Petulant, mean-spirited, embedded with blatant bias, personal attacks, juvenile vituperation and hypocrisy. Oh my. Is the Globe and Mail's Gary Mason really talking about CityCaucus.com? Or has someone just had a long briefing from Gregor Robertson's chief of staff?
Now, I can handle the biased part – I mean, at least we're honest about being biased. Our readers do not have to contort their minds to figure out where we stand on the political spectrum. Heck, our About page has it all in black and white for everyone to read. We're bloggers. We. Are. Biased.
But the part about being petulant, mean-spirited, vituperative, juvenile and making personal attacks? Wow, it's a wonder we can sleep at night.
Or is that really an accurate account of what CityCaucus.com is? I'll grant you that our usually amused tone has had its edgy moments, more so in our early days than in recent months. But I'm not exactly convinced what Mason describes, a Webster award-winning journalist, is the writing you're reading now.
For example, Mason suggests that we really have it in for Penny Ballem, whom he describes as "once one of the most respected civil servants in the provincial government":
Every week there seems to be a new post about what a tyrant she is, fed by some disgruntled bureaucrat inside city hall who preferred the old regime.
It's funny that when we released an internal report that showed overwhelming dissatisfaction with senior management and a survey of over 500 employees that it's suddenly the grousing of "some disgruntled bureaucrat". Nice way to characterize hundreds of workers at City Hall, Gary. I can assure you that critics of Penny Ballem do not need our help in spreading the word about her reputation, she's doing that just fine herself.
Mason also takes issue with the fact we've got good sources at City Hall:
[CityCaucus.com have] benefited from the generosity of old friends inside city hall who were only too happy to leak documents or tip them off to problems that would shame the new administration
Funny to think that this would be a criticism of us, when it was Mason who "benefited from the generosity of friends inside city hall" during the 2008 election campaign. It was Mason who reported on a leaked copy of an in-camera document relating to the Olympic Village financing one week before election day, effectively handing the win to Vision Vancouver. So it's okay for Mason apparently to share documents leaked to him illegally by his source, but for some reason we can't also share inside info?
This is another accusation about CityCaucus.com that the evidence just doesn't bear out:
those who write anything remotely complimentary about Vision or the mayor are “shills” and “mouthpieces”
I decided to search our site. As of this afternoon we've got 1,735 posts on CityCaucus.com. In a total of zero posts do we use the word "mouthpiece" in reference to a media person. We have used it twice, once referring to Mayor's aide Kevin Quinlan when he wrote the Vancouver Kid blog, and once in reference to Vision blogger Jonathon Ross. As for calling any media "shills" there was exactly one post where we came close. Those who remember when Allen Garr dubbed Gregor Robertson "Bubble Boy" last year, we saluted him, adding:
We've been hard here on Garr in the past, but it's not because we don't like the curmudgeonly columnist. We think of it as an intervention, to help him save himself from the impulse to shill for Vision.
I realize that searching our site for examples to back up your argument would be a pain, but this criticism certainly doesn't meet with Webster award-winning journalistic standards. Gary also comments that media are duping viewers by having me comment in relation to City Hall stories:
To the uninformed viewer, he is just a guy who believes the city deserves better from its elected officials.
Well, to be honest, I am "just a guy who believes the city deserves better from its elected officials". So on that one, guilty as charged. But remember I'm usually introduced as a "critic" of Vancouver's present government, and "CityCaucus.com" is written under my name when it flashes on the screen. Our About page kind of spells out who we are, Gary. Here's what my bio states:
A veteran of civic, provincial and federal election campaigns for the past three decades, Mike played a pivotal role providing communications and organizational support to the successful 2004 Knowards campaign alongside then City Councillor Sam Sullivan, and twice managed the election campaigns of a provincial cabinet minister, achieving the highest winning margin of any constituency in British Columbia.
You see, I've been regulary involved in politics. Just like Bill Tieleman is when it comes to working with the NDP, Vision or trade unions. Just like SFU prof/former aide to Glen Clark Doug McArthur is when he's roped in to commenting on politics on TV. When you call on us, you're getting the perspective of people who understand politics because they've done it, not just written about it. That perhaps is one reason why people read us as part of their media diet.
Mason can suggest, of course, that our writing somehow corrupts the democratic process, or that by revealing what's really happening on the ground and within city hall we're creating an off-putting atmosphere for potential candidates. But I would argue Mason's charge is unsupportable by any measure. Vancouver, put next to many political jurisdictions is a comparative pillow fight, not a black hole of mudslinging.
If anything sites like CityCaucus.com positively add to the local political dialogue. We do not character assassinate as they do on some websites. We certainly have never even considered putting the addresses of family members of those who criticize us, as a Vision Vancouver blogger did.
We hold our commenters to a high standard as well. No cursing is permitted, nor are smears allowed. Unproven accusations about even those we criticize, when they've been posted, are removed from our comments as soon as we see them. In fact, I would take the comments written on our site by both our supporters and critics over most that I've read on newspaper websites.
Not for one minute would I suggest that Gary Mason is a Vision Vancouver booster. Gary's been in the business too long to fall into the trap of supporting one side over another. But there is a hint of sour grapes in what Mason has written. The fact is that CityCaucus.com is widely read by many in the media, the civil service and the public at large. We've broken many stories, and have defined the issues on more than one occasion.
We've done this not by being obnoxious, rude or over the top. We're influencing the political dialogue by working our butts off and writing every day. We've attracted thousand upon thousands of followers through the web, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube not through gimmicks or financial enticements, but by presenting good content and providing unique analysis. And by doing this we've filled a vacuum.
So instead of running us down with unsupported accusations and Mayor's office spin, my suggestion to the Globe and Mail's Webster award winning columnist is challenge us by getting the stories first. Work those back channels like we do and tell your readers the truth of the issues. Perhaps then we bloggers will be more easy to ignore.
But for the time being, I don't see that happening anytime soon.
- post by Mike