Hearing different things (II)


Stephen Harper, Wednesday. ”I can’t address that subject. I don’t honestly know the answer. I’ve been reading and hearing different things,” he said.

Toronto Star, today. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, from overseas, was aware of and agreed with plans to leak stories that would distance him and the current party leadership from former prime minister Brian Mulroney, the Star has learned. A Conservative party source speaking on background said Harper was in contact with his chief of staff, Guy Giorno, and communications director Kory Teneycke, the officials behind the idea, while he was in Europe last week.


Hearing different things (II)

  1. ah, a single, unnamed source. Always to be trusted.

  2. Moral compass? No, moral compass. A protractor instead — gives every statement an acute angle.

    • More like a slide rule, which uses logarithms, i.e.artificial number substitutes.

    • I must own a more expensive protractor, because mine is capable of both acute AND obtuse angles.

  3. “I really won’t know what to say until I can figure out how to blame someone else…”

  4. ZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz booooooooooooooooring.

  5. Do journalists write stories quoting anonymous sources and named sources when one or both overlap? In other words, if Jim is an anonymous source, can he also be a named source in the same article?

    • That was my thought. I wondered if Guy or Kory (or both) were helpfully providing the background. Hmmm.

    • That’s frowned on.

      • Especially since so few ‘longtime Tory strategists’ are ‘senior Tory insiders’ these days.

  6. Frankly, in this case it is easy to see that there are no sources at all, it is just the Toronto Star lying. How naive does one have to be to fall for this?

    And it is Wherry gleefully joining in, to yet another ridiculous yet boring conspiracy theory, hoping that this is the big one.

    • “…it is just the Toronto Star lying. How naive does one have to be to fall for this?”

      Uh, less naive than one would have to be to accept your unsupported assertion (ZOMG the Star is totally a LIAR!!!).

      • Look, it’s journalism 101 to avoid using unnamed sources, because of numerous reasons:
        1 – people that don’t put their name behind what they say are likely to be lying
        2- it harms the credibility of the journalist (why should we have to “trust” the journalist?)
        3 – it prevents the source from being taken out of context or quoted incorrectly, if the source is capable of reading/hearing exactly what is being attributed to him
        4 – it allows other people involved to correct any errors

        It’s simply unprofessional. Unnamed sources should be used only in the most extreme and rarest of circumstances (eg Deep Throat of Watergate).

        Now, somehow the Star has this crazy scoop that nobody else has, yet at the same time the sources are unnamed. It’s a fabrication.

        • I absolutely agree with you that unnamed sources are an undesirable facet of modern journalism, but:

          1) They do have their place – whistleblowers are the obvious example – though they should be quoted and read with skepticism

          2) The credibility of the journalist isn’t necessarily harmed, especially not when there’s a reputable media outlet endorsing the article

          3) it does NOT mean that the journalist is a liar. It’s a real stretch to conclude, as you do above, that the Star is simply inventing a story out of whole cloth. Think for a moment – that’s a pretty outrageous accusation, one that demands some evidence itself. And you have none.

          The Star has credibility as a professional media organization and has never done anything to call its reputation into serious question. You are a guy posting anonymously on a blog. If you want anyone to accept your assertion that the Star fabricated this unsurprising story, the burden of proof rests with you.

          • At least they’re consistent with their policy. Can you list all the outlets with a policy of objectivity that are in fact consistently objective?

          • Why not?

          • Well, we do seem to agree that unnamed sources are undesirable, and that they are more common these days.

            1) I do acknowledge they have their place, but this is not one of them. They should be used only in the rarest of circumstances, like watergate.
            2) as for the media outlet itself, they typically know no more than we do. For the most part, the media outlet has nothing to do with it. See Jayson Blair (he is just an extreme example, there are lots of lesser examples of journalists who are never caught).
            3) The journalist may or may not be a liar. Refusing to investigate all leads, or failing to disclose the whole story, or improperly emphasizing facts that suit one side, or taking quotes out of context, there are lots of ways journalists mislead without lying explicitly. This is why it is so strongly discouraged to not use unnamed sources.

          • “See Jayson Blair (he is just an extreme example, there are lots of lesser examples of journalists who are never caught).”

            If they’re never caught, how do you know there’s lots of them?

          • Well, I cannot prove to you just how many there are, but when someone can be as corrupt as Jayson Blair and get away with it for years, at the most famous newspaper in the world, then I’d say that it’s extremely unlikely that there are not others.

            And I’ve read plenty or articles that had the facts wrong. And sometimes bias is clearly a reason for it.

          • 10111

          • Yeah, I agree with Libs Fail, John K, why can’t you at least add a morsel of a non-question to your comments?

          • TJ Cook:”the burden of proof rests with you”

            Wrong, you could not be more wrong, and I’m sure the Star agrees with me, that when a journalist reports a story, the burden of proof lies with the journalist, unless of course the media outlet in question has no interest in truth.

            So, the Weekly World News would get a pass with this story, but not the Star.

