November Subscription Drive

Dan Rather
Dan Rather

Several readers have pointed me to Dan Rather’s recent Facebook post. Although written in response to the American election results, the same issues hold in Canada:

A lot of you have asked me on this page, what can you do in the wake of this election. It’s a question that seems to be echoing throughout this country. At the same time, I have also heard, and have written myself, about the failure of too much of the press to hold the candidates accountable, the sinkhole of “false equivalence,” the lack of investigative reporting, the vapidity of the cacophonous — and often fact-free — chatter on cable news, the fear that we are entering a post-truth era.

This is all very true and very concerning, but there has also been some wonderful investigative reporting in this election — the Washington Post comes to mind. And there has been smart campaign coverage. There is no shortage of long, thoughtful articles that are worth a read. The problem is that our current journalism business model doesn’t seem to support the better instincts of the press as much as it should.

So if you want to know what you can do, please choose to support the press. If you find a news source you like and you think it is doing a good job, pay for the subscription. This doesn’t just help the bottom line but it is a vote of confidence in the system. Share smart, thoughtful pieces on social media and in emails to your friends. Let’s run up the clicks and views of the best of journalism. Also, I think we can not be passive with our news any longer. If you like what you see, let the publicans and journalists know through all the digital tools at your disposal. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, let them know as well. Or turn it off, refuse to follow the click bait.

The press is a vital partner in our democratic process. It is under incredible strains from a drastically changing media landscape and a potentially hostile in-coming administration. As citizens we should care deeply about this and vow to do something to help.

Please support it if you can.

Click here to purchase a subscription to the Halifax Examiner.


News

1. Convention centre delayed yet again

The Grafton Street Glory Hole. Photo: Halifax Examiner
The Grafton Street Glory Hole. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Nova Centre developer Joe Ramia will turn the convention centre space in the project over to the province next fall, probably in August or September, and it will take a few months more to get the convention centre up and running. A December 2017 opening date is expected.

Trade Centre Limited will make an announcement to that effect later this morning.

It’s hard to keep track of the many delays in the convention centre. In July 2012, TCL announced that construction would start in 2013 and “the official opening of Nova Centre at the end of 2015.” That quietly morphed into January 2016. But in December 2014 Ramia announced that the opening would be delayed to January 2017. Last month, that was moved to the end of June 2017. And now we’re up to December 2017. An announced three-year construction project is taking five years to complete.

I won’t repeat everything I wrote in October about these delays, when I listed the damage done under the categories reputational value, hotel, promotion money, downtown businesses, ugly, and due diligence. On that last, I wrote:

In the case of the convention centre, however, the due diligence wasn’t so extensive that it identified Ramia’s shortcomings as a potential problem. There’s another word that’s often bandied about by bullshitters — “capacity,” meaning roughly “ability to get the job done.” I don’t know why Ramia can’t complete his project on time — whether it has something to do with a lack of construction management skills or if he doesn’t have proper financing — but evidently the due diligencers didn’t identify Ramia’s “capacity” as a problem.

This makes me wonder what else the supposed due diligence missed. Like, say, the entire business case for the convention centre.

Honestly, there was no more strident convention centre critic than myself, but even I thought they could construct the building in a timely fashion. The two-year delay in opening suggests to me that probably every other aspect of the convention centre — projected convention and delegate counts, forecasted economic impact, expected property tax revenues, etc. — is a load of horse shit as well.

I don’t have a complete list of booked conventions that will be affected by the latest delay, but my working list contains the following conventions:

August 14-17: Knowledge Discovery, Data Mining, and Data Science Research (KDD)

August 23-27: International Society for Pharmacoepidemiology

September 8-9: International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

September 17-20: Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE)

October 23-27: Society for Marine Mammalogy

You’ll recall that on March 9, 2015, TCL issued a press release celebrating the KDD convention, which said that the convention placed Halifax among the big league cities that have previously hosted KDD: Sydney (Australia), New York, Beijing, and Paris.

Yesterday, I emailed Stan Matwin, the Dal researcher who is organizing the KDD convention, asking for comment; he responded via email just now, at 9am:

Tim, I know about this [delay] from my TCL contacts. My comment is that I am obviously very disappointed, and I am not  even sure how a 6-month delay is even possible in a trade such as congress facilities development. But rather than dwell on the negative, I am very focused on working with the dedicated and professional TCL staff on Plan B, ie hosting  KDD 2017 in the existing facilities.

