Media watch

At the risk of another round of threats and pitchforks, I can’t resist another little jab at the media over this NB Power thing.

I caught – just about 20 minutes of the Rogers call in show today of course about NB Power.  As before, the bulk of the people calling in wanted to rant and rave.  I guess that’s the reality of a call in show but at the very least shouldn’t the host correct people when they literally spout off complete nonsense?  I am not talking about debating the finer points of the MOU – people were calling in with whoppers and the host never even tried to correct them.

I only heard 20 minutes – so it is possible I got a bad sample but at the very least the journalists and hosts should be knowledgeable about the basic facts of the deal (again the agreed upon facts) and correct people that throw out wild theories.

Even Fox News’ hosts will correct their guests when they are wrong on the facts of an issue.  It seems pretty basic to me.

This is one of the biggest public policy decisions in a generation and it’s a bit sad that we couldn’t elevate the public debate to the merits or not of the deal.  I have to admit I have cut way back on my media consumption of this issue because I don’t see any value to public policy debate from angry people venting.  I know that people want to vent and love platform to do so (I have used this platform on occasion) but is it the role of the media to channel anger?

Maybe some school of journalism will take a look at how the media – all forms including blogs like this – handled this debate.

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12 Responses to Media watch

  1. John Doe says:

    This will sound bad no matter how I put it, but after enough exchanges with people via the internet about this deal, I’ve come to realize that the LOUDEST opponents of this deal are barely literate (pay close attention to the capitalization). I think all should be involved and hear in the democratic process (with the exceptions of individuals who are incarcerated for indictable offenses) but I’m getting very tired of reading opposition statements from people who seem to be third graders hell bent on spouting french resentment. This deal could potentially give New Brunswick future advantages if the proper terms and conditions to control pricing are included, and if we put a tariff on power transmission through the province. An energy toll highway would be an ideal scenario for the transmission lines; if we’re not going to sell power to New England, we should at lease exploit our geographic position.

    I guess my point is that a lot of the picketers and opponents of the deal don’t have the first clue what they are opposing. New Brunswick is one of the most undereducated provinces in the country, if not the most, and I sincerely believe that we’ll continue to be a have not province if we’re unable to either increase the level education of the current population, or begin importing a little gray matter from outside the province. Oppose the deal all you like, but try to center your arguments on more substantive things than “fu%^*ng frenchmem” rants and wacky government conspiracy theories.

  2. mikel says:

    A lot of good points. CBC does good reports, but then the comments are often of the rant variety. I usually try to correct as many as possible, they aren’t as bad as all that.
    Rogers is bad media PERIOD, I’ve known people who work there, who have TRIED to make Rogers a little more professional, but to be honest, I doubt the host had any idea the rants weren’t true and simply is in no position to make any kind of comment. I didn’t hear so can’t comment, but most media I’ve seen has been fairly decent, even the Irvings haven’t been as one sided as I suspected they’d be.
    There aren’t that many NB blogs, and few of note, I point out constantly at Charles Leblanc’s blog that he does a real disservice by posting the video he took of some girl who says NBPower’s debt could be paid off in eight years if Graham stopped ‘robbing it’. That kind of talk simply does no good.
    But again, the anger falls right at Shawn Grahams feet. This is no referendum. I’ve seen the Shakespeare quote stated-“never trust somebody who has broken faith once”, and thats especially accurate in a politician. People are RIGHT to be angry, and unfortunately in our society we have no constructive way to deal with that anger.
    I think its also relevant that I was listening to a psychologist on TVO, and he talks about how ‘knowledge’ is more biological than people think. They’ve done studies and people generally believe facts based on first impressions. What that means is that its virtually impossible for Graham to sell a deal that NBers will accept. The liberal caucus ‘may’, but as for the election….

  3. Anonymous says:

    David, have you actually had access to the details of the second deal? All that I can find is a 1.5 page bullet-point summary with skecthy details; not sure how either the yeahs nor the nays could have an informed opinion since the details are simply not available.

