It ain’t easy trying to be a journalist at QMI

While Kory and Co. cleaned-out many of the real journalists in QMI’s Parliament Hill bureau (Spencer, Thompson, Weston, Zimonjic, Harris and others) there are still some dedicated, under-appreciated journos toiling away in the bureau. And we sympathize with their plight, and how hard it is for them to try to maintain their integrity, and the respect of their peers and their readers, working in that environment.

Take the recent story by QMI’s Mathieu Turbide on spending on training seminars within the Auditor General’s office:

The Office of the Auditor General of Canada, mandated to investigate misuse of public funds, has used those funds for its own dubious employee training sessions, QMI has learned.

Documents obtained under Access to Information reveal that the auditor’s office spent $445,816 last year on seminars, some of which appear to have little to do with financial oversight.

The expense reports provided to QMI Agency list off courses such as Roman civilization, anthropology and a study of Karl Marx, the father of Russian-style communism.

Not Watergate by any means but certainly worth reporting, and worth explanation from the AG as manager of the department. However, when you consider that a) QMI is ran by Kory Teneycke, an avowed C/conservative and recently former communications director for Stephen Harper, and b) the Conservatives are about to face an avalanche of hurt from the AG as she looks into their stimulus program; it’s not too hard to jump to some conclusions.

Conclusions such as the Conservatives are launching a preemptive campaign to discredit the AG before she goes after them on stimulus and they tapped their friend Kory, who recently launched such campaigns for them, to have his friendly media outlet get the ball rolling. “Have your reporter ask for the AG’s training expenses under Access to Information, good stuff there,” they might have said.

Also raising suspicions was the fact they actually got something back from a government department under the access legislation, given this government’s atrocious record in that area.

It seems such a conclusion was jumped to by Liberal communications director Mario Lague (he’s like the Conservative Kory but without a media organization to command — ed.) who, in a private memo that was leaked to the media, advised Liberals to not comment on the QMI story about the AG because he didn’t want a Conservative campaign to discredit the AG gaining traction:

“… it appears they [the Harper government] are using favoured media sources to try to damage the office’s [the Auditor-General’s office] credibility in advance of what are expected to be highly critical reports,” says Mario Lague in the memo, which was written Monday, and e-mailed to The Globe and Mail from an anonymous source.

The suggestion that QMI was doing the propaganda bidding of their boss’ old boss caused much protest and furious tweeting from their journos, who insisted the story was obtained through good, old-fashioned sleuthing of the training records of all government departments. And Lague later apologized, kinda sorta.

So while we feel for the journalists who are still in the QMI stable trying to do good work, the fact is when you work for a media organization that is run by a partisan Conservative that seems bound and determined to use the power of the press to advance certain political beliefs and agendas, people are going to jump to conclusions.

It’s just inevitable. If you think you can still work there under there under those conditions, go for it. But have your eyes open, because this won’t be an uncommon occurrence.

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Sun Media on ethics crusade…no, really

Apparently, the finance minister is going to have an off the record meeting with an invite-only list of experts from academia and the world of finance to solicit policy advice, as the never-ending process of preparing the next federal budget continues.

To some, this whole getting advice from experts about policy before making policy seems like a pretty sensible idea. But not, of course, to the powers that be at Sun Media. Were it a Liberal finance minister, they’d point-out this ivory-tower egghead exercise was a sign of how out of touch with real Canadians they are. Alas, it’s a Conservative finance minister, so that just won’t do.

Instead, David Akin finds another angle to take, pondering why fellow journalist Andrew Coyne, who does have some knowledge of these issues (and has been a vocal critic of Jim Flaherty’s economic policy) is participating in the confab. He even brings in a journalism ethics expert (no, really) to weigh-in on the propriety of Andrew’s actions:

Still, journalism ethics experts said Coyne’s decision to participate in an event set up to offer policy advice to the government is unwise.

“It runs against the public’s perception of the independence of its senior journalists,” said Stephen Ward, the director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin. “In an age when the line between independent journalism and non-independent journalism is being blurred, and public confidence in news media wanes, we really don’t need journalists joining the elites in a closed policy session, rather than covering the meeting independently.”

Hmm, interesting. One has to wonder what the good professor would have to say about a journalist taking part in a session organized by a “think-tank” with close ties to the governing political party to train campaign managers (primarily for the governing political party) on how to deal with the media? (h/t)

Of course, there is one significant difference between the two events.

One involves people with knowledge to share sharing it freely for no other reason or motivation than hoping better policy could be made for the betterment of the nation(s).

The other involves a panel of Conservatives (and David Akin — .ed) training Conservative political operatives on how to get their candidates elected and defeat their opponents to an audience that paid for the privilege. And it’s safe to assume Akin and co. were compensated for their time and valuable advice as well.

Yes, lets run that one past the ethics professor, shall we?

P.S. Interesting that also on the panel was David’s boss to be, Kory Teneycke. Small world, no?

UPDATE: Akin offers his view on all this, which we don’t find particularly compelling. At best, it’s serious pot and kettle. Good on him for not shirking from the issue though.

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Khadr’s lawyer won’t talk to QMI. Boo-hoo.

It seems Omar Khadr’s lawyers don’t want to talk to Sun Media’s parliamentary bureau boss David Akin:

Khadr’s two Canadian lawyers are Nate Whitling and Dennis Edney, both of Edmonton. Whitling, reached Monday night via e-mail, refused to speak to QMI Agency and Edney could not be reached.

Which caused a clearly perturbed Akin to turn to Twitter:

Sorry David, but we can’t help but reply boo-hoo. And la-dee-dah.

I can’t imagine why Khadr’s lawyers might not be inclined to talk to a Sun Media reporter, take them seriously as a news organization, or think what they have to say might be treated fairly.

Oh, no, yes I can imagine why. It’s probably because they read the ridiculous editorial that ran across the Sun/QMI chain a few weeks ago that made clear the chain’s feelings on the Khadr case. Some excerpts:

Khadr was 15 when he ended up in the American prison camp at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, and he is now almost 24.

Boo-hoo. And la-dee-dah.

Unfortunately, Omar Khadr is in the news again, having just fired his U.S. lawyers.

Too bad more ink must be spilled.

As for Omar himself, why bring him back to Canada? Simply because he was born here?

Screw him.

He’s a waste of our breath.

So, let’s see. The Sun believes the un-convicted Khadr has terrorism bred in his bones, and is a waste of breath and ink that should get screwed. But how dare his lawyers not talk to our fine news organization!

Akin has a solid journalistic pedigree and he’s no dummy, so he has to have seen this coming. You can argue about the wall between editorial and news until you’re blue in the face (and the low height of that wall at QMI is another issue we’ll keep exploring). But public perception is another thing, and when you run ridiculous editorials like that the walls are seen to crumble, whether you want to believe it or not.

Put another way, keep sleeping with dogs, David, and you’re going to get fleas. And sources won’t return your e-mails.

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Is the Conservative war room a QMI Agency, or is it the other way around?

The Conservative Party war room had a team following the Liberal Express bus tour around when it launched from Ottawa a few weeks  ago, ready to watch for missteps and bad luck, and they got lucky themselves early on when the bus suffered mechanical difficulties.

Knowing that a picture is worth a thousand words, the Conservative operatives snapped some photos that were duly dispatched to friendly Web partisans and to the media. Conservative blogger Stephen Taylor (an old pal of new Sun Media boss Kory Teneycke, by the way) was the first surrogate to dutifully post the photos online, attributing them to “a source on tour.”  He published a few, but here’s the money-shot:

Globe and Mail reporter Steven Chase used the same photo in a posting for the paper’s Ottawa Notebook blog, with this note on the source, even linking back to Taylor’s post with the photos:

Later party stalwarts circulated a picture of the hapless Liberal bus being towed away for service.

The same Conservative-supplied photo was used to illustrate the story filed for the Sun papers by QMI’s Brian Lilley. But instead of identifying its source as partisan political operatives to better inform their readers, as the Globe had done, the picture was sources as “QMI Agency” which leads readers to believe the photo comes from a wire service or other journalistic source.

The odd attribution was noted on Twitter by Globe online political editor Stephen Wicary, shortly after the Sun story was posted:

Which generated this exchange between Lilley

and Wicary:

Sound advice from one journalist to another. And you’d think Lilley would be upset about others adding a photo to his story obtained through partisan sources and hiding its source. Maybe see to it that it was changed and corrected, to uphold journalistic standards and what not.

You’d think so, except the screenshot of that story above was taken yesterday. Yes, more than two weeks after initial publication, and more than two weeks after the QMI was made aware of the “mistake” the false attribution remains. And it’s not like Lilley forgot, as this exchange of testy tweets with Wicary a week later demonstrates:

Me-ow. A sore spot, it would seem. But if Sun Media/QMI sees no need to bother correcting the attribution of a photo supplied by Conservative Party of Canada War Room operatives and leaving it to stand as coming from a “QMI Agency” it would seem logical to assume they believe the attribution is accurate.

Which begs the question, does that mean the Conservative War Room is an agency of QMI/Sun Media? Or, perhaps more accurately, is it really the other way around?

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Ezra, it’s called a paragraph

If we seriously tried to pick apart every ridiculous column published by Ezra Levant in Sun Media papers, this blog’s name would have to be changed to Levant Watch.

So let’s just assume that, unless you hear otherwise, they’re all ridiculous.

We did not, however, want to let his burka column from the weekend go without comment.

It was a very jarring column for us to read.

And not just for the content.

No, it was jarring because nearly every sentence had its own paragraph.

Like this.

Annoying, isn’t it?

It’s like Ezra’s editor told him his article needed to be one page long, and he only had half a page worth of things to say.

He could make the font bigger, but it would look funny compared to the other articles.

Ditto if he double-spaced it, the other favoured trick of perennial C-students.

Then he hit upon the perfect solution: every sentence is a new paragraph.

Don’t blame Ezra, he just doesn’t know any better.

It makes us wonder though, did Kory fire all his copy editors or does QMI’s decision to not care about journalism anymore also extend to grammar?

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My sources are 20-times better than QMI’s sources

While the responsible types in the lame-stream media openly mock how the Conservatives and DND played Sun Media like a fiddle with their big scoop on the routine interception of turbo-prop Russian bombers by Canadian CF-18 aircraft (surely you mean had them perform their routine propaganda function? — ed.), generating barely-concealed sarcasm such as this

While similar incidents occur 12 to 18 times a year, a story on the confrontation appeared on Friday morning in the Sun Media chain.

… the QMI team continue to try valiantly to maintain the credibility of their original overly torqued story. But in trying so hard to pretend they have super-duper inside sources, and aren’t just doing the bidding of their political masters, they come off looking silly.

Take this line from Brian Lilley’s follow-up, where he passes on information from his awesome secret sources:

Government and military officials told QMI Agency that more than one attempt to probe Canadian airspace has happened since 2007…

Really Brian, more than one attempt since 2007? Wow, impressive that QMI was able to pry such interesting information from the government.

I have my own source, however. It’s not a government or a military source. It’s called Google. If you don’t know what Google is, try googling it. With just a little googling, I found reports of many more than one similar attempt.

The Toronto Star reported on one such attempt in February of 2009 that was intercepted  by Canadian CF-18s. And it shared this tidbit from the Star’s not so secret sources:

NORAD spokesperson Michael Kucharek said Canadian and U.S. fighter jets have been scrambled more than 20 times since early 2007 to perform visual identification of Russian bombers and to direct them away from North American airspace.

Wow, more than 20 times? Well, to be fair to Brian, 20 is most definitely more than one, so his super-duper sources weren’t lying to him.

Here’s a NORAD press release from 2006 on the launch of Canadian CF-18s and American F-15s in response to Russian TU-95 bombers. (Press release? Don’t they know offering gullible media routine information as exclusives will generate more coverage? – ed)

Another NORAD press release tells us the Rushkies got as close as 190 kilometers northeast of Tuktoyuktuk, Northwest Territories in 2008 when CF-18s from Cold Lake caught up to them.

Meanwhile, while Peter MacKay and QMI try to get us scared about the Rushkie threat to stop us from questioning the government’s decision to spend $16 billion on F-35s without considering cheaper alternatives or taking bids, NORAD will be conducting a “cooperative air defense exercise focused on combating terrorism” with the Russians next month.

So, if Lilley and Co. would like to get an up-close look at the re-emerging Rushkie threat first-hand, they can contact NORAD public affairs and head up to Alaska. Or they can go into the belly of the beast, and watch the exercise from the Russian Federation Air Force Control Center in Moscow. Apparently, you just need to e-mail them first before stopping by.

The Rushkies appreciate good manners.

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QMI’s Lilley & Weese reveal “news” the National Post passed on weeks ago

QMI’s Brian Lilley and Bryn Weese are trumpeting their latest “exclusive” today:

QMI Agency can reveal that neither airlines nor security services are asking Muslim women to lift their veils and prove that the face beneath matches their photo ID.

The issue came to light through a video taken by Mick Flynn of Bradford, England. Flynn was boarding a flight at Montreal’s Trudeau International Airport when he witnessed two women with their faces covered board an Air Canada Heathrow bound flight without being asked to remove their veils.

Couple of things here, lads. For one, this “news” and accompanying video have been circulating on the Web for weeks now, and on the sorts of sites you’d think reputable media organizations wouldn’t want to be associated with. Taking your lead from the baiters at “Jihad Watch” are we, QMI? (Apparently the evil-doers are also infiltrating the Boy Scouts, so watch for that story in your Sun paper Monday.)

Second, even the semi-reputable Canadian media has beaten QMI to this story by weeks. Yes, on July 17 the National Post’s Full Comment blog posted an entry by Lawrence Solomon that featured this video. After a few hours though, it was deleted. Likely because the story was completely lacking in news value and, much like the video itself (don’t you just love the supposed to creep you out Ismamic soundtrack?) the comments the story was attracting were borderline, if not overtly racist.

You can find a discussion thread on the Post post, and how the video is complete nonsense, on this message board for frequent Air Canada flyers. They also raise the issue of whether this video (featured prominently in the QMI story), filmed in Quebec without the consent of the featured parties, may violate that province’s privacy laws. What say you, leagal beagles?

A story on “the Islamic menace” so over the line and lacking in journalistic merit that even the National Post decided to use its better judgement on and not publish? Thank goodness we now have Kaptain Kory and Fox News North to fill the gap and lower the standards.

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