I feel for Matwin, and what else can he say, really?

I do wonder, however: if all the booked conventions can be housed in the existing convention centre — which appears to be the case — did we really need to build a new one?

Construction of the hotel above the convention centre is nowhere near completion, and an operator of the hotel has not been announced. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Construction of the hotel above the convention centre is nowhere near completion, and an operator of the hotel has not been announced. Photo: Halifax Examiner

By the way, my source on the latest delay had no new information on the hotel part of the Nova Centre project. I guess Ramia has a bit more time to find a hotel operator, but it seems to me that even a year is pushing it for a hotel operator to sign a contract, get additional design features built, furnish the hotel, hire staff, and get it up and running. We’ll see, I guess.

Back in May, I asked the Society for Marine Mammalogy how they could book a convention at the new convention centre when there was no hotel above the thing. Organizer Hilary Moors-Murphy told me that SMM’s “contract with the convention center and local hotels was negotiated by our event coordinators, Experient… my understanding is that we have a contract with the Nova Center, and separate contracts with local hotels (six of them).” Make of that what you will; I read it as that even in May, Experient knew that the new hotel wouldn’t be ready when the rest of the Nova Centre opens.

2. Teachers

“The province and its 9,300 teachers have agreed to get back to the bargaining table,” reports Francis Campbell for Local Xpress:

The union was contacted by conciliation officer Jarrod Baboushkin Thursday morning after the Education Department delivered its request.

[…]

But an agreement to meet with the conciliator and the Education Department does not affect the union’s situation concerning impending job action, the union president said.

3. CTV’s ethical failure

1

Wednesday, I wrote that CBC was blowing the $250,000 the province spent on the “send a Christmas tree to Boston” thing all out of proportion. I see the money as small potatoes compared to the $1.8 million the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism spent on US tourism marketing in the 2014/15 fiscal year. (Incidentally, 2015/16 year-end financial statements for the newly created crown corporation dubbed Tourism Nova Scotia, which were supposed to be released in July, still haven’t been published.)

But I did overlook one important aspect of CBC’s report: the $25,000 that the province paid to CTV to cover the Christmas tree.

Here is part of the sales package prepared by someone (their name is redacted in the documents) at CTV:

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-9-14-24-am

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-9-15-44-am

This is not a simple advertising deal. This is an explicit deal to sell news coverage. Evidently the producers of the evening and morning news shows agreed to the deal, and Cindy Day and Steve Murphy knew, or should have known, that they were being paid by a government agency for their reporting.

Steve Murphy
Steve Murphy

In a word, this is outrageous. It violates every rule of journalistic integrity and independence. How can we trust anything Steve Murphy or CTV reports about the provincial government when their pay is in part dependent on the very same provincial government? Moreover, the payment was secret: so far as I can determine, there was no public disclosure on CTV’s part that its tree coverage was purchased, or by whom.

It begs the question: What other news stories has the government purchased from CTV?

Again, this goes far beyond advertising, or even advertorial. CTV, Cindy Day, and Steve Murphy need to explain themselves to the public.

So, I overlooked the most important part of CBC’s story on the Christmas tree, but in my defence, that’s partly because CBC framed it as a government spending story and not a story about journalistic ethics.

4. Conquered people

“Nova Scotia’s premier is distancing himself from a government legal brief that implied members of a First Nation band are a conquered people,” reports the Canadian Press:

The brief was presented as part of the government’s case in an appeal of its approval of a plan by Alton Gas to store natural gas in salt caverns near the Shubenacadie River.

In the appeal hearing that wrapped up Tuesday before the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, the Indian Brook band argued that the province had a duty to consult it on the project.

The government brief says the Crown’s obligation to consult extended only to “unconquered people,” and that the band’s submission to the Crown in 1760 negated its claim of sovereignty and negated government’s constitutional duty to consult.

Premier Stephen McNeil, who is also minister of aboriginal affairs, says the government’s intent was to show in court that it did consult with the band.

But McNeil says the brief went “way beyond where it needed to go” and he is looking for an explanation from the Justice Department.

