BC Place: Truth a Casualty of Inexperienced Reporters

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.

Harv Oberfeld

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26 Responses to BC Place: Truth a Casualty of Inexperienced Reporters

  1. Leah says:

    Harv, I think I hear your calling…

    Owner/Instructor of a small, rather elite journalism school. Only for those with a heart and mind strong enough to ask the hard questions, willing to become the proverbial thorn in the side of every politician in the Province.

    Sadly, the graduates would starve to death while trying to find a job with a MSM company willing to put the truth out there. It seems it doesn’t matter how competent reporters are when you don’t have an editor with a stomach for facts, and a desire to print them.

    (Response: There are still some very good reporters out there …but sadly there are a lot more being hired simply because they are young, new and work cheap … not the old-time journalistic standards that required a lot more cash to support. h.o)

  2. Kim says:

    It’s good to see you’re on it H.O. RossK at pacificgazette has done alot of legwork on this subject as well. Interested people should check it out at


    Hope you don’t mind the plug H.O. Great post.

  3. Keith says:

    Ayup Harvey,

    $577 million and climbing for a new roof for a couple of 3rd rate sports teams, Jerry Jones built a complete new stadium for the Dallas cowboys for 1.3 billion. Makes you wonder who’s in charge of this project? Oh yes, another one of Gordo’s elite business pals.

  4. connie says:

    Hey Harvey,

    I can top your story! You won’t believe it.

    When I was working for the Herald, circ 11,000 at that time,two of us won a runner up spot for the Roland Michener Award for Social Justice in Journalism. As a winner yourself, you know how hard that is to do. By the way, we were paid $400 a week (1993)

    Greg Urbanoski won for exposing a major dishonesty at City Hall. He was always tough but fair in his city hall coverage. He was a real digger. The good and bad of every meeting was covered.

    Urbo and I moved on and city hall coverage was DROPPED!!! The new city editor said Urbo was so hard on the council that the editors decided to give them a break. They started working from news releases. During that time, 20 city hall employees suddenly decided they wanted to resign – all at the same time.

    The editors chose to print the news release.

    (Response: Actually I was a finalist in the Micheners, but did not capture the win. Connie is a first class journalist …author of the book Buried in the Silence …and a close personal friend, harkening back to my print days in Saskatchewan. Whenever we get together we commiserate about the state of journalism in Canada. h.o)

  5. D. M. Johnston says:

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

    Joseph Goebbels

    I repeat this quote from this odious man because it is telling and it is my firm belief how Gordo the Great Campbell and the Main Stream Media have fooled the people of BC.

    The ‘green’ reporters you mentioned will do anything to keep their jobs and repeating government spin is dead easy keeping ones corporate masters happy.

    Unlike 1930’s Germany, our passive dictatorship does allow for dissent, but Bill Van der Zalm has rallied the troops and now the government has unleashed its corporate dogs of war to quell dissent. But the corporate ‘dogs of war’ have failed the small businessman, creating a large rift between small and large business. What big corporations soon forget is that the small business man has the ear of the public, unlike the over paid corporate executives.

    It is too late, the people see the Liberal government for what it is; a dysfunctional administration, run by a questionable premier, kept in power by a massive propaganda machine.

    As one blogger states, “It’s time to get the pitchforks”!

    I do think the HST fiasco has absolutely destroyed the credibility of the mainstream media, especially by B. Good, V. Palmer, and K. Baldry. The Sun and Province are mere fish wrap and the local TV stations are mere shadows of their former selves. In short, the public do not believe the MSM. All the MSM do is preach to the Liberal converted, a mere 25% of the population.

    As i can see, the advertisers have taken note!

    (Response: You’re remarks really bother me; because they really hit the mark. Sad but true. The MSM mocked Vander Zalm and the peasants who dared to question the government and demand withdrawal of the hated HST. They’re not mocking now … but instead of taking up “the people’s” cause, they have taken to running all kinds of stories from big business about how great the HST is! (I still wonder why some intrepid reporter didn’t ask the film industry types, at their press conference hyping their HST savings, when will we see theatre prices drop??? ) And the almost doubled cost of BC Place “renovations” have been accepted almost without a peep… even further destroying their own credibility. What I sense is the public are so angry…there is nothing the Liberals say or do right now that anyone trusts ..except their friends in big business and the corporate media. h.o)

  6. StandUpforBC says:

    DM Johnson, 2:42 am Aug 9: Yes, yes, yes, you are so right that it’s worth repeating your opening volley. In fact it’s worth memorizing that quote. Gonna need it a lot over the next couple years.

