Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dan Lett and the Ivory Cafe

On November 5th, Dan Lett wrote this feel-goodery piece about Kevin Chief, what a great guy he is, and his volunteers who helped him win a provincial MLA seat in Point Douglas. A commenter challenged the validity of Chief's victory. Dan responded:

Behold the wonder of citizen journalism.
Posting under a made up name, or perhaps that is your real name, a number of allegations have been presented as fact.
We did look into the allegations in Pt. Douglas. A poll worker wrongly allowed nine people who did not live in the riding to vote there. That box was sealed. However, let's keep it in perspective. If you take a look at the number of spoiled ballots (reported in official results at Elections Manitoba) and you'll see about two dozen. That's consistent with most ridings.
Then there's the allegation of poll workers telling voters who to vote for. The Tories have filed a complaint with Elections Manitoba but have not offered anyone a witness or other piece of hard evidence to support this allegation. They said there was cheating, they just haven't been able to specify what happened. EM will report back on it.
As for voters without ID, there is a huge problem in the riding with transient population not having ID and not being able to register. Chief's campaign got many of these people ID; whether or not some were turned away because the ID they had was insufficient is something that happens in every riding. And every party shuttles voters to polls on election day with the implicit message that they should vote for the candidate that provided the ride. It's called "getting out the vote." 
I'm glad your passionate about politics. Sorry you guys didn't win. I think you need to find a new hobby. The 9-11 conspiracy folks and the "Birthers" hanging around the Republican party need a researcher like you.


First Dan chides the commenter as a citizen journalist, and then makes fun of his probably-anonymity. He goes into some allegations, and then decides to label his commenter a 9-11 conspiracy theorist, and a “birther”(someone who believes Obama is not actually American and demands to see the “real” birth certificate), ending with a career suggestion of “researcher for the Republican Party.”

I'm just a citizen journalist, so I have no idea what triggered this outrageous display of idiocy from Lett. Perhaps Dan and “teddybaxter” have had it out in previous comment threads. I searched for “teddybaxter” and he certainly is no citizen journalist, just a prolific news commenter-person.

So I left a comment for Dan. In the interest of keeping this post shorter than the Sports section of the Free Press on a Tuesday, I'll omit it. This is Dan's response:

@ Graham - so I'm not allowed to cross swords with people who write inflammatory, derogatory comments? I do that, and I'm disrespectful. You and your cohorts do that, and somehow that's a "new approach to journalism." I read your blog several times each week. I don't agree with everything you say, but I surely don't write blog posts or post on your site and call you names. My point in calling out the "citizen journalists" was to point out that many do not have to live up to any standards of reporting or attribution. It's great to float theories but don't represent them as facts. Challenge the facts, absolutely. 
Go back and read teddybaxter7's posts and tell me you think he represents "citizen journalists" well.

Nobody said you couldn't cross swords. But you did, and in doing so, you exposed yourself for being a rather dull sword in the drawer of Winnipeg jourmanalists. No, you don't leave posts on my site calling me names, but “teddybaxter” didn't call you any name other than your given one (unless it's an alias, some journos do that you know, to remain anonymous?). I alleged that the Free Press was practicing “ostritch journalism,” an allegation I stand behind. Burying your head in the sand ins't a great journalism practice, and quite frankly, it's the reason why people like me exist.

To take at face value anything that Elections Manitoba says, after what happened in 1999 and 12 years of NDP rule, probably doesn't do you any journalism standards credos. I won't get started on how Dan “Stefano Grande” Lett spins Crime Stat to perpetrate the mainstream media insistence that downtown is safe and that crime is all in our heads. Dan's colleagues Mellissa Martin and Bartley Kives both ruled out any possibility of anything actually going on during the 2010 Civic Election in which Ross Eadie claimed he “couldn't have run without the help of the NDP,” a clear violation of election laws. City Clerk Mark Lemoine refused to investigate a formal complaint filed in writing with his office.

After that incident, real citizen journalist Marty Gold was attacked for having eyewitnesses on his show to this incident. In a convoluted way, it ended up with the cancelation of The Great Canadian Talk Show on November 8th of 2010. That is, a show with the approval of local real journalists, James Turner, Kevin Engstrom and Kelly Dehn. I believe you were on that show once or twice, Dan?

