The Reporters Missing Question


Media Missed Question for Patient Losing Patience


By Harvey Oberfeld

Keeping it Real…

May 4th, 2014 


There are reporters … and there are reporters.   I think I was in the latter group.

What’s the difference, you wonder?

Well, reporters in the first category ask the obvious questions; get the basics; seek out a comment or a reaction and then put it all together in a hopefully coherent piece that delivers the facts and any  opposing point of view or bits of information.

Those of us in the second category do all the things our colleagues in the first group do …BUT also seek out something a little extra, often informative, occasionally emotional and even amusing to enhance our stories … to not only inform, but also entertain our viewers, readers, listeners.

I like to think I was most often on that second list when I was working … always looking for a little extra piece of info or posing an unusual, unexpected question that added to the perspective  … and even fun … in my stories.

Which brings me to Oscar Nieto, the unfortunate VGH patient on a waiting list for hernia surgery for THREE YEARS!

The story was widely reported in all forms of BC media: a far too long delay in treatment; the affect the injury had on his life; and, how the system had let him down.

Now that the story has hit the fan, his surgery will be “expedited”.

But I would have asked Oscar one more question: how did he vote in the last provincial election????

I believe that would have been a fair question: had he replied “Liberal”, I would have followed up by wondering whether he, therefore, had been getting what he voted for … inadequate health care funding, unacceptable and inexcusable wait times forced on BC voters by a government that is also not only one of that last provinces charging monthly MSP fees to residents … but has been raising those fees higher and higher, year after year after year.

THAT would have made the story even better, even more outrageous, even more of a public eye opener.

And had Oscar replied “NDP” or “Greens” I would have given him a full opportunity to give the Liberals a piece of his mind for failing to adequately fund a whole list of surgeries in this province …and remind those who voted for them that THIS is what we have all reaped.

In other words, either way, take the story beyond one man’s plight to a much wider examination of  Liberal provincial policies, funding …and the human consequences so many are suffering under.

But I’m retired.

So I’ll just give you a few of the facts some reporters DID obtain … showing the AVERAGE wait for hernia surgery in BC is 32.2 weeks (35.8 in Vancouver) compared to 28 weeks in Alberta; 19.1 weeks in New Brunswick; 18.1 weeks in Nova Scotia; and, 15.9 weeks in Ontario.

Get the picture?

Too bad no one (from everything I’ve seen) asked Oscar what he thinks of that!

As well as how he voted.

Harv Oberfeld


  1. Once again I am reminded of the old saying: “The trouble with democracy is that we get the government we deserve.”

  2. Yes … but we’re NOT getting the political reporting we deserve. In a province where politics is so “hot” a topic on almost every level, it’s disappointing to see the dull repartee (with a couple of very notable exceptions) management allows these days to pass as political reporting. h.o.

  3. Harvey:

    You are a likable person, but there is a certain hypocrisy about you !

    On one hand, you claim that the public “doesn’t get” the political reporting that it deserves, and yet. whenever I have posted here on PSR about your own political commentary, you have rarely acknowleged my own postings here on the PSR discussion forum.

    And I have been responding to your columns for over four years now.

    So, it’s really all about YOU and your reporting, isn’t it ? That strikes me as kind of arrogant ? However, on this PSR site, I have noticed a generally apathy and lack of feedback to most political news commentary.

    With the exception of Barkerfan and Open Mike, nobody really gives a damn, here !

    I guess that the people currently working in media are so damn afraid to post here, that their bosses will find out who they are and then FIRE THEM, if they are not too politically correct or don’t tow the company line.

    The whole bloody broadcast media, it seems, has become a collection of PUPPETS, i.e. ass kissers and f*cking losers who will do anything to keep that day job ? LOL

    Therefore, I am giving some thought to leaving this forum, for good, since the overall apathy of the butt kissers and radio/tv people is starting to piss me off ?

    I find that whenever I post on CBC and/or Yahoo discussion forums, it’s quite the opposite. People not only respond to all posts, but there is also a certain idiocy and/or craziness about those who post on CBC and Yahoo, as well.

    The Yahoo political commentaries are typically written by American journalists who can’t spell or write, coherently, and it’s obvious that they don’t really like Canadians, either. LOL

    Americans, generally, have a very poor understanding or appreciation of real Canadians. All the American media understands are Canadians with substance abuse issues like Rob Ford or Justin Bieber.

    With respect to the B.C. media’s handling of hospital wait times, we must remember that most of today’s news reporters are young men and women under 35.

    The trend in today’s news media is to fire the most experienced political reporters, so that only the cheapest of talent remains employed. That talent is always younger, inexperienced reporters, typically just out of BCIT or similar schools and with less than five years experience.

