If longtime readers conclude that my least favourite group is politicians, they would be making a decision based on the many disparaging posts I write, directed at all politicians of all stripes, who I have characterized as largely self-serving, mostly incompetent and always selfishly looking after their own political interest."Yellow journalism, in short, is biased opinion masquerading as objective fact. Moreover, the practice of yellow journalism involved sensationalism, distorted stories, and misleading images...."
But that conclusion would be faulty, because it is in fact dishonest and self-serving reporters that rankles my sensibilities far worse than politicians, who cannot always be blamed for their ineptitude because in most instances, they haven't got the smarts or skills to do their job effectively.
The Press however, and more specifically those reporters who cover the politicians, are generally smarter and better trained at their jobs than the politicians they cover (and they revel in that fact), but are generally more devious, cynical and just as dishonest.
Therein lies my utter disdain and disrespect.
Reporters are a smug, sanctimonious and self-important lot and because they have the power to build up or destroy, they develop a superior and haughty complex shared only with those occupying the benches of our courts.
And like judges they are generally impervious to attack, hiding behind cloak of confidentiality like a thirteen year-old pimply faced video game maven, using a 'Shield of Invulnerability,' picked up on level six.
It befalls editors to insure that reporters using anonymous sources do so ethically and honestly. Readers will note that the information that anonymous sources provide is almost always impossible to second source and the decision to print or air a story based on one anonymous source becomes a question of integrity, something sorely lacking in the competitive world of journalism.
A veteran editor once told me, that to a reporter, a scoop is like heroin to an addict, impossible to resist under even the most dubious circumstances.
One of the more sinister aspects to these anonymous-based stories, is when the reporter is given inside information to leak, in an underhanded manoeuvre to circulate a story (usually negative) that will give the source or his political party an advantage.
The reporter and editor must weigh whether being used by the leaker to further a political goal is less important than the public's right to know, and readers, you know where the decision will fall, clearly on the side of heroin.
The third and most ominous aspect to quoting an anonymous sources, is when a biased reporter uses the information to help or hinder a politician or political party.
While we demand that reporters act ethically and impartially, it is seldom the case.
Look at those reporters like Pierre Duchesne of Radio-Canada who magically transformed himself into a PQ separatist politician soon after he gave up the supposed impartial world of reporting.
And do not think this is exclusively a Radio-Canada/ Parti Quebecois phenomenon.
Let us remember Senator Mike Duffy who jumped into his Conservative senate seat directly from his nationally televised, afternoon political interview show on CTV and Peter Kent another high profile English television news personality who went from a news anchor's chair straight into the cabinet.
These type of journalists are the ones I absolutely loathe, they feign impartiality, while subtlety influencing the stories they produce on air.
Which brings me to the hatchet job on Jean Charest unloaded last week by Radio-Canada journalist Alain Gravel.
It was a classic case of the third example I described above, of a reporter attempting to politically injure a politician, when it hurts the most, that is, during an election campaign.
Let me start with the story that Mr. Gravel and his flunky Marie-Maude Denis presented to the public.
Very briefly, it is a tale about an SQ investigation of a union leader they suspected of being corrupt.
The day after a televised report by that same Alain Gravel about alleged corruption of another union boss, the SQ decided to follow one of his colleagues, to see where he went and who he met with.
It was plain and simple a fishing expedition.
When it comes to crime detection it seems that the SQ is the last to know.
You can watch the Radio-Canada report HERE in French.
The undercover officers were following the suspect around town, when in the afternoon, he attended a political function in a hotel in Montreal where a gaggle of politicians both federal and provincial, were meeting with native leaders, including Jean Charest.
The target of the investigation was seen exchanging pleasantries with Mr Charest for between thirty seconds or two minutes (depending on who you believe) and minutes later the officer in charge of the operation terminated the surveillance abruptly.
That readers is the whole story.
Everything else that comes after is rank speculation by Mr. Gravel or the leakers, who were some of those police officers involved with the surveillance and who were peeved that the operation was called off.
In fact one of the officers speculated that the officer in charge called off the operation because he panicked seeing the subject meet Mr. Charest.
|"The officer in charge of the operation simply panicked when he saw the suspect meet Mr. Charest and decided to call of the surveillance."|
Now look at the Radio-Canada headline about the incident.
|"Surveillance of an ex-directer of the FTQ Construction called off after a meeting with Mr. Charest"|
If you didn't go on to read the story, you would likely assume that Mr. Charest had ordered the surveillance to be called off in a meeting.
Accident or design?
"The gist of the radio-Canada report on the incident intimated that there was some sort of political interference that brought the investigation to a close, an allegation that a furious Charest denied.
"Premier Jean Charest found himself in denial mode Thursday after a Radio-Canada report suggested that he arranged for the plug to be pulled on a police investigation of a Liberal supporter named Eddy Brandone in 2009." LinkAnd so readers, that is how to run a textbook smear operation!
Touché and congratulations Mr. Gravel, mission accomplished!
Perhaps UQAM should offer Mr. Gravel a guest lectureship in yellow journalism in their communications program entitled "How to destroy federalists through activist journalism."
Readers might ask themselves why these police officers waited until now, over three years after the incident occurred, to leak a story that happened in May, 2009.
Can anybody come to any conclusion other than it was to hurt Mr. Charest politically during an election campaign?
Did Mr. Gravel and his team not understand or care that they were being played or were they overjoyed to massage and distort a story to hurt the Premier during this critical period?
And by the way, the reason for halting the surveillance is easily explainable.
The officer in charge probably did panic, his unit was on a fishing expedition which paddled into some dangerous waters.
You don't spy on the Premier of Quebec without a damn good reason and one can easily see how prejudicial it would be if it got out that the SQ was watching the Premier surreptitiously.
Now Mr, Gravel should know what every one else in high places knows, that is, that the SQ isn't controlled by anyone, they are a force unto themselves.
The SQ may not be particularly competent, but it is incredibly powerful.
It is to my knowledge, the only state or provincial police force in North America that actually has veto power over which politician will be chosen by the Premier to be the Public Security Minister, the direct political minder of the SQ.
The SQ is fiercely independent and the idea that a Premier can call up the SQ boss and tell him to nix an investigation is complete and utter fantasy.
The SQ does on occasion act to protect the government or politicians, it is part of its mandate.
A couple of years ago, when the SQ became aware, through wiretaps, that the stripper daughter of the then Justice Minister Marc Bellemare was associating with alleged dope dealers, they informed the Minister in order that he head off trouble.
Was that a conflict or were they acting diligently?
Lost in all this is the fact that if we accept Mr. Gravel's intimation that Mr. Charest somehow influenced the SQ to curb a criminal investigation, then the SQ is a corrupt organization all the way down to officers controlling surveillance operations.
It's worse than trash journalism, it's activist journalism, meant to manipulate public perception in favour of separatists.