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The best (and worst) comments about Osoyoos Times saga

February 18, 2012 Comments off

As a general rule, I don’t read websites’ comments sections. Generally, they seem to be filled out by writers who just like to see their words on a screen. Debate turns into sniping too quickly, and actual conversation is drowned out by idiots.

In general, though, the more niche an audience or community, the better the comments section. This blog usually appeals to no more than a couple hundred writers. That fact means that the comments section has thus far functioned as certain web utopians think online discussions should: enabling interested parties to engage in a thoughtful discussion and fostering community.

Clearly, though, things go awry when Joe and Jane Public get involved.

Last week, thousands of visitors interested in the Osoyoos Times thing visited this blog. Dozens took the time to comment. Some posts were thoughtful. Others showed emotion. Some drew on personal experience. And others were idiotic, mean-spirited, repetitive or pointless.

For those who didn’t want to wade through all those, I’ve collected a handful of the best comments. Sometime in the near future, I plan to write about what (I think) the whole episode says about, and means to, local B.C. journalists. (I’ll also exerpt Jeff Lee’s comments at that time, instead of below).

Anyways, some half-decent comments:

Anonymous:

I really hope that the RCMP releases this video. If you didn’t do anything wrong then you should have no problem doing as a police officer asks. The whole article that this editor wrote sounds ridiculous. How can he think a breathalyzer test is a ‘traumatizing experience’? His girlfriend in tears and sick?

People like this editor are ridiculous, thinking that the police are out to get them. Sounds like all the Cpl was doing was his job…trying to keep people from driving drunk, who cares if you get pulled over, blow into the machine and go on you merry way. It means the police are precautious and are making sure no one is driving impaired.

This Editor totally abused his power as a writer and a reporter. The video needs to be released.

The whole tone of the editor’s article is amateur.

Fred:

The RCMP Officer was doing his job. Too many people die from drunk drivers every year. In Canada, the latest information suggests that of the 3,045 individuals killed in traffic accidents, 1,239 were the result of drunk driving. On average, that is almost 4 people per day.

The officer does not have to apologize to you. He did not have to kiss your butt just because you were not over the legal limit. Good for you. Everyone that is driving a vehicle should be just the same. Did you want an award for being an ass to an officer that risks his life everyday. Next time you are in need of help in any way I am sure you would call the police. These officers are doing their job and it is great to see. You should do your job and write about something that is more important like drunk drivers and their families that have to cope with the loss. Great story Osoyoos Editor. This story will bring you lots of readers but they are not in your favor.

Greg Irvine:

I was an RCMP member for 28 years and became used to small town newspapers using their publications for their own one sided rants although I must say this one likely takes the cake. I look forward to the retraction from the ‘editor’ and please advise us all out here when the date is set for us all to have a look at the video and see the ‘real story’. I assume Mr. Lacey would have no problem with this…..would he??

Tom Larkin:

“…Connecting the dots to reach an incorrect conclusion is the privilege of the general public and not that of a professional journalist.” It’s reassuring to see so many, non journalists, exercising their inherent right to jump to conclusions and expressing same via their right to freedom of speech. To comment on the issue at hand through the use of hyperbole in support of one’s own paradigm does little to foster credibility for any stated argument. As the axiom goes, “better to remain silent and thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

Anonymous:

The Motor Vehicle Act allows any police officer in BC to stop a vehile to check for three things; check for a valid drivers license, check for valid insurance and to check the sobriety of the driver. For some reason Mr. Lacey thinks a person operating a motor vehicle has to do something wrong before they can be stopped, and goes on to say that this is a free country and not a police state. If Mr. Lacey knew anything he would understand that this only applies in the USA where there must be a violation before a traffic stop can be conducted.


Then Mr. Lacey says that Cpl McLeod did not have reasonable or probable grounds to be conducting an appoved screening device test. Again, if Mr. Lacey knew anything he would understand that an officer only has to have a suspicion of the presence of alcohol in the drivers body, upon determing care and control of the motor vehicle.

Reasonable grounds is not required because the driver is not yet under arrest. The approved screening device allows the officer to move from a suspicion to forming the opinion that the driver has committed an offence under Section 253 (a) of the Criminal Code of Canada. In this instance it would appear that the officer could articulate his suspicion, which is all that is requried. A valid breath sample on average take about 3-5 seconds and requires the subject to blow into the end of a plastic tube while standing roadside, hardly a traumatizing experience.