    There is no incentive for experienced “older” reporters to stay with media, because media outlets prefer to hire younger reporters who do less real reporting or else they fire experienced personnel, due to cost.

    Since most of the existing news media are relatively healthy, they couldn’t care less about health issues affecting people over 40 and certainly not about wait lists for surgery.

    Surgury wait times are only issues for old fogies and/or retired broadcasters too old to get out of bed or too long in the tooth to relate to 21st century news media with the usage of social media, twitter and facebook, along with the conventional forms of media.

    Fortunately, I am not that old and am not going to retire anytime soon, as I think that I have many years left in this sordid business.

    As a matter of fact, as you guys “retire,” I am just getting started !

    Not all of us in media have had superstar careers like Lara Logan or Harvey Oberfeld. Many are just ordinary workers, slogging away.

    – HWNN

  4. Of course, I’m a pleasant guy! Even though I believe you have a lot of nerve thinking …almost DEMANDING …that I post replies to your or anyone’s musings. I do not spend my days at the computer; I do not read all the postings put on all the blogs and websites about topics I am also interested in: I have a life … and blogging is my hobby. …no ads, no revenues, actually costs me personally to run it. I do try to comment on EVERY posting on my blog I find of interest and a few others I feel worthy of comment on other sites …but frankly, I think it the height of arrogance for you to think I’m even aware of whatever you post on whatever website … and I couldn’t care less if you stop reading any website …. or my blog.

    Pleasant Harv

  5. The old guy responds!
    I am very much an Oberfeld fan. I don’t agree with what I think are his politics but HWNN, I think he is a GREAT reporter who won’t be around much longer. By that, I mean he is an expensive commodity who will be replaced by junior and cheap talent. We are on the same page in that context. Agreed.
    The old guy has retired now and lives in the Kootenays and NO, I have not taken up the challenges of growing my own and NO, I don’t smoke it either.
    Yes, HWNN, the cynicism on this and other sites absolutely pisses me off.
    The cynicism in the industry pisses me off. But it’s not a new thing.
    When I was a young pup working at the leg, we were in a newser with Vander Zalm very late at night…and that dates me. A cabinet minister told me he (VDZ) had been asked to step aside by cabinet. I asked the Premier about it. He denied it. I asked again. He denied it. I asked a THIRD time. He denied it. It turned out to be, well, check historical records. Brian Lord of CKWX (d) later commented that I was the only one to go after it. (I was indeed, a Socred supporter, but nobody knew that.) The only ones who backed the question were Les Leyne (sp) of the Times-Colonist and Palmer.
    Point being: I asked the question, no one else did…but someone in the media acknowledged it after the fact. I’ve never quite understood that. CKNW swallowed it up and I was a proud young cub. It made The Province as I recall.
    Perhaps the ego gets in the way, I don’t know. But after the years, credibility does…and I recognize that, as I am sure HWNN does.
    Harv has cred. I recognize and appreciate it…although he still pisses me off from time to time, LOL!
    Have a good weekend!

  6. Good morning, J !

    Thank you for that very interesting story about former Premier Vander Zalm. I am aware that you worked at the once mighty ‘NW newsroom (circa 1980’s) and, in those days, Warren Barker only hired the very best in the business.

    I also remember that you once read the 10 pm news on the Western Information Network (WIN) about 25 years ago. It was a network radio newscast that went all over the province and it had a huge audience, as well. I think they called it “BC Tonight”

    You are quite right about Harvey… no one dares question his skills as a reporter. That BCTV newsroom was huge in those days and Harv was one of the all-time greats, especially in the scrums.

    Harv was BCTV’s Parliament Hill correspondent for many years, a plum assignment that only 1 percent of Canadian journalists ever get to do.

    The audience that BCTV commanded in those days was just amazing, and nobody could touch them, for years and years !

    I actually grew up in Vancouver watching Harv on BCTV, so it’s kind of weird arguing with him, here. LOL I regret the misunderstanding, actually.

    I was once a young broadcasting student at BCIT, so I knew that you were a broadcasting instructor, there, as well, and I later worked with people in the business who learned journalism from you at BCIT.

    I’ve heard both good and bad about you, but most of it is good. LOL

    I’m kind of glad that you followed everyone to the new PSR site. I was wondering where the hell you and Harvey went to !

    Well, apparently, the road to hell IS paved with good intentions !

    all the best,


    At BCIT, i studied investigative reporting from Jon Daly, a well known BCTV reporter who had also worked at ‘NW for many years.

    He once told me that Warren Barker was like a father to him.

    Daly was known for his aggressiveness


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