Home > Ethics > Press Council gets new chair

Press Council gets new chair

December 11, 2010

This is a couple days old but it’s not like I’m in the news business or anything.

NEWS RELEASE

The B.C. Press Council will have a new chair and two new directors in 2011.

Vern Slaney, of Parksville, will become the sixth person to lead the Press Council since it was formed in 1983. He succeeds Jack Whittaker, of Osoyoos, who remains a board member.

Mr. Slaney was appointed as a public member to the Press Council in 2006 and has served as treasurer. Now retired, Mr. Slaney spent 30 years in the metal distribution business. He is a board member of the Vancouver Island Health Authority and Chair of the B.C. Automobile Association’s Traffic Safety Foundation.

Prince George lawyer Kerri Fisher and Kevin Laird, editorial director for Black Press, Vancouver Island, are new directors. They succeed Lee Ongman, Prince George, and Glenn Mitchell, editor of the Vernon Morning News.

Vivian Tran, public member from Vancouver, was elected vice-chair and Tim Shoults, publisher of the Kamloops Daily News, treasurer.

The Press Council board of directors is made up of six public and five industry members with the chair mandated to be from the public side.

In its 27 year history, the Press Council has handled 906 complaints and held 57 hearings.

Although the press council doesn’t really do much, I was initially curious about how a metal distributor gets on there. The second last paragraph takes care of that, however, so my curiosity turned to Tran, the “public member from Vancouver.”

Here’s a story from a 2008 press council newsletter when Tran first joined the board:

NEW DIRECTOR
Vivian Tran brings younger dimension to Press Council

In a move making it more representative of the population, the B.C. Press Council has welcomed its youngest-ever director. She is Vivian Tran, of Vancouver, and she joins the council as a public member.

Vivian speaks four languages, English, French Cantonese and Mandarin, and has a Master of International Affairs degree from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carlton University and a Bachelor of Arts from UBC. She won scholarships at both universities. Vivian was a teaching assistant while attending Carlton and an intern at the British High Commission office in Ottawa.

She was a participant in the Ottawa round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations: a Model World Trade Organization
(WTO) Ministerial on the Doha Development Round in 2007 and contributed to the report Financing the Millennium Development Goals: Exploring the Prospects of an International Consensus, presented at the International Development Research Center, Ottawa, in 2005.

Press Council Chair Jack Whittaker said it is important that the Council be representative of population demographics. “Directors have felt for some time now that there was a need for a younger person to join the Board in order that this segment of society is better represented,” Mr. Whittaker said.

I like youth, so this is a good thing. I wonder, though, how exactly one gets onto this press council. Maybe if I was an editor or a “public member” I would be personally contacted and informed how I could apply. It’s also possible that there is an application form online that I have been unable to find.

Other than that, I don’t care about the B.C. Press Council and I’m not sure exactly whether I care about the fact that I don’t care about the Press Council. What do you think? Leave a comment, dammit.

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Have I made an error? It wouldn’t be the first time. Leave a comment and I’ll duly update the post.

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  1. December 11, 2010 at 10:38 am

    If you’re a reporter, you should definitely care about the Press Council — it’s one of the reasons there isn’t government regulation of the press.

    Press Councils were formed across Canada in the early 1980s, primarily in response to the Kent Commission, which had recommended some form of government oversight of print media. They allow individuals, organizations and even governments to make formal complaints against member newspapers for breaches of the Council’s code of ethics without resorting to the expense and more limited scope of the court system. Member newspapers who are the subject of complaints are compelled to respond to the complainant and, if the matter is not settled by mediation, can be taken to a hearing and are required to publish its findings.

    Almost every newspaper in BC (and so far one online-only organization, the Okanagan site Castanet) is a member of the BC Press Council and sustains it by paying dues and providing representatives to serve on the Council. Public members, generally representing a cross-section of the province by geography, always constitute a majority of members of the board and the chair is always a public member. Public members apply to join the board as vacancies arise (the openings are advertised publicly in member newspapers) and are chosen by the board based on their demonstrated capacity for leadership in a variety of fields.

    Over the years, the BC Press Council has held hearings on some very high-profile issues concerning journalism in BC, including a case where the Government of BC made a complaint against the Black Press group of for directing its newspapers to run editorials opposing the Nisga’a Treaty. While there have been relatively fewer formal hearings in recent years, the Council deals with dozens of cases each year that are resolved by mediation and hundreds more complaints that do not even need to go that far. The fact that the Council is quiet does not mean it is ineffective.

    I hope you would agree that self-regulation of the press, while certainly imperfect, is much less disturbing than the concept of government regulation. The recent example of media outlets being dragged before Human Rights Tribunals shows what that could look like.

    Hope this helps.

    Tim Shoults (DISCLOSURE: As noted in the posting above, I am an industry representative on the BC Press Council.)

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