The vast green prairie, the boundless blue sky, Polaris & a Tiger Lily

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ugly, sad, and very very telling

I have received a very few requests (as Leader of our party, and as a candidate pursuing a seat in the Legislature representing the Riding of Biggar) from the media in Saskatchewan during this 27th General Election, but for the most part we have been ignored by the media, particularly by the 2 (actually only 1, as Postmedia owns them both) major newspapers, (however, the smaller regional papers have shown some interest, as has the CBC). Last Tuesday, I responded to an email from one of the reporters for the northernmost outlet, about an interactive election feature they were creating, as a useful tool for the electorate during this election.
During the course of our email thread, he asked "...would I be correct in saying you would like to see Crown corporations abolished...". I responded with "Our party policy does not include abolishing the Crowns...." and offered our argument against the interference of any and all public sector organizations in the private sector (expanded on further here:

He then asked "Are you backing off of a previous position now because it seems to be an unpopular one?". I responded "No. Besides, how can we know if it is unpopular if no one will even discuss it? We take the word of those the media choose to report?..."

I received no further response (until much later) from this journalist. This was on the evening of the 25th of October. I am prepared to release the entire email thread, if there is any interest in the whole truth.

On the evening of the 27th I saw the first referral to our website from this interactive tracker. I went to take a look at what would be sending referrals to us from a newspaper  (which has for the most part ignored our party) website and there I found on their interactive tracker the assertion that the WIP would "Eliminate Crown corporations in favour of allowing private businesses to provide those services in an open market". I snapped a screen shot of this "Business" plank in our Party Platform, and all the other planks on this tracker attributed to the WIP, including the claim that the WIP would "Join with B.C. and Alberta to form a sovereign nation separate from Canada". This last assertion is not and has never been party policy.

This tracker was riddled with errors, including bad data not only about the WIP but the other partys as well (the Greens have only 57 candidates!?). I emailed the journalist (who had not responded since the 25th) pointing out these factual errors, but received no response from him, and did not until the evening of the 28th. In the meantime I emailed the leaders of the Greens, Liberals, and PC's, to let them know about the inaccurate information in this tracker. Only Mr. Lau responded. I cc:'d the reporter (still got no response) but Mr. Lau contacted the City Editor of the the newspaper in Saskatoon, and shortly after that I also contacted that Editor. He did respond immediately to my email, expressing that he would like "correct information only on the website", and the erroneous information was removed almost right away. The tracker also removed the links to all the party websites in the new version. Only after that did I finally receive a response from the reporter, apologizing for the late reply, assuring me the errors would be corrected, and wishing me good luck in my campaign. I did not however see any more referrals from that newspapers new version of the tracker.

What I did see was referrals from the southernmost outlet of the Postmedia newspaper chain, and quite a few of them in fact (again, from an organization that has for the most part ignored our party, big exception here: So I went to their election coverage page and on that page there was a link to the page which contained the interactive tracker (and yes, I snapped a screenshot), the old (riddled with errors) interactive tracker.

Once again I gave the 3 other leaders a heads up, and again, only Mr. Lau responded, letting me know he had been in touch at some length with an editor at this newspaper. I sent their city desk an email urging them to follow the lead of their northernmost outlet. I did not receive (and have yet to receive) any response from the editors of that news outlet, but their reaction was very very telling. They removed the page which showed the interactive tracker almost immediately, and then within hours removed the link to the page (now 404) from their election coverage page. The northernmost outlet at this point also removed from their election coverage page the link to the interactive tracker page. Neither have restored those links or the interactive tracker page at the time I write this. I have to question if there is any plan to restore (what should have been) this very useful tool.

And that is the state of our (major) free press in Saskatchewan. Ignore what you deem ignorable, and don't admit an error and correct it, but just spike the story.

Speaks volumes, doesn't it?

Update: Sometime around 7 PM Saturday (Oct 29th)  the interactive tracker page went back online at both the Postmedia outlets & (be warned, still some bad data in the InfoGrid database) and the links to all 6 party websites are working, but no sign (yet) of links to those interactive tracker pages from either outlets election coverage pages, and neither (yet) has more than 4 parties in their "Election Resources" box on that page. It's not that difficult to add 3 hyperlinks to a webpage.

Another  Update: Just after 12 Noon on Sunday (Oct 30th) the hyperlink to the the interactive tracker page was restored on both outlets, although both point to the same page. However there is still some incorrect information about the other partys.

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