Sunday 23 October 2016

Trump and the world after November 8th

Well, it's been a wild ride !
Time to dust off the crystal ball, if I can manage to wash all the crap from it.
Now I warn you reception on the crystal ball is spotty right now, not all of the stuff predicted to come may work out.
Here are a few predictions about Donald Trump during and after the election.

1. Trump will lose. Not just the White House, but the Senate, and quite possibly the house ( though that one may be close).

2. He WILL conceed defeat, but not gracefully. It will all have been "rigged". He will say there is still lots of things that are "Wrong" ( his favourite word) with the country that need to be fixed, and only he can fix them, he has much work to do, and needs your help.

3. There will be cases of civil unrest, including some shootings. These will only serve to advance his agenda, and he will fan the flames.

4. There will be creation of "Trump TV ", but it will be done on the cheap. The chump really does not have much money of his own. It is likely to be an internet effort. He does not have enough money for the infrastucture for a real station, and it's doubtful cable companies would give him carraige.
Sarah Palin will be a guest personality.
The show will rely upon donors ( see "the chump" as noted above).
It will all be bankrupt within 18 months, and generate a hell of a tax credit, but not for the donors---for Donald!

5. Trump will not sue the women who accuse him of sexual assault. Suing would force him to testify in court under oath with the risk of perjury, etc.
Suing would also open up the avenue to counter suits which if he lost-- the cases would have him paying THEM, not going to happen

6. The Republican party will sever all ties to Trump ( about a year too late).

7. Trump will form his own political party, funded entirely by donors, donors fleeced through Trump TV. This party will contest the mid term elections, and have some wins.

8. A cultural  and societal divison will grow in America. Elites versus the uneducated. The South versus the rest. Redneck whites against people of colour. Warped men versus women in positions of power. Trump will constantly enable divisions.

9. The Republican party will become largely unoticed, wandering in the dessert, finding themselves.

10. Hillary Clinton will not seek re-election. Donald Trump will not run again. By the end of the election cycle in 2020 the country will have found some normalcy and balance, reflecting what the country generally is.

11. A Latina will be elected President.

12. Donald Trump will be offered a " summer house", in Russia.

Monday 12 September 2016

Four Boys, a Drunk, and a Train

Welcome to the way back machine, step right in.

Here is a story promised to not be told. But, enough time has passed, and now it can be.

And, so we go back to visit 1967.

A student, I was working mornings carrying and delivering The Province newspaper in Vancouver. The newspaper had a contest, selling new subscriptions door to door. The prize was a paid trip to Expo 67, the worlds’ fair in Montreal, followed by a trip to the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, on the way back home.

Myself and three other boys won. We were 15 and 16 years old, and were chaperoned by a manager from The Province circulation department.

Just how this man was selected was never really clear, he had a reputation of being a rabble rouser. I’m not going to use his real name here, though I’m pretty sure he’s gone on to his great reward in the afterlife by now. 

I’ll call him Mark.

The worlds’ fair part of the trip went smoothly, Expo was fantastic--so we flew out of Montreal to Winnipeg. The Pan Am games were great, the four boys had a wonderful time, the newspaper paid for everything  all was well, until the last night.

We were in a stadium watching a baseball game, the United States vs Cuba, a real rivalry.

Sitting next to us were two guys from the Barbados, with big pearly grins, and carrying a huge bottle of rum. Now our man Mark, could have closed out this tour without a scratch---except for that rum.
The men drank, and drank, and drank. There was a rain delay—so more drink. Then a second rain delay. Well , you can imagine these men were by then wetter on the inside than the outside, and it was well past midnight.

Mark just couldn’t get enough, so then we were off to find another bottle of rum and head over to the apartment of the Barbados guys to continue, four boys along for the ride, wondering how we were going to get out of this and board the train home.

Around 4:30 in the morning all of the men were pretty much incapacitated. Our train was to leave at 6:30.   So what to do?

It was time for a teenage revolution, so we took over this sorry looking slobbery mess of a man.
We picked his pockets, took his wallet, his cash, and the train tickets, called a taxi, bid goodbye to our hosts, and headed off to the train station.

