Of leaks, smears and blogging

Post by Mike Klassen in

3 comments

graph summary barchart January 15-16

This edition of CityCaucus.com's Best of Blog discusses some of the best and worst we've been reading online lately.

If we are to believe our crack network technicians on the ninth floor of CityCaucus Tower, we've attracted approximately 40,000 page views since launching just over a month ago, and well over half of that number in total unique visitors. We are grateful to our readers, who have arrived in numbers far beyond our expectations.

Yesterday we hit a new daily record, nearly 1400 visitors, and over 400 returning visitors, not including all our email digest subscribers. Peanuts perhaps to some bloggers, but to us we think that's healthy traffic for a site talking about Canadian civic affairs. We think the popularity of this and other blogs shows the expanding influence of a new Fifth Estate.

We see the growing trend of bloggers influencing the news we consume. The mainstream media, especially newspapers, are making an effort to keep up with the immediacy of blogging. Most newsdesks, seeing the declining audiences among young people are remaking newspapers and broadcasts to feel more like blogs with space devoted to anonymous comments, inviting email contact and posting supplemental information on their websites.

Blogs might be faster, but rarely are they better written than by an experienced newspaper scribe. This week our best of blog tips its hat to the Vancouver Sun's Vaughn Palmer, Jeff Lee, and Pete McMartin for their more in-depth look at the Olympic Village file, and the spin churned out by Hoggan & Associates and the Mayor's office.

Early this week Palmer linked Vision's Geoff "Mayor" Meggs with the NDP cabal looking to gain political advantage in Victoria with so-called "Olympic cost overruns." Tail wagging the dog, indeed.

Then the sharp-eyed Pete McMartin cast some doubt on Mayor Meggs' Olympic Village numbers, giving local readers a much-needed reality check on a project dubbed a "billion dollar blunder" just a few days earlier.

Jeff Lee's coverage this week of the Olympic Village file has been top notch. The story about Raymond Louie playing chess moves during in-camera meetings is a must-read. We followed his piece up with this.

Vaughn closed out the week with a great column on the fact the city's risk has been public knowledge for nearly a year. CityCaucus.com must take some credit for breaking this news last weekend. Palmer also questions why it took so long (266 days) for Vision City Councillors to raise their concerns:

In that light, you wonder about some of the city council holdovers, those who claim opposition to the guarantee today but didn't do much to ring the alarm bells about it at the time.

Perhaps they didn't understand the financial statements. Perhaps they didn't read them.

As long as they showcase good writing from the likes of Palmer, Lee and McMartin the future of newspapers is assured in the world of YouTube and hand-held devices. Do you think Frank Rich, Chris Hitchens or Maureen Dowd are sweating the presence of blogs? Neither do I.

When it comes to Vancouver civic affairs a few have said to us that blogs like CityCaucus.com and francesbula.com are pushing the Courier's once influential Allen Garr to the sidelines. Admittedly, Allen has a big problem. His foil, Sam Sullivan, is out of politics. Remember what the Joker said to Batman in The Dark Knight? "You complete me."

If regurgitating the words of Mayor Meggs and his PR firm is the best Garr can come up, then the publisher should hand those column inches to someone more deserving. There are plenty of writers here at CityCaucus.com who would jump at the chance to counterbalance The World According to Garr.

Speaking of Frances Bula.com, I must address her careless accusation about Daniel Fontaine posted last night. We've always given props to Frances for her excellent coverage of civic affairs. Her recent attempts to get behind the story of the Olympic Village are laudable. Sometimes, however, we must admit when we're wrong.

Bula "speculated" that Fontaine leaked an in-camera document (an illegal act), and posted on her blog without so much as a phone call to Daniel or her former colleague Jeff Lee (Lee emphatically refutes Bula here). We've been calling for an end to selective media leaks of in-camera documents for the past couple of weeks at CityCaucus.com. It would be just a little rich if we somehow got into the game too.

We may be just lowly bloggers, but we have some responsibility to try and get it right.

3 Comments

Like the post and I am having a lot of fun writing on this subject.
No, Daniel never leaked the reports to me. That would be just TOO close for comfort.
Although you might be wanting to stop the selective leaks, I sure don't. It's a time-honored tradition for foiling bad government.
I say this with a smile on my face. But I am serious, too, that leaks are a sign that normal standards for governance aren't working.
Over the three-plus decades I've been writing, the people who have leaked to me have, with only one exception, done so out of a grander sense of motivation than personal revenge.
So while you might like people to stop filing brown paper envelopes to reporters, understand that most of the time it's because they believe it's the only way to right something they see as being wrong.

"We may be just lowly bloggers, but we have some responsibility to try and get it right"

Ms. Bula "broke" the story about the completion guarantee on the 10th,(before your story of the 11th) on her blog which you evidently frequent.

It was a part of the entry
"Olympic village details: The sequel"
and includes a pdf of a City document from 2008 explaining that the City had given Fortress a completion guarantee.

CityCaucus.com were the ones who "found" the agreement of the Completion Guarantee in the City's annual audited financial statement. Bula assumed in her posts a week last Friday that this was "news" (when Hoggan PR and Gregor announced it) when CityCaucus.com showed it had been on Vancouver.ca for 266 days. Why Vision Vancouver councillors, who raised so many concerns last week, neglected to raise them when the info was public since last April is what we're still trying to answer.

Thanks for keeping us honest.

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