    Think the BC Place Roof “job” was outrageous? Check out the story I cite below for an article on the hose-job we’re getting about supposed out-of-control health care costs. It’s a Big Fat Whopper, so big and so long repeated that it’s Motherhood.

    “The Health Care ‘Crisis” Con”by Rob Wipond is published in the current issue of FOCUS magazine, a Victoria publication. It’s available online at:


    The Goebbels’ strategy is not just confined to committing financial fraud, it’s being used in health care at the policy level and at the service delivery level to confuse, mislead and thwart delivery of services. As far as patient safety and addressing complaints, the primary and priority tactics of the health authorities are intense repression and suppression. It’s a virtual Gulag out there for people who’ve been harmed by the health care gestapo in BC.

    I’d like to nominate Mr. Wipond as an example of what media, especially journalism, should be.

    Conducted properly, the media is a vital asset to society, not a parasite or a hand-maiden to corruption. We need to celebrate and support journalists like Rob Wipond, and yourself of course H.O. Thanks for this article.

    (Response: It’s amazing what people can do when they get rolling, even with not only the government but also the MSM trying to tear them down. It’s called power to the people ..and the internet and blogosphere has opened up a whole new communications dimension for organizing opposition and resistance by “ordinary” citizens who have finally had enough. No wonder so many dictatorships try to suppress it! h.o)

  7. Fred says:

    So you have no actual evidence, no facts but you are sure it is over the current allocated budget and behind the current schedule.

    Brilliant. A perfect example of why we don’t trust reporters, especially old bitter socialist ones, to tell us the truth.

    You prefer to spin your opinion which is why old media & old journalists are dying off.

    (Response: Evidence? When they tell you the roof project will cost $365 million, then they (not me) UP it to $458 million …and then again to $563 million …. that’s not evidence?? I’ll bet you also believe there were no plans at all pre-election to bring in the HST right after the vote! As for me being a bitter old socialist … I was able to retire early thanks to my capitalist investments … and I’d bet the people at Vision and the NDP, still smarting from things I’ve written about them, are laughing at your suggestion. What I like to believe I am is a REAL journalist, who is Keeping it Real …regardless of whose BULL I gore. h.o)

  8. Lynn says:

    It is ironic for the times, CBC is running a great doc called Love, Hate and Propaganda. The Propaganda fits. I think governments around the world have studied Hitler’s methods of information manipulation and perfected it.
    Gov’ts are using propaganda for their own means and people are still believing. Glad you are here Fred. The information shared on this blog by Harvey and my fellow readers will open your wide eyes shut.
    Now, as for businesses lowering prices…Companies (big or small) have made record profits in the last decade or so.Employees have not seen their wages increase to keep pace with the times since the 80’s. Why? A 5 year economic cycle. Most become layed off and have to start at the low end of the wage scale. Desperate for a job, they will accept anything.
    So, where the hell is the money coming from? CREDIT. Is there incentive for businesses to lower product pricing? Nope. A stall in leisure spending has already started, but it has to keep going, and folks, don’t bitch at the cashier, bitch to the top about prices, and the tax, and do it by actually writing a letter (paper, evelope and stamp). Emails are like phone calls. Easily forgotten and deleted.
    We all have made campbell into a monster by saying nothing for how many terms? We have bought into the msm propaganda for how many terms?
    We filled the cookie jar with credit, and now it is half empty and then get mad and involved.
    Campbell to his credit has been manipulating BCers from the moment he took the oath (oath, that is funny). We bought it hook line and stinker.
    You always guard the gold. We didn’t and we are mad it him? Lets vow to always keep their feet to fire (including msm) so as to not saddle the next generation. Teach the next generation how to pay attention, ask questions and get involved.
    The internet and blogs are a great tool, and the crooks know that. Down in Australia the internet is slowly becoming censored. So, how long will blogs be a valuable tool for truthful information?

