by Harvey Oberfeld
July 2nd, 2014
It happened last week … and it raises a whole series of very serious questions about whether there is “corporate” interference from Shaw in what “news” gets on the air … or doesn’t … at Global News in Vancouver.
If business types, who have ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with news gathering and reporting, make phone calls or interfere IN ANY WAY to have a legitimate story killed, not covered or twisted to ensure it protects corporate interests … that is a HIGHLY DANGEROUS imposition and intimidation that threatens a precious part of any free society … independent and trustworthy media.
And the silence I’ve received from THREE Global News types … who would/could/should know … and be able to ensure ALL OF US that did NOT happen with a particular story last week, makes me even more uneasy, as both a viewer and a journalist..
It actually all began with a seemingly very simple story … reported FIRST in the Financial Post and followed up and repeated by several other media, including The Province in Vancouver. (If you want to read the entire FP/Province story …click here.)
The Post reported that a growing number of young people, living on their own, are using cell phones only and fewer and fewer are signing up for traditional landline home telephones.
This is certainly no surprise, I’m sure, to anyone who knows anyone between the ages of 21 to 35!
The FP story, however, carried extensive charts and statistics, taken from Statistics Canada … pointing out that, as far as under 35s go, no less than 60 per cent of households have ditched landline phones and use only cell phones.
Certainly an interesting change in our sociological and societal reality, brought on by our younger, mobile and high-tech savvy younger generation … with potential serious impacts on landline phone businesses … like Shaw!!! (Even more interesting in Shaw’s case, because I seem to recall the company at one time was thinking of going into the cellphone marketing … but decided not to venture there … and has stuck to selling only landline phone service. Possibly at BIG corporate mistake in view of the latest data?)
A possible good story, so senior reporter Ted Chernecki was assigned to do the “matcher” and, if possible, move the story forward.
Chernecki is a VERY EXPERIENCED reporter … more than 30 years in the business as a reporter, anchor, producer … and has been at BCTV/Global since 1992. Read his Global bio here.
From what I have gathered, he worked on the story all day and prepared two versions: a teaser to run on the 5 p.m. Early News and a full story to run on the 6 p.m. Newshour.
The Early News version ran on air … and shortly after that … the 6 p.m. Newshour version was pulled and KILLED … not corrected, not enhanced, not expanded, not updated with new breaking info, not delayed and run later …just KILLED.
Now I get REALLY interested! 🙂
Why was the landlines-are-not-selling story dropped?
Was there a call from Shaw HQ or any Shaw official raising a stink about a story exposing the dropping popularity of a product Shaw is actively selling?
Did Chernecki make a mistake in transposing the data? Did the senior reporter and the experienced editor he cut the story with BOTH get things so terribly wrong … bad enough to kill a story that had been worked on all day?
Couldn’t any error have been corrected or edited? Or any “additional information” dealt with in a graphic/clip run outside the story? (Media do that quite often!)
Was the Stats Canada data wrong? If so, does that mean Global News will no longer use Stats Canada on any stories ever again? Or just ban stats it does not like?
And if Chernecki’s info itself was so wrong, taken so out of context, the story had to be killed … did Global run an apology to viewers or correction of whatever bad job had gone to air at 5 pm.?
In my own personal view, and based on my own print, tv and Global-specific experienced background, it stinks!
Stories just don’t get dropped, especially in these days of doing more with less, unless there is really some really grievous errors or major breaking news. Anyone notice anything THAT big?
Perhaps Global News have acquired some statistical expert within the newsroom? I just couldn’t imagine anyone I know there actually watching the Early News at Global and jumping up and saying the story was all wrong! So badly, it could not be corrected for the Six! But yet, not so bad that they didn’t have to run a correction for any mistakes run at 5 !
I became quite concerned that THE WORST had happened: someone from Shaw saw the Early News, didn’t like the story … and made the phone call. (On a landline or cell?)
I know many media watchers these days think that happens all the time …but it DOESN’T! Or HASN’T in the past … at least at BCTV.
I can tell you personally how I myself worked on MANY stories that severely bothered people in power and BCTV advertisers (dirty tricks, Gracie’s finger, government contracts, Woodwards’ firings etc.) and despite LOTS OF PRESSURE, the only admonition we ever received from the big bosses in “carpet city” was that we’d better be right, but if we were, go ahead!
THAT’S what brought BCTV such viewer respect and more than 650,000 viewers a night.
Surely SHAW is also respecting the newsroom’s independence and NOT interfering with “news”!!!
And surely Global News and Shaw officials will be happy and see the importance of assuring ALL THEIR VIEWERS there is NO interference, I thought.
So I left a phone message and e-mail for the reporter, Chernecki; a phone voicemail for Global Vancouver News Director Jeff Bollenbach; and a voicemail message for Shaw’s Communications Manager for Global News, Rishma Govani … informing them about this blog and my concerns about what happened to the Chernecki story on landline phone use falling.
NOT ONE of them responded to any of my inquiries.
Maybe their Shaw landline phone systems aren’t working properly? And ate the messages? All of them?
It’s actually also quite funny …if you think about it … that people IN THE COMMUNICATIONS BUSINESS … who depend so much (in news coverage especially) on people actually returning their calls and answering questions … have NOT responded to my very serious concerns about the integrity of their whole news operation.
I would be happy to give them a forum here for Global News to answer the issues raised and now, I’m sure, of concern also to many of their own viewers.
It’s certainly in the public interest.
If Shaw HQ doesn’t mind.
(PS. In an unrelated move, CKNW’s Philip Till has announced he’s leaving the radio station at the end of July. Will be interesting to see who replaces him!