          • Sorry, SF, I didn’t realize this was the anti-Jeopardy, where every question must be phrased as an answer. I’ll try do do better.

          • Fail: Which of the following Atkinson Principles do you disagree with:

            1) A strong, united and independent Canada
            2) Social Justice
            3) Individual and Civil Liberties
            4) Community and Civic Engagement
            5) The Rights of Working People
            6) The Necessary Role of Government

            That’s like the least-scariest strawman ever.


            “I do acknowledge they have their place, but this is not one of them.” Right. If an anonymous source leaked something about Ignatieff, THAT would be appropriate. But leaks about Dear Leader automatically mean that the journalist made it up and is a Liar.

            “there are lots of lesser examples of journalists who are never caught”… presumably this is, to your mind, one of those examples?

            The burden of proof absolutely rests with you if you ask everyone here to believe your claim that a Toronto Star journalist invented a story, including an anonymous source, out of whole cloth. If I claimed that you killed and ate kittens under the full moon, such a fantastic claim would require some backup before Macleans’ readers accepted it. Whether you and Fail like it or not, the Star is a credible media outlet with a good reputation – there’s no reason to believe they would commit such an act of gross journalistic malpractice.

            So – got any evidence to back up your claim, or are you just howling at the moon? “The journalist may or may not be a liar”, but you may or may not be barbecuing a kitten as we speak, and my claim is every bit as credible as yours.

          • TJ Cook, your logic is full of holes, like Swiss cheese.

            If you said the moon is made of green cheese and I say you’re wrong, it is not incumbent upon me to travel to the moon and bring back moon rocks. It is the one that is proposing the theory or stroy that needs to bring proof.

            I don’t need to provide proof that the story is false, if there is absolutely no proof that it is true. It’s simple logic.

            You are using the burden of proof fallacy. The writer has written something that has little evidence to support it. I don’t need to prove it’s wrong if there is nothing for me to disprove.

            How on earth could I prove it wrong if there are no names to contact? That’s the whole point! That’s why sources should be named! It is impossible to disprove, because nothing can be verified.

            Not only that, I never said he invented the whole story. I am saying it is a distorted fabrication. Parts are taken out of context and parts are not true at all. It is not even necessarily the journalist making it up, but if he uses anonymous sources he can be blamed.

          • “the Star is a credible media outlet with a good reputation”

            Ha, that’s a good one. Nothing in that paper is even-handed, it’s a Liberal mouthpiece. The editorial pages are equivalent to Liberal Party propaganda.

            Even the local news coverage is biased as well, towards the liberal mindset. When a crime occurs, they refuse to provide a description of the assailant because that offends their politically correct sensibilities.

            Not only that, the sports pages are ridiculously biased to the concept that the Leafs are a contender every year. It’s comical. At the beginning of the season, the Leafs are world-beaters, and at the end it’s a hate-fest for the players and coaches who ruined the perfect season.

            The paper is a rag.

          • sf, you say: “Not only that, I never said he invented the whole story.”

            But you said: “it is just the Toronto Star lying.” Also: “It’s a fabrication.”

            Perhaps you’re confused as to the definition of “fabrication”.

            You’re accusing the Star of gross journalistic malpractice, with no evidence whatsoever. You may not like their reporting, but you can’t point to a Jayson Blair incident that would call their integrity into question.

            What’s more likely: 1) in the middle of an intra-party feud, somebody on Parliament Hill calls a Star reporter and leaks a juicy tidbit to embarrass the PM, or 2) a Star reporter invents a quote out of raw political bias, then convinces his editor to run the fabrication. Of course, running the story is the editor’s decision based on the editor’s faith in the source, whose *identity is known to the editor*. Now the editor has to be part of the fabrication as well.

            If you want somebody to believe your outrageous conspiracy theory, you’re going to have to provide some evidence, lest you be dismissed as a looney railing away anonymously on a blog.

            Incidentally, the burden of proof fallacy would apply if *I* was asking *you* to believe the Star’s story. What’s actually happening here is that *you*are asking *me* to believe your conspiracy theory. The burden of proof in this case rests with you.

            I look forward to your outrage the next time one of Harper’s staff gives a press conference on the condition that their identity not be revealed. I’m also looking forward to your denunciation of the National Post for grossly biased reporting.

          • Heck, I don’t need you to believe it. I know it makes perfect sense, so I’m sure others are thinking the same thing, and even more may be doing so after reading my comments. It’s not rocket science to understand that reporting without naming any sources whatsoever should be treated with skepticism.

            No, sorry, I refuse to submit myself to your burden of proof fallacy. The story is the Mulroney saga, and the issue is whether those are the facts. That is the issue. So if you want to talk about that, then I might be interested.

            You can try to somehow make this ad hominem by pitting me against the Star. You can spout likelihoods all you like, but this is not a casino. What you are talking about is completely besides the point. You are making an argument about facts into an argument about people. That is a common leftist tactic – ignore the facts and talk about the people. I don’t have any interest in it.