  9. mariner says:

    What Lyn has said is very true. We did allow Campbell to do what he wanted – whether through apathy or party support – either way he got what he wanted. He sure gave it to the province for nine years.

    Now it is the chance for the ordinary working folk in BC, to give it to Gordon “the Liar” Campbell and the BC Liberal party.

    Don’t forget RECALL IN THE FALL


  10. Kim says:

    Lynn, your last question strikes fear in my heart.

    Focusonline is a great publication, I never miss it. Good plug. Brioni Penn also has a great in depth look at the Forest industry.

    Fred, I sure hope you open your eyes soon Dude, we need the public to pay attention. You are either paid to be here by the evil PAB, or you are not the sharpest tool in the shed, or maybe Campbell has crossed your palm? Do you work for Pavco?

  11. D. M. Johnston says:

    I reiterate: “…….for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” Government censorship is merely a government afraid of the truth and a government that is afraid of the truth is weak and immoral.

    Here is another truth that will set ‘Fred’s’ hair on fire. Judge Pitfield, the judge presiding over Susan Heyes’s court case against TransLink called the bidding process for the RAV/Canada Line a “charade”.

    Again, according to Susan Heyes, who has done more research on the Canada Line than all the MSN combines now thinks that the cost of the RAV/Canada Line is almost $2.8 billion! Not bad for a metro that was first said to cost no more than $1.3 billion!

    The public has been manipulated, but when the wallets are empty; costs continue to spiral upwards; and more new onerous taxes are imposed, the public is beginning to see that the “Emperor has no clothes.”

    Poverty and over taxation has been the root cause of many a revolution and what I see in BC is a quiet revolution with the Zalm’s HST recall, will become more boisterous if the media & big business keep denigrating Zalm and his supporters.

    Wait for “Recall in the Fall”!

    The amount of government advertising on radio and TV is simply staggering and I see it as the Government propping up political cronies in the electronic media as advertisers take their monies elsewhere as viewership drops.

    Yes, the government will have to turn to censorship to keep the ‘Big Lie’ safe, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the ‘Big Lie’.

  12. patrick bell (NOT THE MLA) says:

    Fred said…..”A perfect example of why we don’t trust reporters, especially old bitter socialist ones, to tell us the truth.

    You prefer to spin your opinion which is why old media & old journalists are dying off.”

    No, old media and old journalists are dying off because they refuse to sell their soul to the proverbial devil and preserve their journalistic integrity.

    The truth seekers have turned to the net as they have grown tired of the BS that is being spewed by the MSM. It takes very little critical thinking ability to figure out that corporately owned and operated media either refuse to do the digging or have a vested interest in reporting stories the way THEY see fit….

    (Response: Now THIS makes my day! 🙂 h.o

  13. Lynn says:

    The liberal hst radio ads?
    I shout “Lier, Lier, pants on fire”. Then change the channel.
    Everywhere I go strangers make some kind of negative reference about the tax and can’t wait to be further involved with the recall. This grumbling seems unprecedented in that people have not stopped talking about how angry they are over the ill timed implementation of it.
    This anger is not about to subside, Campbell. You have poked us in the eye one too many times.
    And for those political strategists studying this campbel debacle. Don’t study too hard. We BCers are an unpredictable lot. You just never know what you are going to get, and how many seats we disseminate during an election.
    Gordon, you are Robin Hood for the rich.
    Shame on you for calling yourself a Liberal! LOL.

  14. AJ says:

    I’m sorry I missed the portion of the CKNW show this morning that related to BC Place Stadium and the new roof! I’m also sorry that they have chosen the replacement host that they continue to have. Michael Smith has not a bad article in the Province Newspaper, but really he has a great voice for a Newspaper. Stay away from a microphone!

  15. Norm Farrell says:

    One thing very different about the blog world is the willingness to allow differing opinions. Statements here are examined and given an audience as long as there is no libel or incivility. Fred is allowed to make the points he apparently believes to be correct. The fact that his views are in the minority didn’t matter, he was allowed free expression. Readers can consider Fred’s ideas and accept or reject them on their merits.

    Now, try that at the Vancouver Sun or Province or pretty much any newspaper or magazine.

