Baldreydash: My response to Vaughn Palmer and Keith Baldrey

The press gallery is a club, both literally and figuratively. There’s a collegial atmosphere among the members, who don’t criticize each other publicly.

In fact, the dean of the press gallery, Vaughn Palmer, often praises the other members, even if they work for rival media companies. As the alpha male in the gallery, Palmer sets the tone in the place.

I’m not a member of that club, which has more than its share of employees of Canwest Global Communications Corp.

Last week, I also broke from the press gallery tradition by writing how I felt last Tuesday morning. I was  sick and disgusted and embarrassed  to be a working journalist in B.C. after seeing coverage of the Mable Elmore apology. She's the NDP candidate in Vancouver-Kensington.  

I was troubled by  how members of the press gallery  interacted with  NDP Leader Carole James, and then reading, watching,  and listening to how this story was presented.

Two senior members of the press gallery took an opportunity to rip into me on CKNW on Friday morning. Global TV’s Keith Baldrey and  Palmer of the  Vancouver Sun pointed out that James summoned members of the press gallery to a scrum to tell them that  Elmore had issued an apology.

Palmer said that members of the press gallery were offended by my column which, in his view, suggested a “giant Canwest conspiracy”.   Palmer told CKNW listeners that he didn't think I knew what I was talking about because two of the people asking questions, the CBC's Jeff Davies and the recently laid-off Sean Holman, are not Canwest employees.

I believe I also heard the voice of the Globe and Mail's Justine Hunter asking questions, though I can't be certain of this. She doesn't work for Canwest, either.

Baldrey said if I felt sick and disgusted, I should seek another line of work.

I chose my words very carefully and I stand by what was written.

On CKNW, Palmer and Baldrey also made it appear as though I didn’t think it was a news story that the Opposition leader had wrung an apology out of a candidate. I'm not that stupid. It was a news story--that wasn't the point of the column.

In my view, the  real story was that our so-called watchdogs refused to ask a single question of the Opposition leader why she was forcing a candidate to apologize for using a common descriptor of someone who supports a Jewish homeland in the Middle East.

Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough. Here’s my chance to set the record straight:

•  I thought the members of the press gallery asked stupid questions. None of them asked James why using a term like Zionist is offensive when it’s routinely used in the Israeli media.

•  I think the response to my column on our Web site suggests I’m not alone thinking this way. Former Vancouver city councillor Anne Roberts  drew comparisons to Joe McCarthy  to suggest what's going on with debate over the Israeli occupation. You can read Elmore's remarks and draw your own conclusion.

•  Jewish people have contacted me to praise what I wrote. One urged me to publish the column in  last week's  paper. I didn't plan on doing this. It was just a blog posting.  But he was so insistent. He persuaded me that this was the proper course of action.

•  I also don't think it's healthy for members of the press gallery to be so  eager to support one another. I would prefer more competition.

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Here's one example to support this latter point. There are members of the press gallery who've accepted  speaking fees from business groups that lobby the provincial government regarding pieces of legislation.

I think the members of the press gallery should disclose these payments through an on-line registry, which would be available  for the  public to see. (Similarly, I think members of the judiciary should be required to adhere to the Financial Disclosure Act, but that's a separate story.)

However, as long as the members of the press gallery are so busy patting each other on the back, they're not going to bother covering something like this.

They'll go blue in the face telling the public how Ken Dobell or Patrick Kinsella were unregistered lobbyists, but they don't apply the same standards to themselves when it comes to  disclosing their own potential conflicts of interest.

I'm not saying that these payments influence the way they cover stories. Not at all. I am saying, however, that these speaking fees should be disclosed so readers, viewers, and listeners will know if members of the press gallery have recently been on the payroll of an organization that they're covering. It's called transparency.

Related stories:

The NDP and the big lie about Israel: An open letter to Carole James

The Mable Elmore controversy over Zionism is truly embarrassing

Baldreydash: Most oppose business groups paying fees to journalists




Mar 29, 2009 at 6:01pm

Perhaps somebody could have Ms. James illuminate us on the logic of having Elmore do a "formal apology through the Canadian Jewish Congress" - when the CJC's own website contains the following:

"While Canadian Jewish Congress has long been a voice in support of the Zionist movement in Canada, specific actions, advocacy and lobbying on Israel's behalf has been delegated to the Canada-Israel Committee."