    Regarding the public reaction to the deal, I agree there is ranting and raving but it is wrong to ridicule the general public for this reaction; it is absolutely the fault of government for not keeping the public informed. There has been no data to illustrate that NB Power is “unsustainable”. There has not been a policy platform for the sale of NB Power (in fact only the opposite has been promised). There has been no transparancy on the negotiations. There have been no alternatives or scenerios presented. Under these circumstances, how else do you expect the public to react?

  4. It may be a bad sample but I listen to the Rogers radio call-in shows fairly often, and this is par for the course. If anything, the hosts egg them on.

  5. richard says:

    “Even Fox News’ hosts will correct their guests when they are wrong on the facts of an issue. ”

    If that was true (and its not), Fox hosts would spend all their air time doing corrections. Most of their guests are idiots, brought in by Fox to provide distortions.

    As for the rest of the media, remember that its always easier to go with the flow than try to correct the callers. That just results in a torrent of verbal abuse directed at you. Who would want that? Encouraging the ranters probably builds the ratings, and its all about marketing after all – even at the CBC.

  6. Tom Rivington says:

    More reasonable people on both sides are afraid to be heard, afraid to offend the mob(which comprises both the left and right).

  7. mikel says:

    Some here are over reacting. Like I said, I read all the stories at CBC and most of the comments. While there is definitely ‘anger’, if they are ‘rants’ then they are at least valid rants. And of course David has been ‘ranting’ about the problems in NB for years-sometimes on topics he admits he doesn’t know much about.

    So instead of jumping to conclusions, the same thing those ‘uneducated NBers’ are accused of doing, lets do some research.

    I read the first two pages of comments on the latest NBPower story. NONE were really ‘rants’, one had some erroneous information but one I can’t find the resources to check-anybody know how much debt NBpower HAS paid back in the past five years?

    Some were about party leaders and democracy, in fact the closest to an ‘anger rant’ was this:

    “Shawn Graham and his party are both liars and cowards,they’re selling NB Power when they said they wouldn’t and they’re telling every one in the media that they have consulted with the people of NB when they haven’t.They don’t have the guts to hold any town hall meetings in any of their ridings.They’re a disgrace to themselves and to all the people of NB.To hear their names mentioned begining with Honorable Graham or Keir sickens me.There is no Honor amongst theives or cowards.”

    Now, thats DEFITELY a rant. However, the ‘facts’ in that rant are perfectly true, so that a person is angry shouldn’t be surprising.

    I STRONGLY disagree that NBers are uneducated and stupid. A lot of people blame the way it was brought in, but again, nobody knows the future, so to assume that if people just had the information presented in a different way they’d agree with your view, is a mistake.

    But I have to wonder who exactly these ‘loud’ people are. I know David knows ONE of them, but thats not really indicative. At protests one has to be ‘loud’, and call in shows simply are not geared toward debate. I never watched the show, but I’m thinking no government spokesman would appear who would correct those erroneous comments, which is of course what you want.

    And again, I don’t know the proportion of posts that David is deleting, or whether they are from more than one person, but personal experience shouldn’t be used to make general comments about society.

  8. Rob says:

    I think a real problem now is that MOU 2 is all of 1.5 pages long. In an information vacuum, people will believe almost anything. I could state right now that Point Lepreau is going to be turned over to Iran after Year 5 of the agreement, and who would be any the wiser? I could also say that a guy at Tim Hortons told be that NB will be forced to eat a 25% power increase as soon as the deal is signed. Who really knows?

    People distrust authority these days. We’ve been conditioned to disbelieve any and all advertising, and we’ve been conditioned to distrust anything a politician says. That’s why the first MOU failed. People didn’t trust the advertisements, and people didn’t trust the politicians. In this case, one plus one equalled zero.

    I agree that most people have no idea what financial shape NB Power is in, or how competitive our rates are, or where we’ll be in 2030 if we stay with the status quo. Therefore people are clearly uncomfortable with the way this deal has been sold to them. They don’t believe the ads, they think the politicians are lying (or at least avoiding the question), and they are unconvinced NB Power is in trouble.

    I must agree with mikel though, that people have formed a clear opinion of the sale of NB Power. I can’t see how MOU 2 will change their minds. Unfortunately.