This is the same premier who wasn’t able to show up for Treaty Day, so there’s that.

5. Techsplaining

Again, I’m running out of time… but I’ve asked Glen Greenwald and Edward Snowden to comment on my comments about airport wifi yesterday, and comments on my comments. If they respond, I’ll have a bunch of metacommenting in this space on Monday.


Views

1. Margaret’s Justice

Margaret’s Justice. Photo: Stephen Archibald
Margaret’s Justice. Photo: Stephen Archibald

“Last Saturday we attended a very special family christening down on Digby Neck,” writes Stephen Archibald:

It was not for some sweet, gurgling babe but celebrated my great great great grandmother, Margaret Davis, who died in 1858, age 94. Actually it was a new ferry that was being christened, named Margaret’s Justice in honour of my ancestor.

[…]

And why did my ancestor get honoured? Christiana Margaret Davis was born in New York State in 1764 and both her husband and father fought for the British during the American Revolution. As Loyalists they left the states, spent hard times in Shelburne and eventually were among the earliest settlers on Brier Island. Our first stop was a visit to her grave. Margaret’s husband Ethel died in 1801 from an industrial accident (he fell from a mast), leaving her with seven children.

Margaret’s legend really happened in 1828 when an unpleasant man named Hatch disputed her claim to a large chunk of land. The matter could not be settled locally so Margaret walked through the woods to Halifax, along the informal roads of those days. In Halifax she pleaded her case with Governor Sir James Kemp who said there, there and issued a grant for the lands she claimed. We assume that the 64 year old, having received justice, walked home with a lighter step. Stories of strong women standing up for their rights seem to resonate these days. (The name was suggested by local high school student Carter Thurber).

2. Gaetan Dugas

Rand Gaynor's photo of Gaetan Dugas.
Rand Gaynor’s photo of Gaetan Dugas.

In an essay in The Coast,  Evelyn C. White writes of Randy Shilts, her former colleague at the San Francisco Chronicle who in 1987 wrote the ground-breaking investigative book on AIDs, And The Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic.

In the book, Shilts popularized the notion of “Patient Zero,” a gay Canadian flight attendant named Gaetan Dugas who was mistakenly believed to be the single person who spread AIDS across North America. Recent research shows that “Patient Zero” was created through a series of cascading errors, and that AIDS was present in New York and San Francisco long before Dugas was on the scene.

White goes on to explain that Degas once lived in Halifax:

Halifax resident Rand Gaynor holds a special place in the Patient Zero saga. An artist and owner of the downtown shop Drala Books and Gifts, Gaynor was among a group of local gay men who socialized with Dugas in the 1970s. At the time, Air Canada based many flight personnel in the city, he says. 


“We townies were in complete awe of glamourous flight stewards like Gaetan,” says Gaynor, 67. “We’d congregate in people’s homes and have drinks with them before heading out to gay dance clubs. 


“They wore beautiful clothes from Barcelona, London or Paris,” he adds. “We shopped at Mark’s Work Wearhouse.” 


Gaynor says that Dugas exuded a magnetic charm. “Gaetan was nice, worldly and very cute,” he says. “It was no surprise that he got laid all the time.”  

Gaynor took a photo of Dugas that he sold to Life Magazine, and there’s still more to that story at the link.


Government

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

“Health Service Research to Improve Patient Outcomes” (9am, Theatre D, Tupper Building) — Rescheduled from yesterday, and with a location change, David Parker, from the West Virginia University, gives his CRC Candidate talk.

The War on Drugs (12:10 pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Alejandro Madrazo Lajous of the Drug Policy Program, Centre for Research and Teaching in Economics, Mexico, will speak on, “the Constitutional Costs of the War on Drugs: Lessons from Mexico.” There’s free food beforehand, over in Room 312.

El Jones. Photo: Halifax Examiner
El Jones. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Feminist Seminar Series (12:30pm, Room 2021, Marion McCain Building) — Examiner contributor and prisoner advocate El Jones will speak on “Prison Abolition in Poetry.”

Specificity in Theatre (1pm, Studio Two, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — Philip Aiken, director of the Obsidian Theatre, will speak.