    Fred, hang around, comment regularly and engage in dialog. You might change another person’s mind or yours might be changed. That is what true democracy should promote.

    (Response: Sounded to me like Fred’s mind was already made up and he wouldn’t let little things like facts interfere. 🙂 h.o

  16. sunshine coast girl says:

    I agree with Patrick Bell. The MSM has become a joke. No one with half a brain looks to them for informed reporting anymore. What’s really sad is that they apparently still believe they are reporting. If you really want to find out what’s happening you need to go to the internet and blogospere and find out for yourself.

    (Response: The Sun today highlighted a letter from Phil Hockstein, building industry advocate, whining that 12% of funding of anti HST came from unions, who he accused to misspending members’ money. And how much of the pro HST spending is coming from BIG business?? I’d bet a lot more than 12%! Maybe The Sun should look at that? h.o)

  17. Crankypants says:

    Michael Smyth had David Podmore as a guest on CKNW today and did a pretty good job of going after the “on time on budget” mantra. Podmore’s version on the cost escalation from $300+ million to $500+ million was an unfair comparison. His version was that the lower estimate was nothing more than wishful thinking, and the budget should be based on the higher amount because it was based on actual quotes from contractors.

    Then came the on time part of the programme, and apparently on time is based on what one’s definition of on time or completed is. He finally admitted that the stadium would be open for business on schedule, but there will be a lot of finishing work to complete after that.

    Then of course he had to throw out the old factoid that BC Place would be capable of accomodating major league baseball. Well BC Place Stadium was a similar structure to the Huberty Humphrey Dome in Minnesota, where the Minnesota Twins played baseball until they moved into a new stadium this year. Therefore the old roof design was able to accomodate baseball, and in fact had a few pre-season games between Seattle and Toronto. No one attempted to secure a major league franchise since BC Place was opened and I seriously doubt anyone will be chomping at the bit anytime soon.

    The other thing that really irks me about this expenditure is that in an interview Podmore had with Christy Clark earlier this summer, he admitted that the stadium loses money every year. That must warm the cockles in the hearts of all the taxpayers outside the lower mainland.

    Finally, Harvey, I have to congratulate you on getting the attention of the PAB. Once you have the bots contributing their inane comments, you have succeeded in making it into the big time of the blogosphere.

    (Response: Flattered if the PAB follows my little old blog. After all, I’m retired. 🙂 As for wishful thinking budgetting … reminds me that the original budget for Olympic security was $175 million. LOL!! And they wonder why no one believes them … no matter how much the PAB spinners weave their webs. h.o)

  18. Crankypants says:

    The largest single contributor to the FightHST Campaign was the Association of Funeral Directors, $10,000 according to Bill Vander Zalm. Hockstein failed to mention that in his editorial today.

    Ever since the FightHST Initiative started getting traction the Vancouver Sun has featured editorials by Niels Veldhuis, Jock Finlayson, John Winter, Philip Hockstein, Colin Hansen and pretty much anyone else that either stands to gain bigtime from the HST or is a desciple of the Fraser Institute. In that timeframe, the anti-HST side may have had a couple of guest editorials. Now there is balanced reporting. NOT.

    (Response: Apparently NOT. h.o)

  19. Kim says:

    I saw one of Phil Hochstein’s letters to the editor advocating for the tax, so I did a little digging. According to Elections BC, Mr. Hochstein donated $65,548 to the Campbell regime as far back as records took me. Coast Forest Products Assn? $61,700. Digging a little deeper, I saw Mr. Hochstein writing anti union propaganda, and also letters advocating work visa’s for mexicans to come undercut the construction unions. This man is part of the evil behind the throne.

    (Response: He is entitled to his views, and to have his views published. I just wish The Sun was fairer in publishing pros and cons on this and other issues. h.o)

  20. Ruraidh says:

    Given the political vacillation in Victoria and the Public Affairs Bureau, many of us as citizens should reflect on the prescient words of George Orwell, who in 1945, coined the word Newspeak

    Newspeak has come to mean since then, any attempt to restrict disapproved language by a government or other powerful entity. It sort of describes the spin doctoring that emerges from both Ottawa and Victoria.