The train station in Winnipeg was a big cavern of a place, with thick wooden benches. We deposited Mark on a bench. He slowly slid off it. We perched him back onto the bench, and this time we jammed something underneath him to keep him there.

Watching all of this was an elderly train porter who switched between laughing and shaking his head. He came over and asked what was going on. He really broke into laughter then and asked, “ So you boys are talking care of this full grown man and you need to get him back to Vancouver? Well that’s something”

He helped us get onto the train, and we stuffed Mark into bed in one of those private compartments where you get your own pull down bed. We each had compartments of our own nearby.

I think we were a couple of hours out of Winnipeg heading west when Mark showed the slightest hint of life. We’d been checking on him to make sure he was still alive. But at this point four boys have just about had enough, so we agreed upon two things. We would scare the hell out of Mark, and then we wouldn’t tell about it

So it was a badly hung over man awoke to the clattering sound of a train, a pounding head, and no sign of the four boys he was assigned to protect. 

We’d gone to hide. Mark was running up and down the train, out of his mind from worry, and couldn’t find us. We let this go on for about a half an hour, and then popped out and surprised him.

He begged us to not tell about this, he would have been fired instantly, no doubt about it.

But since he’s likely made the last train stop of life long before now, we’ll just blow the whistle, laugh, and shake our heads.

Sunday 24 January 2016

The Troubles Facing Journalism

These are observations, I don't claim to be smart enough to figure out all the answers.

Imagine- if I owned a sandwich shop, and gave away my sandwiches for free, why would anyone buy them from me?

If I owned a news outlet and put all my material online, tweeting key stories even before I printed or broadcast them,  posting whole stories before they get printed or broadcast, why would anyone watch or read material on my main outlet when and how I want them to?

That is the kind of dilemma facing journalism today.
Almost daily we see stories of downsizing and job cuts in journalism
This is the dark downside of the digital revolution.

Copyright, once jealously guarded barely exists now,  ownership of material reduced to smoke on the wind, belonging to no one.

Gone are the days when a publisher would go after an interloper for “stealing our stuff”

Instead they basically give it away, hoping some advertiser will come along and buy a piece of the swirling smoke in the internet air.

Then they wonder why they are losing money, so they amputate, they cut jobs, diversity of thought, and quality of content.

Left with a thinning product and no idea what to do about it, there is a downward spiral that produces more and more "easy news" or junk, and less and less content that sets outlets apart.

The concept of making internet users pay has been tried, and has mostly failed.

So the question is, what is the product worth?
Increasingly not enough, or not much, that’s where we are at.

It would seem to make sense that the answer should be a determination to make the product worth more, and not give it away.

There may be a relatively bright future for current events programs like the CBC’s Fifth Estate, and CTV’s W-5, where usually the program is heavily promoted and then airs before the real content material is posted online.

More of that kind of approach to content could be helpful, if publishers of material could back off the lure of trying first to be internet stars, and show people more of what they have done, and less of what they are doing.

Make more value in the product through quality of content, and don’t give it away.

But, if not---here’s a sandwich, take one, they’re free.

Sunday 3 January 2016

Tracking a killer.

During the early 1980’s BC’s lower mainland region was in the grip of fear.

Children were going missing, too many of them to be of coincidence.

Police forces in the area appeared first to make no connections, everyone was baffled.
More and more reports of missing kids came in, media interest grew, but answers to what was going on did not exist.

This went on for many months, another name being added to a list of the missing no longer seemed to be a surprise. Some bodies had been found, others were still missing.

If the police knew early what was really going on, they did not share that with the media. Reporters were left to try to figure this out on their own.

I have often commented to my police contacts that left in an information vacuum, media will find and chase sources other than the police. This can potentially harm a police investigation, so it’s better for the law to offer media some information (if they can) rather than leaving media out in the cold.

Media do owe a duty to inform the public, but we also owe a duty to society to not impede policing and justice. It’s a fine line to tread and has to be done with great care.

In the newsroom of CKVU TV in Vancouver we were as perplexed as other local media about what was going on. Bits of information came in, including where these kids had lived and where they were last seen. That is all we had to go on.