Origin of Life (1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226) — André M. Beauchemin, from the University of Ottawa, will speak on “New Reactivity Using Unusual Isocyanates/ Studies on Potential Roles of Carbohydrates in Origin-of-Life Chemistry.”

The Post-Slave Condition in Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative (3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Adrian Knapp will discuss his pre-circulated paper.

Global Ocean Health (7pm, Ondaatje Hall, Marion McCain Building) — Ben Halpern, from UC Santa Barbara, will lead a discussion on “Causes and Consequences of Changes in Global Ocean Health.”


In the harbour

Friday
5am: NYK Nebula, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Rotterdam
7am: Arcadia Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Portbury, England
7:15am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre
10:45am: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
4pm: Fritz Reuter, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Lisbon, Portugal
5:30pm: NYK Nebula, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
8pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container,sails from Pier 42 for St. John’s
9pm:  Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England

Saturday
11:30am: Fritz Reuter, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Mariel, Cuba
2pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 36 for Saint-Pierre


Footnotes

I had a six-hour long meeting yesterday. It was about important stuff I can’t tell you about just yet, but it kept me from answering emails, returning your calls, and so forth.

The Examineradio podcast will be published this afternoon on the homepage, and/or you can hear it on CKDU, 88.1 FM, at 4:30pm.

Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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19 Comments

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  1. Re: CTV News ethics

    Now that I know CTV news coverage can be sponsored (ie bought) it very much troubles me that it is not presented as such. How on earth can we the viewers tell if what we are watching is a genuine news piece or a piece which is paid for? In absence of disclosure one must assume all content could be sponsored.

    1. Exactly.

      Presenting news in ways that do not offend advertisers mentioned in it has always been an Achilles heel of all commercial news. From what I know, actually offering to slant it for cash from advertisers or the government is a new trustworthiness low.

  2. Re. CTV’s ethical failure

    Any slender association between CTV and ethics ended in 2008 with the infamous Stephane Dion interview.

    I am not a Liberal supporter and opposition leader Dion lost the subsequent election against Stephen Harper for many reasons quite apart from what CTV did to him that day, which was crude and most unprofessional.

    I worked in television production and watched many an interview being shot. Occasionally the interviewee has commenced an answer, then perhaps stuttered a word or found his answer drifting off topic and requested a retake, which was always granted out of professional respect. The interviewer would repeat the question, as though it was the first time and the interviewee would respond with a well spoken, clear answer. In edit, the flubbed take(s) would be cut, and the result would be a the best possible exchange on an issue of interest between intelligent people. Dion’s minders would have expected that. After all it was standard industry practice.

    Murphy could not failed to have noticed that English was not Dion’s first language. This man was the Leader of the Opposition, a lawyer of some international repute, the guy who crafted the Clarity Act after the 1996 Quebec referendum. Clearly he was no fool.

    At one point during the interview Murphy asked him a tortuous question with changing tenses that would test Lawrence Olivier’s command of English. Dion attempted an answer, then stopped, wondering if he understood the question and asked Murphy to clarify and retake. He was trying to make an honest effort to address a confusing question. Murphy agreed. This happened a few times. Ignoring standard industry practice, CTV news boss Mike Duffy (yes, THAT Mike Duffy who would later be awarded a Senate seat by a grateful Harper) aired the piece in its entirety – just before an election – with the risible excuse that it was “in the public interest”. This was the result…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrliDQs1Jps

    In my mind Dion was deliberately made to look like a feckless idiot. The Conservative propaganda machine exploited that impression mercilessly.

    I blame Murphy for a poorly expressed question on a legitimate issue, but it was Duffy who saw the partisan attack value and ran with it. Nobody at CTV stopped him. In fact CTV continued to defend this disgraceful piece even as the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council found their broadcast of it had breached ethical standards.

    http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/273432

    So does it shock and surprise me that they may be guilty of other ethical lapses like marketing their broadcast ‘personalities’ to flog favorable news stories for cash? Well, no.

    For me they shed their ethics in 2008, if not before. I’ve avoided their news since.

    As for the McNeil government, the value they place on the creation and broadcast of partisan propaganda is illustrated by how they created a job for long time pro-Liberal Chronicle Herald journalist Marilla Stephenson and also installed ex-CBC journalist Laurie Graham. Both are currently paid by the public, at least until McNeil drops the writ. We are likely already seeing the fruits of their labor in this government’s dispute with teachers – and I’m sure they have added far more to McNeil’s propaganda arsenal in case things turn nastier. In this they are following Harper’s playbook.

