Toronto stories were the same pieces, they’re not. While they’re quite similar in that they both report Harper’s comments on the bomber incident and both reference Bagnell, the longer and more indepth Edmonton story was filed yesterday, while the shorter Toronto story was filed today, with fresh Harper quotes on the issue.

So, our apologies for the confusion and our error on that point. It is still unfortunate that the context and balance of yesterday’s story didn’t make it over to today’s, and we’re still waiting to learn what’s up with that “guff” headline.

And, since we now know this is two stories over two days, since it seems like they got it done decently yesterday, just what news value does a new story with one-sided vitrol from Harper (and a torqued headline) serve anyways?

UPDATE 3: Akin let us know on Twitter that the Edmonton and Toronto stories were different, but he ignored our request for him to clarify whether or not he did indeed write the guff headline as we’ve been told. So it seems likely that he did.

And this, of courses, causes us to reflect on our earlier thesis of a good jurno working for hacks and instead ponder, just what the heck was Akin thinking. It also forces us to consider his Twitter exchange yesterday with Andrew Coyne of Maclean’s in this new context.

We thought he was saying “see, look, the original, full piece I filed was balanced.” Our mistake, and apologies for our misunderstanding. Was his real message “come on, the piece I filed yesterday was balanced, so what if today’s isn’t?”

One wonders.

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About sunmediawatcher

Checking facts and reporting bias in the reportage of the Conservative Party's official media wing.
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One Response to The dangers of working for hacks (or not)

  1. Jymn says:

    I wouldn’t talk to Akin either, especially considering he actually wrote that sensationalist NY Post-style headline. If Akin was serious about his journalistic integrity, he would never have gone to work for Fox News North. There are other ways for a journalist to make money other than sell their souls for a dollar. Akin may be working for hacks, but it’s looking more and more like he’s just another one of them. Akin’s choices say more about him than his writing does.

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