There did not seem to be a pattern, nothing the dead and missing seemed to have in common, they were male and female, and they had disappeared from several different areas and municipalities.

As the case went on as News Director I decided to assign a single reporter to the story, rather than sharing it around among other reporters. I thought it better that one person have this in all their head, it was less likely we would miss something or get something wrong.

I gave the assignment to reporter Wayne Williams. I had hired Wayne right after he completed his broadcast news training at BCIT. He was a bit green and inexperienced then, but he was also mature for his young age, and was great for grinding out detail and chasing leads.

We set up a white board in my office. On it we posted everything we knew about the victims, which at this stage, to the best of my recollection, had reached nine youngsters.
On the white board we posted everything we knew about each of the dead and missing. Every day we reviewed what was on the board, added new info, and removed stuff that did not seem to fit.

Weeks went by.  Wayne and I stared at that damn board for hours, and hours, and hours. After a while the whole thing blinds you, and you’re not seeing anything at all. Better to walk away for a while.

One morning I came in  to work with my coffee and was thinking it was probably time to pack the white board away and be done with it, but that would be giving up. When Wayne started his shift that day there we were staring at this slab of information, again. What were we missing?

Maybe we had to come at this from a totally different angle. How about not looking so much at the actual locations the kids disappeared from, and rather look at what was nearby. Bus stops, schools, recreation centers – anything?

One by one we eliminated possible connections until only one remained. In almost every case the locations were near what we called “garden apartment” complexes, walk up low rise apartment buildings surrounded by lawns and flower gardens. The kinds of places where families with children lived.

We called in the police.

They came to my office and listened while Wayne and I walked them through our findings. We told them we intended to broadcast a story that night that suggested the person taking the children probably had a connection to the apartment buildings. He could work for a property management company or have some other connection.

We shot our whole encounter with the police on video tape, asked them to comment, and to warn us if we were about to botch things up for them.
They had little to say, other than this was interesting and they had nothing to add. Importantly they did not indicate what we were about to publish might be harmful.

We ran the story that night. A few short days later police announced they had arrested Clifford Robert Olson, and charged him with the disappearance and murder of several of the children. Olson had worked part time for his father, cutting the lawns and tending the gardens of apartment buildings across the region. It’s believed that during that work he stalked his victims.

I am reasonably convinced the police had been on to him for a little while before our broadcast, we learned later he had been under surveillance, but was slippery, they may already have had him or were just grabbing him when we aired our story

Later a “cash for bodies” deal was revealed in which Olson’s wife would be paid by the government of BC for information about the locations of the missing bodies, one by one, as Clifford revealed where they were. That touched off a political storm, but the families got closure.

Serial killer Clifford Robert Olson was the gardener. Olson died in prison in 2011.

Reporter Wayne Williams went on to a very successful career with CBC Television News in Vancouver.

I still feel a bit strange every time I see a garden apartment complex.

Wednesday 23 December 2015

An Encounter with Trudeau

This is about my encounter with Trudeau.

Not Trudeau the younger, rather Trudeau the elder- Pierre.

Pierre Trudeau was well known for not suffering fools gladly, he also had the reputation of sometimes dealing with media people rather sharply.

Witness his response to the “How far would you go” question during the FLQ crisis. There is not a lot left to say when the answer given is “Just watch me”!

Forward to 1978. I was working at CKIQ radio in Kelowna, in the news department. In those days I lived in Vernon and drove into Kelowna for work each day. A medium commute by Vancouver lower mainland standards.

Living in Vernon meant I was also supposed to keep a news eye on that city for the Kelowna station.

So it came to be that Pierre Trudeau was coming to Vernon, and there would be a media availability. 

My News Director Peter Munoz asked me to do the assignment.
I loved working with Peter, he was a wonderful mentor, and I was sad to hear some years ago now of his passing. But, I was scared all to hell about covering Trudeau, and I told Peter that I thought the PM had a knack for trashing a dumb media question with his intellect. Trudeau seemed merciless.