    After all, in politics, perception is everything, right?

    1. I expect a person seeking the office of Prime Minister to have the ability to answer a tortuous question. I think most Canadian voters would have the same expectation.
      The more egregious example of media manipulation is the ‘ Robert Stanfield drops the football’ story. The photo which ran in print media across the country was the 13th shot and the press published it because they liked the incorrect narrative that he was a bumbler and Trudeau was suave, hip and just the man for the job.

      1. A tortuous question in one’s mother tongue perhaps – Canada does have two official languages. Had Monsieur Dion been asked in French he would have easily answered. I wonder how many bilingual PMs could answer a tortuous question asked in French. And most of all, how many people who watched that interview understood the question. I work as an interpretor therefore I feel extremely qualified in judging how ”comprehensible” the question was. Had I had to translate it simultaneously, I would have had a hard time, and I am a good interpetor.

      2. I expect most people seeking the office of Prime Minister to find a devious way to avoid answering a question they didn’t like and instead answer one that wasn’t asked. To his credit, Dion made a genuine effort to answer the question. Perhaps in hindsight his mistake was not asking Murphy to clarify what he was asking rather than allow him to blather on with the same badly constructed question. In any event, all of that is irrelevant.

        What CTV, Murphy and Duffy did to Dion was unprofessional and unetthical, and their industry standards organization said so. My point is that this is proof that CTV News will dump any pretense at ethics if the need arises.

        The Examiner article that appears to show them selling news coverage with a spin chosen and paid for by the McNeil government is just the latest example.

        1. I’m reading this edition a bit late but, for what it’s worth, I did want to thank the Halifax Examiner commenters for fleshing out Tim’s stories with additional background from clearly informed perspectives. I avoid CTV because I have a vague sense of their untrustworthiness. Now I remember how I developed this impression.

  3. Sure, Nova Centre is a crock but what’s new? It’s the new norm – late and over budget.
    Remember Ship of Theseus?

  4. Re: Dan Rather – my god.

    There was a comment made recently by the guy making fake news for Facebook consumption. His take was that people are getting dumber. Understatement of the year. Here’s some of that wonderful reporting from the Washington Post. A paper owned by the guy who owns Amazon. Do the math.

    http://harpers.org/archive/2016/11/swat-team-2/

    1. Harper’s Magazine readers will appreciate the irony of Dan Rather using the Washington Post as an example of good, wonderful even, journalism during the election campaign. Thomas Frank, in his excellent cover article from the November issue, uses the Post as an example of how the mainstream media undermined Bernie Sanders campaign from the word go. The article is not available free online; I stopped by the Central Library to read it earlier this week.

      1. The article was available online free for me through the above link. Doubly ironic the comment about sharing only good things on Facebook.

    2. I had a Dan Rather experience years ago. Many years ago before he became “a suit” on the often phoney program 60 Minutes, Rather was a good on the ground journalist. When I was an investigative journalist at the CBC I was excited to be able to go to a big journalism convention in the US where Rather was the keynote speaker. I thought I might really learn some things. Well he started off fine but then, speaking to many of the top investigative journalists in North America, his main message was that our journalism should be “deep and down the middle.” I’m not kidding. Some of us started laughing to ourselves. Obviously, the hard-nosed journalist who had broken many stories in Texan when he was a youngster was much different now that he was a multi-millionaire personality.

  5. Marriott and Starwood have/are merging, so the two largest hotel companies are now the largest hotel company. I’d wager their teams of new-properties bean counters are too busy a) merging, b) dealing with existing projects and c) trying to cancel duplicate projects, to worry about d) responding to an unsolicited plea to run a property in an already saturated market.

  6. You can add Hal-Con to your list of conventions that were supposed to be in the new convention centre – Sept. 22-24, 2017

  7. Hal-Con 2017 is booked for September 22nd-24th. That’s a pretty significant booking, and they had been kicked out of their earlier timing in the end of October / beginning of November because of issues related to the move and other convention timings, at least as I understood informally.