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Real Webster Awards Story Missed by Media

October 24th, 2009 · 16 Comments

How ironic!  The real significance of this year’s Webster Awards was either missed by most of the media … or deliberately not reported to mislead or deny their readers/listeners and viewers the REAL, FULL, TRUTHFUL story.

Google Webster Awards 2009 and what you will find are mostly snippets: self-serving promotional coverage by media that won awards … naming their own successes and possibly that Bill Good (CTV/CKNW) won the Lifetime Achievement Award (Congratulations, Bill!).

Why not tell the FULL story?  The REAL story? The COMPLETE truth? Lord knows, with all the puffery and utterly useless feature stories they dredge up from elsewhere, they sure have enough space to give complete coverage to local news.

But the days when media did that without fear or favour  are clearly behind us:  it would apparently be too embarrassing for most of our media to do that regarding the 2009 Websters.  

So I’ll do it.

The single most prolific WINNER among the media giants was ….. the CBC:

Best Reporting of the Year: Radio … CBC

Best Reporting of the Year: Television …. CBC

Best Feature Reporting: Radio … CBC

Best Feature Reporting: Television …  CBC

Award for Excellence in Online Journalism … CBC

The truth is the huge private media, now spending MILLIONS OF DOLLARS trying to convince you and the CRTC how devoted they are to local television news and community service … fared miserably.

CTV won ONE reporting/commentary award (out of the 12 available):  for Business, Industry and Economics Reporting; and, Canwest Global won NONE; City TV won NOTHING; CKNW won ZERO.

Of course, judging entries for awards is a highly subjective process: I should know, because for two years after retirement I was a Webster Awards volunteer judge, until I was not invited back this year (could it have been something or everything I’ve said on this blog about the media?   LOL!!).

But I do believe that Jack, who, along with Marjorie Nichols, personally convinced me to leave The Vancouver Sun and join BCTV,  would proud of me.

As for this year’s CBC’s big win, it’s true CBC is subsidized by the taxpayers: but in the past the much higher ratings and advertising revenues of the big private networks allowed them to still do quality investigative work, hire seasoned experienced reporters and  cover issues in depth and with quality questionning.

And in previous years, the big boys and girls on the dial have won awards … lots of them, and well deserved too.

But the fact that they did so miserably this time around deserves consideration … and REPORTING.

Clearly doing more with less, watering down the soup, dishing out instant stories,chasing  press conferences and ambulances is exacting a toll on the quality of what they are offering up.

Is there any walk, march, run for any illness … known or unknown  … that hasn’t been FULLY covered? Is there any ethnic holiday parade, breakfast, lunch or dinner that hasn’t been marked, covered and  celebrated … and called news?  

Is that really serving the vast majority of  local listeners and viewers???

Not very well, according to the Webster Awards judges.   

Harv Oberfeld

Tags: British Columbia · Media

16 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Norman Farrell // Oct 24, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    I flipped on Global TV’s noon “news” Friday, for a moment. The anchor and sportster Squire were watching a pot on a cooktop while a guest gave a short commercial for a fabulous wine that had cigar-y notes.

    Admirably, I missed the opening – probably read about it a day earlier – but advertising fluff as a feature story is typical.

    I didn’t bother to watch Global more than 90 seconds; there was real news to pursue. I found it too. Something about BC Libs giving away hundreds of millions to stimulate gas exploration, after the gas fields were proven.

  • 2 Jean // Oct 24, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    I too watched Randene and Squire cooking up a storm and if it is the same one as NF it went on for about 13 minutes, and it was only about 10 minutes into the ‘no-news’ when they began. I changed channels.
    You state that the ‘Awards” were either missed or deliberately not reported by the media. I’m going with deliberately not reported.

  • 3 Norman Farrell // Oct 24, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    Indeed it was Randene and Squire with the Chef hats. This a perfect example of corporate broadcasters withdrawing from news gathering. It is pernicious and the news hosts themselves should not tolerate the situation, if they consider themselves professionals.