Peter sold me on doing it by use of one of his mentorship devices—simply saying he himself had covered Trudeau, but I had not yet, and I should. That was enough.

A midsummer’s day in the north Okanagan, and Trudeau was due to arrive at 2pm.

A check in onsite with the government organizers of the media avail revealed the format. Questions from local Okanagan media only, any topic. One question only from each reporter- no exceptions, no follow up questions. No questions to be put by any of the national press corps people travelling with the PM

The room was dressed with five press tables for local reporters, two at each table. Ten questions total- that would be all.

Now I had to come up with a question. I had nothing I thought would make much of a splash. I was still thinking about that when the organizers announced the PM’s helicopter was delayed. He was flying in from Alberta, stopping in Vernon, then off to Vancouver. He was running about an hour late.

The Vernon stop was never meant to amount to much- in-out-gone, and no ripples.

But a political bomb went off in Ottawa during the PM's flight, and he himself had lit the fuse. The shock wave from it had not yet reached the west coast, and better yet for me, was not known to the national press corps travelling with the PM.

With the assignment delayed I phoned back to my CKIQ Kelowna newsroom to let them know of the delay, and almost as an afterthought asked that they check the news wires to see if anything was going on.

Our staffer came back on the line with a “ Holy Crap!” exclamation. The Solicitor General of Canada had just resigned from the Trudeau cabinet. Francis Fox had been caught out forging a name onto documents of a woman applying to have an abortion. She was his girlfriend. He was married to somebody else.

I got off the phone just as I heard the helicopter coming in to land. I hung out at the helipad, listened to the conversations of the press corps as they filed into the venue. Nothing was said about Francis Fox. They didn’t know!

Now Trudeau is in the room, and he really commanded a room.

The questions started from table one at the left, I was at table four, the eighth person in line order. All of the questions were local ones, Trudeau answered them, and was starting to show some agitation to his time being wasted. His responses became more curt and dismissive.

The fellow sitting to my left at my press table had me nervous. He was Brian Kennedy, a really good reporter. Brian was my direct competition, working at CKOV in Kelowna. And it was his turn to ask. He asked about something local.

And I was up.

Simple question really : “ Is it true Mr. Prime Minister that you have accepted the resignation of your Solicitor General Francis Fox- and why ?”

The room exploded. TV lights flashed on, the until then bored press corps all fired up their equipment. 

Trudeau was staring at me- hard, our eyes were locked. He looked really annoyed.  Then he smiled. He’d been caught fair and square and he knew it.

He answered the question and then did something I had never expected.
He looked down his nose from the lecturn and said “Would you like to ask me another question”?

I did, he answered, and the event was over. The journalists sitting at table number five never got to ask a question. Everyone burst out the door and filed stories about the Solicitor General being fired.

I’d gotten in the big question and a bonus question, and I always thought it was really gracious of Pierre Trudeau to recognize he’d been stung, and to reward the way that all happened,  in some small way, by asking if I’d like to ask a second question.

I’ve never forgotten it.

Turns out, the news about the Solicitor General was not intended to come out till Trudeau had reached Vancouver. But his flight was delayed, and Ottawa pressed the button on sending the news release just as Trudeau’s helicopter came over the horizon into my view

Sometimes timing is everything!

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Trudeaus Nannies

I get it that the media hysteria going around about PM Trudeau hiring nannies on the taxpayer tab is among other things about bad optics. It seems like a dumb move  complete with hypocrisy.

But really, is this the issue that should possess Canadians?

Looking just a wee bit past your own nose at today's headline scan and we see:
- Ontarians paid $37 Billion above market price for electricity.
- Children living in house loaded with 10-thousand needles .
-  City of 5 million in India faces worst downpour of rain in a century .
-  or even  Study: Facebook use damages your well being.

Not to even mention much the ongoing scourges of poverty, homelessness, hunger , refugees fleeing war  and so on that dominate the headlines most days.

The Trudeau nanny thing is a little thing---a teenie tiny troublesome itch. But that itch is going to be scratched until it blows up into a real rash. I can already see how the first question period might play out when the house of commons resumes sitting. