Truth Be Told
By Ian Paulson
(WINDSOR, ON) – There has been a newly revised “Principles for Ethical Journalism” released by the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ). In a preamble to an online article by the Chair of the panel tasked by the CAJ to bring the ethics principles up to date, Shauna Snow-Capparelli asked three leading questions.
Wondering if it’s OK to take a previously “published” photo off Facebook to run with your story? Unsure whether you should “friend” your sources? Or thinking about how much verification you need when finding sources online? (J-Source,ca, 10 May 2011)
I’m wondering if anyone at the Windsor Star has asked themselves those questions. At the very least, have any of the editors, or maybe the publisher, Marty Beneteau, ever taken the time to consider if the writers are maintaining the CAJ’s ethical standards. I mean you wouldn’t catch Beneteau on the receiving end of an Al Maghnieh bar tab, would you?
WE ARE INDEPENDENT AND TRANSPARENT
We don’t accept or solicit gifts or favours from those we might cover. (Principles for Ethical Journalism, CAJ Website)
Let’s take Doug Schmidt, for example.
In an apparently late night entry on Facebook, Doug Schmidt asked some questions that The Square has been asking for quite some time.
if you don’t understand the need for a business case before you proceed with a new city hall (or anything else that would cost millions in taxpayer dollars), then read the city’s report explaining it (or ask questions of those who have answers) … reading the reports and asking the questions is something i’d expect of anyone who puts their name forward to represent me and other citizens on council or any local board; (and it’s 18 city parks over 9 years) (Doug Schmidt, Facebook)
So where, exactly, are Schmidt’s questions about the $76 million aquatic center that is being constructed without so much as a business plan or a market study? He’s awfully silent in the pages of the Star about it, but can chastise someone on Facebook for questioning City Hall about the decision to close parks.
Schmidt’s articles are like watching a car accident. I know it’s cliché, but you just can’t avert your eyes; which is good for the Star, but bad for Doug Schmidt’s reputation.
In a 20 June article Schmidt failed to ask “those who have answers” how Red Bull organizers could clearly exaggerate the benefits of the Air Race event.
Windsor co-hosted with Detroit in 2009 and then flew solo as host in 2010, with the province committing to a two-year, $10-million Windsor sponsorship for the “Formula One of the sky.”
Organizers estimate up to a billion race fans tuned in to follow the 2010 action over the Detroit River. (D Schmidt, Windsor Star, 20 June 2012)
A “BILLION” viewers? Really? Was Paul Godfrey’s recent visit to Windsor made to inform Beneteau that the budget for fact checkers at the Star was being cut? Schmidt’s articles – as well as his colleagues’ – are full of non-facts, errors in judgment, and illogical assumptions.
I guess anything is fair game, including the truth, when propping up a failed mayor and useless council is at stake. It seems like Marty Beneteau prefers to publish regurgitated political blather instead of realty-based journalism.
Let’s take Craig Pearson, for example.
An innocuous story about how the City of Windsor is making a 75-year-old man cut the grass in the ditch in front of his house. On 21 June 2012, Pearson described the astonishment the man felt when he received a compliance order from the City. Pretty cut and dried; poor home owner, bad city. However, one day later, Pearson writes a column with Eddie Francis stepping as the hero.
The City of Windsor made a mistake by issuing some home owners must-mow orders for ditches next to their properties on Cabana Road, according to Mayor Eddie Francis.
“The city screwed up,” Francis acknowledged Thursday. “When I saw the story in the paper today, I thought, something doesn’t add up here.” (C Pearson, Windsor Star, 22 June 2012)
The “City” screwed up and Eddie saves the day for the home-owner.
Francis said what happened is someone called 311 to complain about the weeds and an order was issued, mistakenly, to the adjacent property owner. (C Pearson, Windsor Star, 22 June 2012)
In a typically clouded response, Edgar used some vague wording so that readers, rightly or wrongly, apply their own definitions.
First off he tries to blame 311 for the misinformation when in reality the operators are highly trained to provide only the information provided to them from their supervisors and the City. Orders are not issued by 311 but by the appropriate department; Bylaw Enforcement in this case. In fact, the City’s director of operations, Mike Palanacki, admitted that the bylaw specifies that the home-owner is responsible for cutting the ditches.
6.1 Requirement to Maintain
Every owner of property shall ensure that the untravelled portion of highway abutting their property be kept free of refuse and shall ensure that grass and ground cover is trimmed or cut to a height of 31 centimetres (12 inches) or less and shall ensure that weeds are removed or destroyed.
(As an aside, the “untravelled portion of highway abutting” a home owner’s property is also an alley. But that’s a whole other article.)
Secondly, by use of the term “adjacent”, Eddie Francis may be contravening the Privacy Act by disclosing the source of the complainant. But he has a reputation for being indiscreet.