  9. richard says:

    “most people have no idea what financial shape NB Power is in, or how competitive our rates are, or where we’ll be in 2030 if we stay with the status quo.”

    All points that could easily be dealt with by a responsible media. But none, including the CBC have done that job. There have been reports and hints of problems with NP Power for a couple of decades at least, but next to no effort on the part of the media to give significant attention to the story and next to no effort on the part of the public to demand the story.

    “I can’t see how MOU 2 will change their minds. Unfortunately.”

    I think that is correct. From the point of view of the govt, perhaps the best they can hope for is that certain movers and shakers in the No campaign will go for the revised deal, or at least change the tone of their rhetoric.

  10. mikel says:

    Most in the ‘no’ campaign are pretty entrenched, the ‘movers and shakers’ at least at the Grassroots is pretty nonplussed. One lady who started a new organization was a former liberal nominee, so it may even be somewhat personal, so like the conservatives they aren’t going to miss a bit. And again, they SHOULDN”T back down, while its unfortunate that a referendum would have a lot of people simply voting down THIS deal because of Shawn, the ‘status quo’ of this deal is simply not acceptable on any grounds of reasonable democracy-parliamentary or otherwise.

    And again, there’s been a lot more coverage at CBC NOW, so one benefit is that people are paying attention to this issue NOW. When NB Power releases its financials people are paying attention-and starting to criticize what and how they do things. The other benefit is that it makes people ‘responsible’ for the utility. Those are all good things, that hopefully will last. But again, compared to virtually any industry in the world today its far from ‘shaky’. If you want ‘shaky’ look at the US a year ago. CBC covers news, it doesn’t present a ‘point of view’ on the condition of NB Power- and it shouldn’t. It’s pretty obvious when they are asking for a 13% increase in rates that generation is an issue, and that was all covered by the CBC AND Irving.

    I do agree that with only two media there simply can’t be ENOUGH coverage. The CBC website barely puts up one new story a day, and they are far from investigative, but again, they aren’t exactly funded like they used to be.

  11. richard says:

    “When NB Power releases its financials”

    Unfortunately NB Power has never been forced to release many of the details surrounding its operations, so it is very difficult to evaluate its current status from their data. The current EUB does not have the authority to demand that information. That is why Hay and his predecessors have been able to get away with their ‘everything is hunky-dory’ line. McKenna has said NB Power was a problem, Lord apparently tried to sell the utility, now Graham has jumped in. Scattered reports since at least the mid-90s have described some of NB Power’s problems, but there has been little or no consistent media coverage or public discussion. The media and the public have allowed politicians to do nothing.

    “CBC covers news, it doesn’t present a ‘point of view’ on the condition of NB Power”

    I am not sure that is the case wrt this issue. In any event, your suggestion that media just cover news is false. Media create news just by choosing to cover or not cover certain events. Wrt this issue, Robert Jones of the CBC delivered an ‘analysis’ of the NERA report a few weeks ago. He went over the report wrt to the deal but basically ignored the analysis of the status quo. It was a hatchet job – you can’t tell me his POV did not influence his report. To be fair, he should have gone over the part of the NERA report that analyzed the inpact of the status quo on power rates; if he disagreed with their conclusions then he should put up his own numbers and assumptions for comparison. If he wants the glory of being the CBC NB energy guru, then he needs to back it up with some numbers. That’s just one example of the terrible job our media are doing.

    The media have dropped the ball on this one. They have had decades to get out the story. They have failed miserably, and the public has gone along with it. Its impossible to have a rational discussion on any complex issue without good analysis. The public has not demanded that and we certainly have not received it. Without increased transparency and without better data analysis, we are not going to be in a position to make informed decisions, regardless of the mechanism by which decisions are made.

  12. richard says:

    One further point:
    “It’s pretty obvious when they are asking for a 13% increase in rates that generation is an issue”

    That is exactly the problem. Media reports the proposals to increase rates; that generates attention and complaint. But those rate increases are rarely put into context. The result is resistance to rate increases; that becomes the political issue rather than the underlying problem. Terrible coverage and a complacent public – a bad comibination.

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