More on Teneycke's temper tantrum

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Susan Delacourt of the Toronto Star weighs in on the Sun Media/Avaaz.org dust-up and refers to an issue I noted in a post yesterday. From Delacourt's post:

... Kory Teneycke seemed to have inside knowledge of the fake names on the petition, and thanks to some dogged inquiry by O'Malley and Avaaz, we learn that these fake names were submitted by one person -- either known by Kory or Kory himself.

When Teneycke originally tweeted in response to O'Malley's question he said he'd received the information from an anonymous source. I took that at face value yesterday and merely pointed to the failure of journalistic standards involved in taking a single anonymous report that couldn't be verified and publishing it without qualification. But the timing, the fact that the anonymous source was also the person who sabotaged the petition and the way it conveniently provided ammunition for Teneycke to use made it easy to suspect an inside job. Delacourt rightly points to the problem that would raise.

On this business of how much Teneycke knew about the fake names before writing his column. In journalism, we try (not always successfully) to draw a distinction between commentary, advocacy and activism. Commentary is the usual business of columnists and many journalists, but advocacy is not unusual either. Some pundits feel passionately about some policy issues (the Afghanistan war, poverty reduction, etc.) and wear their cause on their sleeves.

What is forbidden, however, is to create news for the purpose of writing about it, or worse, to promote a cause.

This is where a comparison to Fox News and other right wing American media outlets becomes appropriate. A recent example of the Fox News Channel becoming part of the story would be the Tea Party rallies which FNC actively promoted and then reported on as if they were big news, conveniently inflating the numbers involved by "accidentally" running file footage from different events that involved larger crowds.

Another notorious example is the ACORN controversy. This started when web publisher Andrew Breitbart — with the help of another so-called conservative "activist" — created a phony scandal by running doctored video footage. It was picked up and promoted by other outlets such as Fox News. Along the way, the FNC pundits had a great time complaining that other media outlets were letting their liberal bias show by not giving the story enough prominence. It became a big enough scandal that Congress eliminated ACORN's funding. By the time it became well-established that the videos that got things rolling were part of a manufactured story and had been selectively edited, and that the original reports from Breitbart misrepresented events, it was too late. ACORN has closed its doors.

That's an example of a highly successful operation from the point of view of people like Breitbart and the Fox News crew. Not only did they bring down a notoriously "liberal" organization but they also had lots of opportunity to sneer at the bias of the "lamestream" media. That's how they help to set the agenda. That's how they drag the discourse to the right.

You can count me among those who feel that Sun Media is entitled to whatever kind of broadcast licence the CRTC feels they should have, absent any kind of pressure from the PMO. Kory Teneycke and Brian Lilley are entitled to their points of view even if I think they get everything wrong. They're entitled not only to express themselves but to publish and broadcast their views as long as they're playing by the same rules that govern everyone else.

But they bear watching. In recent weeks I've seen Sun Media promote a couple of stories that looked more than a little artificial. When the individual at the centre of events has a history of sympathy for so-called conservative causes and the facts are conveniently impossible to verify by the time the story is reported it makes me a just a bit suspicious. So here's hoping the rest of the Canadian media establishment will be better at resisting attempts by Teneycke and company to set the agenda, and quicker to hold Sun Media to account when they cross the line. Because the American media has really sucked at that.

H/t to Orwell's Bastard.

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3 Comments

In the title of this post, "More on Teneycke's temper tantrum," you've got a typo, Mister POGGE. You did mean it to read "Moron Teneycke's temper tantrum," didn't you?

Fake news. Fake names. Fake Kory.

And then there's the Swedish media, that part of it that seems to have such happy relations with their justice department. And all the tabloids that hyperventilated along. The British ones are more creative, but the American ones are more dangerous, for obvious reasons.

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This page contains a single entry by pogge published on September 4, 2010 2:51 PM.

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