The good things about young, enthusiastic new reporters is that they work for a lot less pay than senior journalists and they can be overworked, exploited or even abused by their news bosses without much complaining, because of fear or intimidation.
The downside though is that almost none of them have the historical knowledge of most of the subjects they cover; they seldom get any time to research their subjects before being sent off to cover a press conference or happening; and their questionning skills are underdevoloped, to put it mildly.
The winners in all this are their corporate bosses, who get cheap labour to help fill their airwaves or pages, and the people they cover, who can get away with pushing their own agenda, without many questionning their version of “the facts”.
The losers are the public …who are robbed of the truth and the real story in the rush to do more with less at low cost.
Which brings me to the latest “progress reports” this past week about the rebuilding of BC Place, complete with its new retractable roof. What horrible, shallow, deceptive coverage there was for the most part.
On Time and On Budget …proclaimed most of the headlines and broadcast reports.
Well, that’s the interpretation offered by BC Pavilion Corporation officials and it was regurgitated in the best Hansardian tradition by too many of the youngsters sent to cover the press conference. Spin was in …and it sent “reporters” away …. twirling about with quotes, clips, and pictures: an easy, quick story to fulfill their appointed tasks.
Except, as almost any senior, experienced reporter could tell you: it simply wasn’t true …or at least not the whole truth!!
You don’t have to be that old to remember the original story from the provincial government (and they wouldn’t lie to us, would they?) was that the new roof on BC Place would cost $365 Million.
Many thought then that was a ridiculous amuunt: either the “usual” underestimate of actual cost; enough to build a whole new stadium; or, not worth spending a cent of public monies on in view of all the custs to childrens, arts, community programs etc etc.
But PAVCO and the government pressed on (surprise, surprise!) because a nearby huge CASINO and hotel complex apparently hung in the balance: no new roof, no new CASINO hotel project.
And what’s happened since that original $365 million roof estimate? Well, of course, the project cost has risen and risen and risen. Bet you didn’t see that coming?
First the cost was re-calculated, with design changes, to a new total of $458 million. After that, the total figure jumped again to $563 million. I’ve even heard a projected final cost estimate of $577 million.
And PAVCO said the project is “on time and on budget”. Sure, on budget for the latest $563 million estimated cost … but almost $200 MILLION over what the public originally was told … $365 Million for a new roof.
And the government has once more gotten away relatively unscathed with this latest blasphemy! The media have calmly and almost unquestionningly accepted the millions and millions of dollars of additions, changes and overruns.
Bet an NDP government would NEVER be allowed such an easy overrun without denunciation of their fiscal incompetence, calls for ministerial resignations and yes, another public inquiry.
Most of the media simply swallowed the on time and on budget spin …and delivered it unchallenged to their public. Shame on them!!! And on their bosses who I’d bet knew better, but either didn’t care or set aside their journalistic integrity to dish out a positive government story.
The only one I actually saw rant and rail about the twisted budget figures was Province columnist Michael Smyth. Bravo Michael!
And now, even the on time predication is finally being questionned: some events had been touted for ther site as early as July … but now about all they’re promising is the Grey Cup in November. Quite a difference.
But no worries … PAVCO and the government know all they have to do is say it … make any changes, offer any explanations and most of the media will simply send it out … through inexperienced, junior reporters, without the knowledge or background to ask any hard questions.