Windsor city officials are publicly clamoring for information on the proposed access road, but Natarelli said provincial officials will not directly engage Mayor Eddie Francis or other city officials, who have a track record of not respecting confidential information and using the local press to try to ramp up the pressure on provincial politicians. (American Consulate cable to US Department of Transportation, 10 January 2008)
And when a Parks Department supervisor has stated on a number of occasions that the City is getting out of the grass cutting business, and that the City is not interested in taking business away from private contractors, then what Edgar should be saying is not “The City screwed up,” but rather “We” screwed up; we, as in the mayor and council, as if our so-called leaders can be separated from their over-sight responsibilities. It is obvious that this is one such case where services are being cut and the home owner is footing the bill.
What other surprises are there for tax payers? Pearson fails to ask the questions that need asking. Maybe Schmidt will ask them “of those who have answers” especially in light of the conflicting statements provided by Francis and Palanacki. There never was an amendment to the bylaw, but did Pearson verify what Palanacki said? Obviously not. Do you wonder what other examples there are where the City can add costs to a home owner’s property tax invoice?
Let’s take Chris Vander Doelen, for example.
Every time I read a CVD column, and it is less and less often recently, I play a little game called “Dog or No Dog”. Vegas will no longer give odds on whether his articles will turn out to be a dog as, inevitably, each contribution to Paul Godfrey’s publication is as soiled as a puppy’s training paper.
In yet another fact-challenged column, CVD does his best sycophantic boot licking while trying to justify closing neighbourhood amenities and reducing services. Vander Doelen tries to defend City Council’s decision to close and/or sell-off parks.
So why do it? To save taxpayers the cost of cutting the grass and the even higher costs of replacing outdated playground equipment which is now illegal.
Selling these lonely tracts for redevelopment might eventually even generate up to $500,000 more per year in new property taxes, which would be nice.
Maybe things will be different this year. This city council seems to do a lot of things previous councils wouldn’t do, besides just balancing the books.
The city should sell off a few dozen of its 211 parks, which is too many for a city its size.
In fact Windsor has 267 ha (660 acres) more than generally accepted planning standards require for its population. (C Vander Doelen, Windsor Star, 19 June 2012)
There is so much wrong with Vander Doelen’s assumptions that it’s difficult to understand just how this got past the editors; unless the budget for that was cut, too.
To suggest that Windsor has too much green space is rich coming from a guy that lives in a woodlot in Harrow. As he goes on to explain in his article, a number of the parks are very small in size and only being maintained in order to employ grass cutters. That’s a pretty broad assumption. Where is the fact in that statement? Would he prefer the land was left to grow into weeds (they also have to be cut according to the bylaw).
He also suggests that the parks can be sold off to induce more tax revenue. That’s hardly going to happen any time soon in a city that has seen only 16 housing starts in March of this year (according to CMHC) and thousands of residents have already left for greener grass elsewhere.
CVD’s use of the words “might” generate more taxes and “maybe” things will be different, are designed to disguise that his sycophantic assumptions are not based on fact.
It is interesting that other cities are embracing the challenge to not only develop existing parks into accessible and inclusive neighbourhood amenities, but to add green space (like the City of Buffalo) for many reasons including to attract and entice more residents.
The City of Toronto welcome those residents with disabilities to the parks, not close the parks down.
21) Improve the promotion of City parks, trails and natural areas and the ways and means they are accessible by: a) indicating where they are located b) describing how accessible they are c) listing what recreational opportunities are available to people with disabilities at each location d) providing information about slopes, grades, materials used for surfaces and washroom locations e) using symbols rather than words where possible in promotional material. (City of Toronto website)
The City of Kingston is going ahead with improvements to parks, not reducing amenities for residents.
Recent improvements to Richardson Beach have been aimed at enhancing the enjoyment of this scenic downtown waterfront space for visitors and making it more accessible to users. There are still improvements required to the site and the intent is to continue to maintain and improve this natural and rocky beach area and heritage building. (City of Kingston website)
The City of Ottawa is proud of the amount of land set aside for green space.
It’s often said that Ottawa is a very green city, and the numbers certainly prove it. Fully 20% of the urban area is devoted to recreational and open space. (City of Ottawa webiste)
Vander Doelen says that Windsor has too many parks. He says there are 211 of them that comprise 267 hectares. According to Stats Canada, Windsor’s area is 147.32 km2. Using CVD’s figures, Windsor’s parks account for only 1.4% of Windsor’s extent. A far cry from Ottawa’s 20%.
There’s a lot to be said for fact-checking.
Truth be told, there is a dearth of facts in the Windsor Star. When the sycophants need to push the City Hall agenda, why let facts get in the way of a good story?
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