It is in-appropriate for Mr. Lacey to write his OPINION in a column that may be misunderstood by readers as factual. To tell the true version of events he should perhaps consider telling both sides of the story and have an understanding of the BC Motor Vehicle Act and the Criminal Code of Canada.

[I like that comment, but the last sentence is notable (and irritating) in how it shows how the public sees opinion writing versus news writing. Opinion writing does need to be factual, but it can also be slanted towards one’s opinon, obviously.]

Jack:

Suck it newsie! I hate the media.

Anonymous

Jesus came our debt to pay, Saved our soul in grace one day; So in love we all should live, Ready always to forgive!
WHEN IT SEEMS YOU CAN’T FORGIVE,
REMEMBER HOW MUCH YOU’VE BEEN FORGIVEN!

This is certainly a good lesson to all of us looking in & judging & wanting this mans life to come to ruin from his mistake obviously made! I just hope that he can see what he has done & move onto being a better human being!
Lets face it! we have all made mistakes, some bigger than others, but that is no reason to crusify!

[I’m not a huge Jesus aficionado, but I like the sentiment.]

Tom Larking, again:

I don’t think anyone is saying that this gentleman is unworthy of being forgiven. It really is more of a case of a “stone thrower” getting hit with his own ricocheting rock! The question then becomes, “Did he learn from the experience?” No one is questioning his value as a person. It is more of a case of just identifying to the media that one of their own has acted poorly. Now let’s see as an entitiy whether or not the media can hold themselves to the same standards of behaviour and reporting that they impose on the rest of society. If this reporter has not learned from his experience then he is simply destined to repeat it. Next time, if there is a next time, the cost of the lesson may be more expensive than just embarrassment. No real harm done here, just the red face of embarrasment. I think we have all been there, some of us maybe even more than one. It’s call life. Learn from it and move on.

John Taylor:

I am somewhat confused how someone “wrote the truth”, yet needs to apologise. You don’t apologise for the truth. It is fair to say that if the officer in question had been in the wrong he would not have lost his job; rather, some disciplinary action would have been taken.

Mr Lacey, if he is truly remorseful, should not receive a life sentence for a lapse of judgement. Nobody died here, someone just made a stupid mistake…

And then John and Tom break for some geneology chat:

John: Did you know there is a school in Winnipeg named after your name sake? I went to John Taylor Collegiate in Winnipeg in the early 70’s. Just thought you’d like to know. Cheers..Tom Larkin

Tom: The Taylor family at one time had a plan for total world domination; unfortunately, due to our move to BC, we got distracted by the warmer weather and forgot all about it…

Seriously,it’s interesting you mention that as my grandfather was a schoolmaster in Scotland back before the turn of the century… Taylor was the Singh of the 19th century I think… we were all over the place!

Another great one from a cop:

I’ll have to remain somewhat anonymous, as RCMP members are under scrutiny to not be seen as influencing social media sites… and I’m no spokesperson so I can’t comment on this incident specifically. What I’d like to say though, is the type of service people experience from police is often a reflection on the ‘tone’ of their community. If there is a certain group of people, especially in a smaller town, that sees it as a game to try ‘get away’ with whatever they can – then the police often get pushed into a response-driven method of policing where tickets and enforcement are needed. Basically, because there is no respect for the rules a community expects its citizens to abide by, and the police become a focus for this lack of social skill.

Because that is what we are really talking about… it’s not about driving drunk, or going 10 km/h over the speed limit. It’s about a group of people, your friends and neighbours, participating in a system of laws that are based on their own values. Police don’t make the rules, but as community members we participate in this process as well. The majority of people have decided that impaired driving is a cause worthy of significant penalty. And, courts have decided that some Charter Rights can be bent to accomodate the goal of public safety (Check Stops for example). So, when someone chooses to drive drunk – they are creating a risk, committing an offence, and my job is to stop that from happening. Because that is what the people in my community have asked me to do.

The issue that always bothers me about drunk drivers is their lack of respect. It reveals itself in their hatred for police, and that is just part of the job, but it really bugs me that they feel so disconnected from their community that they risk so much just to ‘stick it to the man’.

Being a safe, sober driver isn’t about complying with ‘big brother’ or police abusing their power. It is about a citizen abusing THEIR power. It is them choosing to disregard their community’s expectations on civil behaviour because of some selfish of immature reason.

it’s the same attitude of people that we go deal with endless noise complaints, whose dogs run free and terrorize the kids, drive their ATV’s in the campground, or who otherwise just don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves.

