So you think you pay attention to what’s going on in BC? Close attention?
Well, tell me WHO, on Dec 24, suggested BC schools are very, very safe places because testing of 1% of all BC students for Covid revealed a positivity rate of only .07% … and then said “This is the reason we haven’t closed the schools.”
Premier John Horgan? Health Minister Adrian Dix? Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside? Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry?
Whoever you chose … you were wrong.
Those words … including the reason “we” haven’t closed the schools …were spoken by a BC news reporter.
From a REPORTER referring to a GOVERNMENT action, lack of action, policy or decision.
What the hell’s going on, I wondered?
Shouldn’t it be “THEY” when a journalist refers to GOVERNMENT?
Perhaps just a slip? Maybe it was a collective “we” … as in referring to BC, the province, its people, its society?
But then on Dec 30, I also heard a BC reporter, talking about 800 individuals who had tested Covid positive and were asked to quarantine, but couldn’t be traced/found 14 days later to check again their status, say this: “We knew who they were when they were tested, but after 14 days, they had moved on or didn’t want to be contacted”.
“WE” knew who they were???? I sure didn’t know who they were; I doubt you, my readers, knew who they were; and the reporter didn’t know who they were either!
So again, why “WE”?
Again, it looked to me like the reporter referring to the BC government as “we”?
“We” should all be alarmed!
This is happening far too often in BC: “REPORTERS” are sounding/acting more and more like government spokespersons, like bureaucrats, like cheerleaders.
Rather than hard-nosed, cynical challengers of power and privilege … demanding the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth … for the “people”.
And the implications of this in a free society should be of GREAT concern for all of of us.
The “questioning” of government officials (elected and appointed) is now so weak, so tepid, British Columbians are losing one of our most precious freedoms: a vibrant, truly informative, inquisitive and demanding PRESS, that acts not just as a messenger from government TO the people but even more importantly, FROM the people TO government.
And nowhere was the FAILURE of the latter more evident than last week’s total mishandling by the BC government and Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry of the New Year’s Eve alcohol sales fiasco.
Did Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Public Health Officer Dr. Henry not know that New Year’s Eve comes every Dec 31st?
Were they unaware … or just oblivious … to the realities that hundreds of thousands British Columbians PLAN well ahead, make SPECIAL reservations to wine/dine out, responsibly, late that night; that tens of thousands of BC restaurants and dining rooms across the province ORDER millions of dollars of SPECIAL perishable entrees, meats, seafoods, dairy products, cakes, desserts and confections just for that occasion; and that hundreds of thousands of servers RELY on the higher tips that night (based on higher alcohol-inflated total bills) to boost what has been a terrible year for their incomes?
The BC government really screwed up its handling of this most-important year-end event.
Whenever the spread of Covid and rising numbers/severity has required cutbacks, British Columbians have understood and co-operated. No problem … with most of us.
BUT the TIMING of Dr. Henry’s Order, just the day before New Year’s Eve, to announce the shut down of ALL alcohol sales around the province at 8 p.m. New Year’s Eve was insensitive, inconsiderate and inexcusable.
It arguably could have even helped spread Covid by forcing so many people to rush out/line up last minute at grocery outlets, delis, bakeries, liquor stores to make alternative plans/arrangements after Dr. Henry’s shoot from the lip late Order hit the fan!
MANY people who were affected were outraged! MANY businesses, already struggling, were shafted. MANY servers, already badly hurting, were robbed.
And yet, the “questioning” by BC’s media at the Henry/Dix subsequent press conference was tepid, to put in generously. Just give us a clip … any clip. Thanks.
In response, the “spin” was in …that there had been “hints” this was coming (NO!!) and it was only for that one night, yada, yada, yada … and no “reporter” challenged what I believed was Dr. Henry’s inadequate response or pushed hard enough on the issue of the announcement’s TIMING and the terrible impact on so many.
Again, the issue wasn’t so much whether the shutdown was necessary, how could Dr. Henry and Dix not let all those who would be impacted know at least a week or two in advance????
I believe making the announcement so late, impacting so many was inexcusable, a bad gaffe inflicting unnecessary suffering on so many innocent, rule-abiding British Columbians .
Just think of the heat Dr. Henry and Dix … and even Horgan … would have and should have faced on this timing fiasco if notable journalists like Clem Chapple was still asking questions, or John Gibbs, John Daly, Russ Froese or yes, Harv O, or if pundits of the rank of Jack Webster, Marjorie Nichols, Gary Bannerman or Rafe Mair were holding the government’s feet to the fire!
BC’s media today is too complacent … too often sounding like government messengers, or some would even say, propagandists.
And that’s reflected in not only the daily “reporting”, but also in radio interviews, town hall broadcasts and most pundits’ commentaries.
Hasn’t anyone else noticed how little detail the government is releasing on exactly who (teachers, students, staff, administrators?) is affected when Covid has broken out at schools? How brief and restricted their government-controlled “press conferences” are: one question and only one follow-up …with the government, not a press gallery executive member, choosing who even is allowed to pose questions?
British Columbia is SUFFERING from a dearth of tough reporters, asking tough questions, challenging real power and expressing the real concerns and EMOTIONS of their readers, listeners, viewers.
This FAILURE is hurting BC … not just at the provincial political level, but also at regional, municipal government, park board, school board, land development, and corporate dealings levels … all around the province.
And the FAULT goes well beyond the reporters themselves.
I blame newsroom management … too many of whom are either so inexperienced, so incompetent or just so lazy, they let their reporters get away with such lackluster questioning.
Imagine how the powerhouses who built BCTV’s Newshour to 650,000 daily viewers … News Director Cameron Bell and Assignment Editor Keith Bradbury … would react to the level of today’s reporting and questioning!!!
BC needs a RENAISSANCE in reporting in 2021!
Time to kick ass again! For the sake of the people.
And it could be done. There is hope!
Over the past year, I have heard from several BC news colleagues at EVERY level (reporters, producers, technical staff, even managers) who tell me how bad it has become at so many news outlets … and urge me to keep up the fight for improvement.
They WANT to make it better; they WANT to do REAL journalism; they WANT to have tough questions asked and tough issues pushed … but face complacency and even resistance from those in management around above them … as well as those out on the beat.
British Columbians deserve better… and it’s my New Year’s wish that 2021 will see that happen.
If the people demand it!
(Following publication of this piece, I was interviewed by Talk Digital Network on this topic. https://www.howestreet.com/2021/01/canadian-tv-news-manipulated-or-incompetent-harvey-oberfeld/ or https://youtu.be/LUTkMzHma9o )
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