Folks, we very, very rarely do this, but given that we are the subject of today's entire Allen Garr op/ed, we felt that we'd like to give a BIG plug to the Vancouver Courier's marquee columnist/Vancity board member by sharing his column in its entirety. Now, the only caveat we have is that it sounds almost EXACTLY like Gary Mason's column from two weeks back, along with the same accusations.
We're not sure if Garr had the same fireside chat with the Mayor's chief of staff.
Here is Allen Garr's column from today.
Vision errs by giving bloggers attention
By Allen Garr, Vancouver Courier September 24, 2010
The churning in the blogosphere has left the Vancouver mayor's office on its heels. The persistent attacks by bloggers who have filled a vacuum left by an NPA opposition party that is leaderless and adrift have hit their mark.
The stuff they crank out would usually fail to pass muster by conventional journalists' standards. Allegations of wrongdoing are often based on a single unnamed source. Some "confirmed" stories turn out to be totally fictional. And they are usually detailed in a scathing and dismissive tone.
Yet here is what is most amazing: Vision, the best financed and staffed municipal political operation this city has ever seen, has decided to engage--rather than continuing to ignore the shots being taken--giving legitimacy to the bloggers.
Despite two polls that show Vision and Gregor Robertson well ahead of any competition, those around have a case of the jitters. Meanwhile, one of the party's most senior apparatchiks readily admits this has not been a great summer.
That the election campaign is well underway is undeniable. Also a solid fact is the realization that what has become benignly referred to as "social media" is for the first time having a significant impact on the local political agenda.
Little more than 100 years ago, for any group to achieve legitimacy, to be heard and to have influence, it needed access to a good printing press. (Comrade Lenin understood this as he rallied the masses for the Russian revolution.) Now all they need is a cellphone, access to the internet and a blog site to blast out their message.
In the last short decade we have been overwhelmed by the tools to make this happen. It is hard to imagine that Larry Campbell was the first mayor to have a BlackBerry. Sam Sullivan was the first mayor to have his own website for which he paid a political ally named Mike Klassen about $24,000** out of the mayor's fund in untendered contracts.
Mayor Robertson paid about the same and has a few more bells and whistles. You can also tune in to his "tweets," which he sends out far past my bedtime.
All through this period, from Campbell to now, local political blogs began to proliferate. During Sullivan's time there was only one that got any attention. Vancouver Kid was run by Kevin Quinlan who regularly went after the NPA and COPE until he took up residence as Robertson's spinner at city hall.
But with the election of Robertson and the near total collapse of the NPA, the partisan blogging began in earnest.
Klassen joined with Sullivan's former chief of staff Daniel Fontaine to create CityCaucus.com. Their postings seem more like acts of revenge than news stories. And those seldom come close to the take-no-prisoners tone coming from former NPA board member Alex Tsakumis. (There is a Vision guy, Jonathan Ross, who attempts to counter those two with equal petulance but with far less effect.)
In an environment where newsrooms have dwindling resources, CityCaucus.com and Tsakumis get payback on a regular basis. Desperate reporters trolling for stories know they can get documents, a story line and in Klassen's case, he'll even offer a clip. And he doesn't mind at all when he's referred to as "a citizen" or "a parent" rather than a political operator with an axe to grind.
If the reporters bite, and they frequently do-- particularly at Global TV--they get a pat on the back in the next day blog, called brilliant and hard working, or my favourite, "one of the best investigative reporters in British Columbia." Then the bloggers link their work to YouTube, which in turn gives the bloggers more credibility.
Journalists who do their own independent reporting and don't buy the blogging line are denounced as shills for the mayor's office. But the worst sin has been committed by Vision in taking these guys seriously.
- post by Allen Garr
** Once again for the record (as I know serious journalists like to get their facts right unlike us). I was paid $24,000 for 32-months of work, or on average eight to ten hours per month. I also did a number of special projects including internet surveys, and two video productions. The "website" I did for Mayor Sullivan was actually billed at $3500.
My itemized invoices printed in a statement today is over 100 lines long describing the tasks my company did for the work we billed for in over 2 1/2 years.
By comparison FD Element billed $27,500. Their invoice was ONE line long, had NO descriptions of any of the work done for Gregor Robertson, and they billed for THREE MONTHS of work.
As for some of the Vision talking points contained within this column, be sure to read our response to Mason's column (e.g. no media have EVER been referred to as "shills" on CityCaucus.com) which corrected the record on pretty much every accusation.
- post by Mike