So… that is where I come in. Because I do give a shit. And I completely expect that in the course of my lawful duties, that this polar opposite in attitudes is going to create conflict. I don’t enjoy the conflict… or dealing with the Public Complaints Commission… but, I sleep quite soundly every night knowing that being fair and professional as a police officer sometimes means some people are going to be unhappy.

But, I think of the other people that I’ve made happier – and it all works out just fine. I don’t often hear from the happier people, but every now and then one of them will let me know I’m doing my job.

So to Mr. Editor, I thank you for letting me and the community know that there is someone doing their job just fine in Osooyos. To each their own in deciding which person they want that comment to refer to.

And somebody points out that the RCMP letter may not cast the writer in the best light either:

The editor was miles out of line for many reasons, most of them noted above – and he should lose his job.

BUT

What about the threat in Supt. Bernoties final sentence: “I look forward to a retraction or correction and to, potentially, facilitating the public’s viewing of this video.” If I said I had a video of you doing something embarrassing that would cause you to lose your job and demanded you do something or I’d make it public, what’s that called

Blackmail. An unprofessional threat at the very least. Is Cst. Julian Assange working in the RCMP media room now?

And why is everyone jumping to the conclusion that the video would be damning of Mr. Lacey? Why not just release the full, unedited video instead of issuing public threats? The Vancouver Police Department set that precedent with the guy smashing the bus window with his skateboard. The RCMP’s version insinuates Lacey was acting like a major twerp in the video – maybe he is, maybe he’s not and the RCMP is calling the kettle black with their own defamatory attack.

In my opinion, this pissing contest is soaking everyone involved – including you and me when we foot the court costs for two defamation lawsuits.

And one of the worst that I really felt the need to address:

RCMP member “Mike” advocates clamping down on free speech:

Don’t write cheques with your mouth that your ass can’t cash. As police officers, we deal with these types of false complaints all of the time from self rightious complainers who believe that they will have the officer fired for their “tramatic event”.

Reality is, the RCMP are being transparent, respectful in their response, and have physical proof of their comments. The so called Jounalist has nothing except for a vomiting g/f witness who I would have no doubt say that she was “tramatized” as well.

I am not saying all police officers are angels but any officer who is attempting to enter into an Impaired Driving Investigation should be applauded, not shamed. Too many times we have to attend MVA,s or Veh/Pedestrian accidents due to a self rightious driver who is better than the cops and “won’t get caught cause they never do”. The general public continue to drink and drive because they do get away with it. Job well done to the RCMP.

To the “jounalist”, speaking of abuse of power, nice job in using a public forum and paper to commit Public Mischief. Yes that is a criminal code charge, so now you may be treated like one. Being in a paper, there are plenty of witnesses. I hope to see your name in the paper next…..in the court readings.

Really? Public mischief? The day something I write gets me charged with public mischief is the day I frame my court summons.

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Should newspapers use RCMP-supplied images and videos?

March 25, 2011 3 comments

I received the following email yesterday. I’ll post in full, then comment below. I’ve bolded certain portions.

There is a video currently live on the Burnaby Now’s website about the arrest by Burnaby RCMP of three suspects in a shooting earlier this week at Royal Oak SkyTrain station. It’s more than three minutes long, and lingers languidly on the blurred faces of the suspects, then follows right up until they’re brought into the cop shop for processing, access we would never get. The video is tagged with the usual driving.ca bumper ad at the beginning, but at no point during the video, or on the webpage presenting the video is it identified as being supplied by the Burnaby RCMP. In fact, the Now prominently links to the video on the front of their website, and tweeted incessantly about it Thursday morning, as if they were bequeathing their readers some sort of journalistic scoop.

An edited version of the same video also appears on the Province’s website, again with no attribution.
The other day, the Vancouver Sun’s website used still photo handouts from the RCMP of the same arrest going down. They were at least labelled as RCMP handouts, although that doesn’t absolve them.

It’s not the first time they’ve used photos identified as RCMP handout.

Of course, request RCMP-supplied photos or video of their officers shooting someone in South Surrey, and you’ll run into a stone wall.