TGCTS brought to public attention the string of Magnus Street murders from 2007. The Disraeli expropriations and situation with Eliminator RC were broke I believe, a full two weeks before the Free Press wrote about it. We call that in the citizen journo world “reporting history,” Dan. Marty Gold broke the Gail Glesby story, of ghastly treatment by hospital staff which the Mainstream papers picked up on after the fact, and which Theresa Oswald was forced to address in question period. Don't forget the role bike lanes played in the 2010 Civic Election, all work carried out by citizen journalists, while the Free Press especially rolled their eyes while waiting for something “exciting” to happen in the race.

More ostrich-ism. Through Freedom of Information requests it was revelaed that Dan's boss, Margo Goodhand, was entirely 100% complicit in this cancellation. A show with a 4-year track record of zero complaints filed with RRC, zero complaints filed with the CRTC. But Margo insists that TGCTS host Marty Gold had a platform for daily “attacks” on the WFP, which “escalated to defamation on more than several occasions.” That is, defamation that Margo can provide no proof of, and no examples of, despite there being a 4-year archived history of the show online.

How's that for journalism standards? Shutting down other media outlets? With no reason, no complaints, no lawsuits, no nothing. Oh there was a reason, it was “I don't like you.” It says right in our Charter of Rights that we are entitled to free speech, and a free press! Here is an independent group of journalists, breaking their own news, doing their own coverage, lining up their own interviews. It was too much for Margo Goodhand. We welcome criticism she says, but when it's by citizen journalists, it isn't criticism anymore, it's “attacks,” it has to be stopped.

Now we see the Winnipeg Free Press wants to control the practice of citizen journalism, with their own citizen journalism training program, in conjunction with Margo Goodhand's favourite censors, RRC's CreComm department no less. A program I have been thus far kept entirely out of, despite assurances from some at the Free Press. Not one citizen journalist has been asked to partake in this project that has been given a $400 000 grant, to my knowledge.

Perhaps the Free Press sees it as their job, to “educate” their plentiful “citizen journalist” commenters, by people like Dan Lett. Citizen Journalism exists to fill a vacuum created by mainstream news outlets. They are incapable of criticizing themselves, and interests of the editor and the paper's advertisers ensure some stories get buried, others don't get any coverage at all. That is why citizen journalism can exist and does exist.

But Dan's incredulity didn't stop there. In a response to commenter "sherlock" on his Kevin Chief story he says:

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they are not entitled to their own version of the facts."

Oh but people are entitled to their own version of the facts. Especially if you're the editor of a major newspaper and you want to get rid of some pesky citizen journalists. Margo Goodhand is apparently entitled to this, isn't it a great stalwart of journalism ethics to be entitled to your own version of the facts? Margo invented her own facts, crippling citizen journalism in Winnipeg in the process. She knocked down the station manager, and then went and lied to the National Post, and lied about lying to the National Post. I mean really, she never listened to the show, but there she is whining about how her newspaper gets "attacked" every day of the week?

For the Free Press to attempt to control this community by cranking out their own virgin citizen journo reporters via the Free Press News Cafe as trained by the already-existing journalists at the Free press, they are undermining the entire purpose of blogging and citizen journalism. It is purely self serving. They'll probably get an award out of it somehow.

The track record of existing citizen journalists and bloggers proves exactly why the Free Press has no place “developing” their own vision of it.

Trained by the people at the Ivory Cafe. The ones who take Elections Manitoba at face value, and Crime Stat at face value. The ones who mock their own commenters for asking questions. The ones who take editorial control of the news to spin an Upper Fort Garry apartment into an evil menace. The ones who think they are a cut above and a cut beyond, that they're better than you because they are “trained.” The ones who won't risk their careers to get the truth out, no matter in what highly regard they delude themselves for believing they do so.

The ones who are entitled to make up facts.

So, Dan. What are you going to write about your boss Margo?


Anonymous said...

You should post the original comment in order to add context. I read the article and the comments, and while Dan Lett's reaction was a bit harsh, to be fair the commenter was making some severe unsubstantiated allegations in his post.

RM said...

Good post.

Purple Rod said...

Have you seen Dan Lett's opinion pieces on the Human Rights Museum? You would think Gail Asper is paying his salary!