    Yesterday, after hours of examination, I blogged about the outrageous situation in BC’s northeast gas fields. Not much media attention has been paid to the tax giveaways or the pollution risks of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing of vast areas of ground. Media reports about the protest bomber but fails to examine the underlying issues.

    http://northerninsights.blogspot.com/2009/10/oversight-or-undersight.html

  • 4 Crankypants // Oct 25, 2009 at 8:15 am

    Awards presentations are a poor measure of anything no matter what the category. They can represent a superlative endeavor in a particular category, or they can represent the best of a bad lot in a category. They are really nothing more than a feel good excercise. If one is chosen the best of a bad lot, then are they really worthy of an award? My vote is no! Maybe that award should be shelved until someone actually earns it. It may be bad pr, but would sure give said award some validity.

    The newscasts on television seem to be broken down into one quarter news, one quarter advertising and the balance weather, sports, and general drivel. It’s as if the newscats has become nothing more than an hour-long informercial.

    Radio is nothing better as they tend to either dwell on one subject or give cursory attention to a particular story once and never mention it again. If you missed it when first mentioned then you may never hear about it again. As a regular listener to CKNW I’ve also noticed that they seem to have increased their advertising minutes to the point that the show has almost been relegated to nothing more than playing second fiddle to the ads.

    Where did it all go wrong? I believe it has all to do with consolidation. Too many independents have been bought out by the big conglomerates and these conglomerates have neutered their acquisitions. Basically, we are being dumbed down to the lowest common denominator and are not being served well by anyone in the MSM.

    Once the fourth estate becomes compromised, they become irrelevant and their credibility is suspect at best. This serves no one well.

    (Response: I disagree on the usefullness of awards. Having won a few myself, I must admit it felt good just to be nominated ..an acknowledgement by others in the business that my work on a story or series was exceptionally good. Money isn’t the only reward people seek in many jobs. But as I said in the blog, judging is very subjective. As for the news content, I too believe corporate acquisitions have hurt local news and programming (Why oh why couldn’t Canwest have just left the very successful and financially HIGHLY profitable alone!!) … now downplaying locally produced content across the country and replacing too much of it with feed material and one size fits all “national” reports or worse, U.S. “filler”. h.o. 🙁

  • 5 Genuine // Oct 25, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    They have managed to water down this once great and prestigious award just like they did to the news they report,and nobody cares ,just read the comments ,but they still have their hands out looking for a hand out from us,as soon as the crtc lets them get their subsidy from us,the cable subscribers,I’m switching to satellite and will vote with my wallet,because that’s all that works these days.

  • 6 DMJ // Oct 25, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    I do have some family insight with Jack Webster and also had a family interest (long gone now) with local media and all I can say that the grumpy Scott probably would not allowed any awards to be given out.

    Sorry to say, I do not believe the life-time achievement award should have gone where it did, not by the current standard of Brand-X’s morning show. Slow pitches deserve to be struck out.

    As for Brand-X, News 11:30 is now a better product for news.; well at least their web site is constantly updated throughout the day, unlike their competition.

    Vancouver’s media scene is in denial and the pure pap that pretends it is news is disgusting.

    It is very sad to say this, but the Webster Awards has morphed into just another ‘elitist’ award, like the Order of Canada, which has lost its meaning that the originators of the award wanted to convey. It’s now just a media event and nothing more.

    The Webster, like the O.C., like Canada has lost its way; a very sad state of affairs.

  • 7 Genuine // Oct 25, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Seems to me the o c is given to X prime ministers that can avoid jail time and work for paul desmarais,check that out?

  • 8 BC Mary // Oct 25, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Over at my place http://bctrialofbasi-virk.blogspot.com/ I’m trying to describe an almost unbelievable situation … and finding it difficult.

    Please drop by, if you can. And lend a hand, if you can.

    In a nutshell, the issue is HOW TO INFORM THE PUBLIC WHEN THERE’S ALMOST NO MEDIA LEFT, TO INFORM THEM.

    Last week, for the 5 days between October 19-23, there were 5 significant pre-trial hearings in the BC Rail Case.

    We had some clues that this set of hearings was scheduled, especially as it would be the proving ground for the style of the new judge, Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie. There’s tension building that the Basi-Virk trial will actually begin in early January. January 2010, that is.