Is this how bankrupt marginal staffing, reduced resources and diminished morale have made us, that we’re willing to accept handouts from the cops that amount to bumpf? Surely editors must see the peril of going down this road of abdicating our responsibility of being an impartial observer of police to ensure they remain accountable? We’re already struggling to cover them as it is, with more forces on digital radio systems that require expensive scanners or negotiations with the department to get access to a one-way radio that allows monitoring. The more we allow the police to control our access to observe and report their work, the more license they’ll take to further restrict our access; instead of keeping us one block from scenes, they’ll keep us back a kilometer and call our editors that they have photos and video they’ll gladly supply. And we wonder why journalists and the publications we work for are losing our audience.

We’re headed down a very dark path…

You can watch the video here, but be warned, it’s pretty boring.

There are a few issues at play here, and I’ll consider them separately.

1. First is the fact that the video isn’t identified as an RCMP video. It should be, for sure, but I have a hard time mustering that much outrage at the fact that it’s not. Indeed, I’m trying to remember if my own paper has identified RCMP-supplied footage as such. I can’t be sure. If we didn’t, we should have; it’s not hard to slide an attribution into the cutline so readers realize that the video was shot by, and for the purposes of, the RCMP.

2. The second issue is juicier.

Should media outlets stand up to the RCMP and declare that we’re not going to use their footage if we don’t get better access? Or should we simply not use footage, period?

That question revolves around whether The Province, Global and CTV get on board. They reach far more people than Burnaby Now or any other community paper. If The Province uses RCMP footage, then griping by a community newspaper journalist is going to fall on deaf ears.

I think the best argument is the one made at the end of the email ((FYI courtesy Kim Magi: email is now unhyphenated in the CP Stylebook); if we rely on RCMP footage, the cops have less reason to allow us near their scenes. Similarly, the better access we get, the less of a need for the RCMP video and images. So right now, they have very little motivation to not be so heavy-handed with photographers. Then there is the fact that, by outsourcing our coverage of breaking news, reporters and photographers become a little more expendable—which is not a good situation.

3. I’m not familiar with the difficulties the letter writer refers to as concerns the monitoring of emergency frequencies, so I’ll take his word for it.

4. There is one more issue: that of quality. The video is not extremely interesting. It certainly is less gripping than a single well-composed still photo would have been. A journalist would have done a better job. But a journalist, of course, would have been threatened with jail had he got that close.

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Why hick towns rock

February 10, 2011 Comments off

Chris Shepherd of In The Koots wrote such a great comment on my last post that I’m just going to repost it here, verbatim:

My first job was in Fort St. James, a logging town of 2,000 people at the end of the highway. I took the job there because nothing else was opening up at the time and I was desperate for work. Frankly, the drive up to the Fort was one of the most bleak in my life. I was leaving friends and family in Vancouver for a complete unknown in Central B.C.

I was sure my career was over before it even started.

How wrong I was. Fort St. James was great for all those freedom-loving reasons you listed, blogger. I was in a one-person newsroom where even the publisher was 45 minutes away down the highway so what I wanted to cover got covered. Yes, there was some rather tedious stuff, but I still managed to make the short list for the 2007 BCYNAs for a series I wrote there.

Small towns can have big stories. This blog has mentioned the great work done by the reporter in Vanderhoof around the murder of a 15-year-old girl is just one example.

While Fort St. James wasn’t my first choice, I knew I wanted to work in the Interior where I hoped the newspaper could play a vital role in the community. I was so cute. So earnest. I wanted to write stories that had a direct connection to the reader. My rationale was that a story about a development, for example, would have less relevance to readers in a large centre like Vancouver (where the development would be across town) compared to a development in a smaller community where everyone reading my story would drive by the proposed project.

Actually, even now that I’m 32-year-old grizzled news hound (ahem), I still feel that way.

I’m sure that idealism will be beaten out of me eventually.

I agree with it all.

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Open thread: the blogger’s copout

December 23, 2010 2 comments

So the holiday season has pretty much started and Christmas is here and, maybe by the time you read this, gone.

I doubt that I’ll have much time to post so I’m opening the phone lines up.

Your topic, if you choose to accept it, is to ruminate on podcasts… Are they a good idea? Would they have an audience? Would you have time to do one? Do you listen to any? Are you afraid of a microphone? What are they good for? Pro/con?

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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.

We’re making inroads into our census of B.C. community newspapers, but there are still a lot of blanks in the Journo-lust Spreadsheet. How many journalists work at your paper? How often do you come out? Who’s your publisher? Participation is free! The benefits unlimited! The exclamation points boundless!

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