Check your sources - how independent media ruled in 2009

Post by Mike Klassen in


Bloggers + fashion industry icons Suzy Menkes, Michael Roberts, Sally Singer & Anna Wintour 

It's a photo taken last September that speaks volumes. Fashion blogger Bryan Boy surrounded by towers of the fashion media biz Anna Wintour and Suzy Menkes. My, how the playing field appears permanently altered by independent voices.

Then there is the voracious little celebrity gossip source called TMZ, which is now deemed a legitimate source for breaking news like the death of Michael Jackson or Tiger Woods' "transgressions", the same transgressions that the mainstream sports media reputedly ignored for years.

While some media outlets have stalled, TMZ has become a runaway success. Last year, it was visited by 10 million people a month and earned revenue of $27 million. It is now one of the top 500 most trafficked websites in the world and is valued at up to $425 million.

On a good day TMZ will get the story way before anyone else. On a not so good day they'll get hooked into a spoof like this week's apparently faked JFK photo.

Throughout 2009 we've wondered to ourselves whether sources like were a part of this shapeshifting media landscape, or resigned to being mere partisan muckrakers, as our critics are wont to describe us. Like TMZ we like to think we get it right most of the time. Unlike TMZ, we'll acknowledge an error, as rare as they might occur.

From the standpoint of Vision Vancouver – both the party and its elected members – we are to be discredited at every turn. Take for example this recent quote from Councillor Andrea Reimer in an email exchange shared with us just last week.

[Regarding] It's my experience that this website often has issues with fact checking, and occasionally with spell checking, so I prefer to use sources that are at least members of the Press Council and/or have some background in journnalism (sic).

It looks like the spell-checking thing is contagious. Reimer of course has had her own experiences with social media, including some unfortunate ones. For someone who went to bat for creating an open source data system for Vancouver, as well as continually working her own networks via Twitter & Facebook, her attacks on our credibility seem positively old fashioned.

The fact that we're not members of the Press Council of BC is a criticism also directed at us by journalist/blogger Frances Bula, who herself has covered the City Hall beat for a over a decade. Bula used the word "blogger" as a pejorative at a recent public dialogue on Vancouver politics. If the Press Council were the weighty check and balance it's made out to be, surely they would have handled more than one complaint in the past three years?

Perhaps what attracts readers to social media is more than its immediacy and convenience. It's the fact that independent media and bloggers eschew the traditional approach taken by the mainstream media (MSM) to get the story. It's known that if you want the scoop from City Hall that you better not challenge the hacks within the Mayor's office or a party official. Not so with us.

Georgia Straight editor Charlie Smith today accused his friends in the media of going to sleep in their coverage of the Vision government, saying:

Vision councillors--if not its park-board politicians--enjoyed a bit of a free ride from some of their friends in the mainstream media. They know who they are. This occurred even though the mayor's office kept Robertson in a bubble most of the time.

Who is this mystery group Smith is trying to shame into better City Hall reportage? Instead of being coy, why doesn't he name names? In today's manner of political reporting readers demand more. Maybe it is time for someone new to step up, as we've argued here before.

If the problem is "restrained" reporting as Smith suggests, then who is better equipped to correct the situation than a newspaper editor?

What would Washington, DC political coverage be like without the Wonkette or Frankly, it would boring, predictable, and possibly more stories would be swept under the rug than there would be without these independent sources.

So it is here. And by working with receptive mainstream media outlets like GlobalTV, CTV, CKNW, CBC, the Vancouver Sun and 24 Hours, we've managed to contribute some needed perspective on civic politics. We're pleased to have been able to highlight stories this year that may have been otherwise ignored, thanks to savvy MSM reporters, producers and researchers who get it.

Like the blogger seated beside Vogue's editor along a Dolce & Gabbana runway, we like providing you a little 'front row' perspective, and we look forward to the possibility of even greater influence of independent voices in 2010.

- post by Mike


My my. The elected Visionistas Vancouver sure are now becoming a sensitive lot, ain't they?

I have never seen such goofiness since... well... COPE majority councils were debating Star Wars in outer space and debating the corporate evils of Walmart instead of focusing upon city issues.

Having supported Gregor, like most everyone else, these guys are becoming a flakey lot.

Sheesh. Only in Vancouver. Hey Mayor Watts - Can you run next time in Vancouver? We really need you.

Okay, Mike. You called me out. I wrote the blog item as a retrospective at the start of the day, and then I moved on to other jobs. I probably should have named names. Which mainstream media people are giving Vision councillors a soft ride? Here's my answer: Allen Garr, Rod Mickleburgh, Rick Cluff, and Frances Bula (when she is part of the MSM writing for the Globe). I haven't noticed a great deal of reporting in the Vancouver Sun about Vancouver City Hall, so I didn't include any Sun reporters on the list. The Sun appeared to have a love affair with the NPA's Peter Ladner, though.

I forgot one other name: Bill Tieleman.

Check out!

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