    Suddenly, access to the online Court schedule was … ‘ow you say in h’English? … screwed up.

    There was a BC Supreme Court listing for October 19, 2009 all right … but … missing was the lengthy segment showing Basi, Virk, Basi (Case #23299). Not a hint of it. Eventually, at about noon, the Basi Virk listing appeared. Clerical error? You be the judge.

    The exact same pattern held true for each of the 5 days. Bill Tieleman was called away, as was Robin Mathews. So only Mark Hume for the BC edition of The Globe and Mail had one column which I’m still puzzling over … it was strangely lack-lustre, unlike Mark Hume.

    Now someone seems to have found out that the AG has a whole new system he wants to launch … the gist of which (I will translate) is that the public should just f.o.

    What would Jack Webster have said. Especially when (did I get this right?) Bill Good won a Lifetime Achievement Award the other evening?
    Sheesh.

    Anyway: to avoid signing off on such a sad note, we’re resolved to write to the AG asking that Courtroom 20 be used for the BC Rail Case. It’s designed for media, with its own TV cameras; the provincial government has its own broadcast channel. Nothing could be cheaper, or easier, or better, than to press the ON button and provide genuine access to everyone in BC who, after all, are the previous owners of BC Rail who still feel just a little bit cheated, as it is.

    Thanks for a doggone good column here today, Harv.

    (Response: I wish I had an answer, but I don’t really. The media should be the voice of the public and the watchdogs over people with power. But clearly that takes a lof time and work: much easier to cover the latest police incident, fire, the weather, a march or run ..followed by fillers. You would think they would be embarrassed that the Toronto-based Globe and Mail is now showing them up so often …but apparently not! h.o.)

  • 9 sue // Oct 25, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Thank you for continuing your journalism work. You may not be getting a paycheck for it anymore but your work is invaluable to many of us.

    I wonder if you have any thoughts on where the CRTC is on all this – do they care – and would you consider putting together a lobby of concerned current and ex-broadcasters to bring the issue to the public.

    When I started in the business (70s, Vancouver) radio fed off the morning news paper, and TV fed off both radio and print for stories for the 6′ oclock. The day print and broadcast merged under the same ownership – and bean counters replaced experienced and sage producers, news and program directors, was the beginning of the end of integrity and broadcasting standards.

    Also we always had a huge cabinet and the first part of the day was going through old files for stories to update. As mentioned by Crankypants, there seems to be zero follow up – not to mention a long litany of other sloppy lazy and just plain ignored coverage.

    (By the way I used to edit your stories at BCTV way back when – you were and remain one of my mentors.)

    (Response: Wow…memories! Great! No idea where CRTC will go …but not optimistic. Even if they meet in the middle, the private networks get something I just don’t feekl they deserve since they keep ALL their advertising revenues. The concentration of ownership and the watering down of quality reporting by the conglomerates is not isolated to Vancouver…it is being carried out across North America. I respect those who MUST still work in the business but acknowledge at least privately how disheartening it is; those I pity and condemn are those sellouts who pretend it’s all fine and call me a Judas for exposing/commenting on it all. But I’m in good company, Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings etc … better than the company they keep. h..o)

  • 10 BC Mary // Oct 25, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    The other side of the coin you just described, Harv, is that the Court could do better. It couldn’t possibly do worse than it did last week.

    When I couldn’t hold it back any longer, I asked right out loud (like that kid who thought the Emperor had no clothes on): is our own super-expensive judicial system trying to blind-side the public? Is our own judicial system just as bad as CanWest media?

    Is there nobody who wants the public to know what happened to their railway?

    And before anyone suggests that BCRail doesn’t matter any more — it does matter. Other priceless public assets have followed it into the crucible. And more will follow.

    Rumour has it right now (watch OPINION 250 Prince George) that big forestry rights are being readied for the same giveaway style as was used to take BC Rail from us.

    It feels like the last chance and the last straw. In recent developments, first the judge is yanked off the case (booted upstairs); then the court system itself begins to withhold information. Obtaining transcripts has been difficult right from the get-go … so what’s left?

    Have you ever seen a landscape like this, Harv? Putting politics aside, do you worry about what’s to become of British Columbia?