            I will respond to one thing though, you are wrong, when a reported uses an unnamed source, the source is truly UNNAMED, so you cannot assume the editor is informed. Neither is the reporter’s wife, nor his butler. In some cases, the reporter does not know the name himself. But supposing the editor is informed: so what? What does that have to do with the story itself? I don’t care if the editor knows or not. If you want to make a story credible, you have to release the sources.

            Didn’t your teachers tell you to be skeptical of people who tell you things without backing up their stories? Where is your ability to think for yourself? I mean, we have had cases where entire countries have managed to keep their citizens in the dark (North Korea, USSR, etc) and you are telling me that if a reported AND an editor know about it, then it must be true? Do you have any ability to think critically?

            Go ahead, you can try to make this about rain in Spain for all I care, I am not going to go down that route.

  7. It’s easy to see the media is behind all this. They are taking quotes out of context, and to protect themselves from legal action they do not attach names. In other cases, they are simply inventing things. In other cases, the anonymous sources are Liberals.

    The fact is, if at all times they refuse to actually attach names to quotes, then you can be sure it’s not true.

  8. And of course.. all of you here expressed the same outrage over the media’s use of an unnamed Liberal source when they muttered behind Dion’s back, too, right?

    • Using unnamed sources is always a bad practice and should always be avoided if at all possible.

      And I am not expressing outrage, I am expressing my opinion, that this story is bunk.

  9. I’d believe the Canadian Press over Harper, Kory and Giorno. It is not like those guys have not lied before. Given their past behavior, it seems completely plausible that they started this whole ‘Mulroney tore up his card’ affair.

  10. Has the commenting glitch returned? None of my comments are being posted.

  11. Hey, I can do this juxtaposition thing too.

    Paul Martin, Feb 15, 2004: “The Liberal Party is not corrupt.”

    Vancouver Sun, today: “A Vancouver lawyer claimed under oath that former Liberal justice minister Martin Cauchon offered him federal prosecution contracts if he bought a table at a fundraising dinner for ex-prime minister Paul Martin”

    • You do realize that the juxtaposition above represents two drastically different stories from *one person*, reported *two days apart*.

      Your juxtaposition is two different people, across a span of five years.

      • You do realize that you’ve just been presented with Sponsorship Scandal 2, and you’d rather criticize the way I bring it up instead of the implications of the story itself.

        And by the way, Martin’s statement would have been within weeks of Cauchon’s alleged offer.

        This story broke early this morning. It’s been the top story on Bourque AND National Newswatch all day long.

        Has CBC covered it? no.
        CTV? no.
        Globe and Mail? no.
        Torstar? no.
        Canadian Press? no.
        Wherry, O’Malley, etc.? no.

        Can we finally drop the charade that Parliamentary Press Gallery doesn’t play favorites?

        • It was NOT Cauchon. It was Gurmant Grewal pretending to be Cauchon.

        • There’s no time for a story on Cauchon when we need the millionth story about Mulroney and Schreiber, the one which looks at it from the perspective of the squirrels on Mulroney’s lawn. And why talk about Cauchon when there’s room for the thousandth story about Khadr?

          • C’mon, how can they attack Harper by reporting on Cauchon?

          • And you know there will be not a peep about Obama’s brother being accused of sexual assault, when there’s still room for another story on Bristol Palin’s pregnancy or one of the Bush daughter’s underage drinking.


  12. I wish I had kept a count of the press briefings by ‘unnamed PMO official’.

    • Why don’t you just point us to one?

      • sf, do you read the news? PMO has been doing briefings regularly with reporters on the condition that the person doing the briefing not be named. It’s not too hard to come up with an example.

        • Cam, if you took a second, you would notice that she did point to one, just below. And if is so easy to find one, then what’s the problem with providing a link? If it’s so darn easy, why the heck didn’t you provide a link?

    • Yeah, that story is also mostly bunk, the reporter refused to give a name, and even refused to give a source for the numbers being peddled by the unnamed person.
      Later on, there is a quote from Gilles Paquet about the sources. This is exactly why we need names, how can anyone assess whether Pacquet is correct, if we have absolutely no names of these sources?

      • And your name would be?

        • If I were reporting a story, or quoting people, I’d give it to you. But since I am simply throwing our opinions on a blog, I will not. I am not a reporter, nor am I involved in this Mulroney saga in any way, shape or form, so you don’t need my name. I do use my name when I publish work professionally.

  13. SF – If I claimed that it snowed in Canada in January, would I have to provide you with a weather report to support my claim? It has become standard procedure for this government to use unnamed official(s) in the PMO to brief the press. I did provide you with one example, I could have provided you with twenty, but no matter what, the response is predictable: that story is mostly bunk. Duh, that’s what happens when the government provides press briefings by unnamed officials in the PMO.

    This is the norm these days – unnamed PMO officials, anonymous sources, and anonymous bloggers. Maybe it is a generational difference but I prefer to express my opinions using my name, Loraine Lamontagne. I live in Mississauga.

    • Well, yes, I agree, duh, if the sources are anonymous then the press should ignore the content, and find a real source to get to the bottom of the story.

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