    So, good readers, in which novel did Orwell coin the phrase ?

    Reflect very carefully.

  21. A Dave says:

    Podmore said the original 350 million budget was “wishful thinking”? Wow that is scary! It’s scary because that is the budget that was approved by the Province’s Treasury Board. I mean, if the Treasury Board are approving budgets of several million dollars based on “wishful thinking” — rather than, say, facts and due diligence — then it’s no wonder the province of BC is in such a financial mess.

    Probably worth noting here that the Frankfurt stadium that has the exact same type of roof we are getting cost a grand total of 200 million dollars CDN (150 Euros) in 2006, and they constructed a whole new stadium.

    On time and on budget? The Vancouver Sun gave Podmore a guest editorial when the new Convention Centre opened — a project he also managed that was more than 100% overbudget. In that editorial he claimed that he SAVED taxpayers around 40 million dollars, because the final total of 800+ million was slightly below the ridiculously inflated fixed-price contract he imposed late in the construction. Apparently, to Podmore, cost overruns of 100% totalling 400 million are good for taxpayers! Of course, this was a guest editorial, so no reporters ever took him to task on this ridiculous claim.

    This guy has now overseen cost overruns of over 600 million dollars on two PAVCO projects, running a combined 80% over budget. With a performance record like that, how on earth does this guy keep his job?

    I dunno, if I was a reporter or news editor, I’d be having a bloody field day right now with all the spending scandals, hidden taxes, privatization schemes and corporate collusion that have been going on under Campbell. Instead, we get stories about gosh golly gee whiz look at just how thick a 90mm cable is…

    (Response: We can only imagine what the media would be doing with all the cost overruns if the NDFP were in government! As for wishful thinking … if he’s right, then once more we were being deceived by government and BC Place officials when they told the public the figure was $325 million. Shouldn’t the media be going after the premier and the minister on that? Can you imagine if this happened anywhere else in the country…or in the U.S.! The media would be all over it. And they wonder why so many no longer trust/respect our news media here. h.o.)

  22. Ruraidh says:

    I do not know whether it happens here but at one time the UK government was a master at hiding funds in one project budget then as an election approached, the funds would mysteriously surface in a new project, garner all sorts of voter interest without once disrupting the total budget.

    This was done by the right and the left of the political spectrum.

    Tell me that we have a far more transparent and accountable system in B.C. Do we?

    (Response: Of course, they shift money around … remember when gaming funds were to go to community groups, health? But didn’t it end up just going into general revenues? It’s not illegal …just changing priorities. 🙂 h.o

  23. Lynn says:

    I believe the novel is 1984.
    As far as the corporate boyfriends of the Liberals party touting budgets and wishful thinking, and the benefits (to them) of the hst I have this to say,
    Me thinks doth protests too much.
    We don’t believe them so they need to lay off with the speeches and non-convincing ads. Or maybe they are trying to convince themselves.
    It aint a lie if you believe it.
    The fall can’t come soon enough.
    Thank you Harvey for keeping us informed, and thank you my fellow readers for also adding info. Freddie, I do hope you keep coming back and sharing. Same with the spelling queen, Tara.

  24. ” …I was able to retire early thanks to my capitalist investments .”

    Attaboy, Harvey. And it looks good on you. 😉 Three cheers for capitalism! Hip hip …

    (Response: Hooray! But of course, that doesn’t mean I like to see just the rich getting richer, while middle and low income earners bear a greater and greater share of the burden. And I can’t stand politicians who lie and deceive, even if they help companies in which I own shares. Guess I’m just a typical Canadian. h.o)

  25. Henri Paul says:

    David in North Burnaby // Aug 11, 2010 at 5:10 am
    Attaboy, Harvey. And it looks good on you. Three cheers for capitalism! Hip hip …
    What an inane comment, David.

  26. patrick bell (Not the MLA) says:

    Bottom line is we’re all better off, both federally and provincially, having minority governments as at least that provides some form of accountability…..

    Because we all know that we can’t count on the MSM to do the digging we had grown accustomed to by the “old bitter socialist reporters” of the past 🙂

    (Response: I wonder what Gregor and Vision think when they see someone call ME a socialist! 🙂 h.o

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