    (Response: I worry about not only BC, but Canada. Remember the blog I wrote When Our Leaders Fail Us ..we are in trouble; so is the U.S.; and the corporate run media is making things worse. No wonder fewer vote; young people have turned off; and we get the quality of politicians we do in Canada. But I still hope it WILL turn around some day, when enough people have had enough! h.o.)

  • 11 Norman Farrell // Oct 25, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    But H.O., who would handle the 5 weather updates, webcam views, wine tasting and the cooking segments if news people spent time hanging around court rooms or DFO offices or other places that deal with issues that are soooo complicated?

    (Response: You got me there… and besides, those other things cost money …and private networks reportedly only made $400 Million last year. h.o)

  • 12 Kam L // Oct 25, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    Six o’clock news…. Five minutes news, 55 minutes of giggling, stupid chatter, less then funny statements. With all the news that is happening in BC now, why isn’t there any reporting? Yes, the newsies always say,” We did a story on that”. So what! There is never
    any follow-up at all. Good as a winner, far from that. He sucks up to gordo, tells only one side of the story, and giggles like a school girl to anything he determines is wrong. That’s reporting. Not! Congrats to CBC, at least they try. The rest are ambulance chasers, at best.

    (Response: What! Was there no time on the news for ads? I disagree a bit on Bill Good …yes, sometimes I think he’s too soft ..BUT I do believe he does generally have people speaking to both sides (sometimes three) of an issue. h.o.)

  • 13 Henri Paul // Oct 26, 2009 at 12:13 am

    BC Mary // Oct 25, 2009 at 6:24 pm
    Over at my place http://bctrialofbasi-virk.blogspot.com/ I’m trying to describe an almost unbelievable situation … and finding it difficult.
    Please drop by, if you can. And lend a hand, if you can.
    ——————————————-
    I use to go over to BC Marys blog to assist, although my input was of a minor nature , I did and still do believe in her cause .
    Several days ago, I requested BC Mary to right what I thought was remark in poor taste by a commenter of a another commenter (not me) . I was told in so many words to take a hike,and I have.
    Now BCMary is canvasing for support. Do tell BCMary will GWest have any influence as to who comments will receive the Good house seal of approval before they are accepted to your blog.

  • 14 Norman Farrell // Oct 26, 2009 at 2:38 am

    After reading the other comments more carefully I wish I had dropped the effort to be droll about local news.

    Mary is passionate and dedicated and her issues are vital. The situation at the courthouse regarding BCR is, at best, evidence that the bureaucrats care nothing about accessible justice for all citizens. At worst, justice has been stolen no less than if an armed coup had taken power.

    Today is the anniversary of Orion Hutchinson’s death after his motorcycle was run down by RCMP Cpl. Robinson of YVR fame. Delta PD long ago recommended a charge of Impaired Driving Causing Death. The Attorney General of BC is protecting, for some reason, the RCMP from embarrassment. What is the quid pro quo? Who will ask?

    Sue knows first hand the devolution, as do you, of news gathering in this town. Read through Western Canada’s online broadcaster forums and you quickly get the sense that many young broadcasters are arrogantly disrespectful of the old radio and tv styles. Yet, they are being made obsolete. The industry moves steadily towards a system that removes humans wherever possible. Imagine, we now have “major” radio stations in this town with fewer than four live resident voices scheduled on air. And, that number is headed for zero.

    The CRTC headquarters in Ottawa, still taking three martini lunches and seeing its role as protectors of the monopolies they oversee.

    (Response: If this upsets you …wait till you see my next blog. h.o. )

  • 15 sue // Oct 26, 2009 at 5:51 am

    A bit of an aside here – but some may be interested to know that I’m addressing the issue of ceative ownership (copyright) with one of the monopolies at present. Will be interesting to see if I get any mainstream media coverage if gets as far as court.

    (Response: Good luck! h.o.)

  • 16 Kam Lee // Oct 26, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    “Six o’clock news…. Five minutes news, 55 minutes of giggling, stupid chatter, less then funny statements”, sorry Harv, I forgot to include in that verbal Diarrhea, commercials. in my submission.