Of course, if we want to look deeper, perhaps we can just link to the Zionist Organization of America's website from the CJC's site:

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Mar 29, 2009 at 9:57pm

The arrogance that these three (Good,Baldry, and Palmer) display on Chicken Dubs' the Ledge is quite disgusting. It is very difficult to get any criticism of particularly Palmer's often rather stupid, dogmatic, poorly thought out ,or just plain wrong points of view without getting cut off.

I've learned to make my points by sucking up to Palmer just for a few seconds just long enough to throw this arrogant nit off guard for the coup de grace.

For example, despite being shown numerous times that it is possible to efficiently put transit on the Port Mann bridge by adding bus only access lanes, he will continually repeat Kevin "Total Recall" Falcon's mantra that we need a new bridge to do it.

He is very effective at making it look like he is a balanced commentator by criticizing Gordo for things like his dress code or other minor faux pas', but supporting him without reservation on large issues like ferry purchases, rail sales, gateway projects and IPP's. Carol James on the other hand gets complements for being so nice, but gets shredded on almost all policy matters.

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Mar 30, 2009 at 12:25pm

Mr. Smith said:

<i>"There are members of the press gallery who've accepted speaking fees from business groups that lobby the provincial government regarding pieces of legislation."</i>

Specifics, (perhaps in a future blog post?) would be most appreciated.



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Charlie Smith

Mar 30, 2009 at 1:16pm

Below are some links that might go part of the way toward answering your question, RossK. I'm pretty busy, so I haven't done a complete search. I just pulled together 12 links quite quickly. I haven't confirmed how many of these events involved speaking fees. I suggest you contact individual journalists for elaboration. If you're wondering about me, I will accept fees to speak on Shaw's election-night coverage and occasionally on CBC. I do not accept speaking fees from business organizations. The first link refers to the broader issue. Since that article appeared. National Speakers Bureau has removed the fee listings from its Web site.

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Mar 30, 2009 at 2:28pm

Keep up the good work, Charlie! It should be obvious by now to everyone what the CanWest media's agenda is, both in covering provincial politics and the Middle East conflict. Check out this recent content analysis of media coverage of the 2005 BCTF strike. The Vancouver Sun and Global B.C. come off looking pretty bad, especially in comparison to the balance provided by Bill Good. It makes me wonder why he continues to feature two CanWest reporters on his weekly segment from the legislature.

Oh, and *by the way* they stole my name for their segment. I am the original Edge of the Ledge.

Peter Francis

Mar 30, 2009 at 3:54pm

I'm not sure how these guys earn their living anymore. Baldrey, Smyth, Palmer and Good. These middle age white guys have nothing to say anymore. They are all long past their shelf life. Their integrity has been compromised and they don't even give a shit about it anymore.

Its pathetic really. Anybody remember this? "Hey Keith its Dave". Haha -- David Hahn phoning Baldrey on his cell phone at 3-4 in the morning to give him the scoop or the spin on the sinking of the Queen of the North. I mean come on! Baldrey wrote a column bragging about this.

Whats really sad about this is Hahn gave Baldrey a seat on the plane to Prince Rupert and left the companies safety officer, a man who warned of this kind of tragedy, in Victoria. This kind of crap borders on conspiracy.

These guys are beyond reproach. We can no longer trust government, the judiciary and the primary opinion shaper's in the media. Sad really, just think how far down the toilet this country has gone since the 70's.

Does anyone remember if any of the "big three" Canwest dudes ever had membership in the International Student Socialists? If so maybe an apology should be made to the CJC. Its about as relevant as what they required of the James led NDP.

Finally, my cheque book and my arse remain parked this coming provincial election. The NDP can have my vote but not my money or my 14 hours on E-day, this time round. Everything has a cost Carole. Some of us remember that old song, "Which side are you on". I'm not as confused about this as our party seems to be.

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Mar 31, 2009 at 12:18pm

Mr. Smith.....thanks for the links.

Will try and post something, as a follow up at my place soon.

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Mar 31, 2009 at 12:33pm

Today, I noted a good example of Corus Radio's in-depth reporting on the March 31 CKNW noon news. Two dead bodies surfaced overnight in Langley, apparently from separate gang related shootings. The radio station dipped into the archives and ran a lengthy clip of Gordon Campbell declaring that citizens would not tolerate further gang violence. The clip was from last February but no doubt it shows that Campbell's government is (or was) on high alert over crime issues. I suppose though that the former top-dog radio station finds it much cheaper to pull from an old library of clips than to send a reporter out to cover current news. And, it also portrays the Premier responding aggressively to a troubling situation.

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ezekiel bones

Apr 1, 2009 at 2:59pm

good article, you make some reasonable points

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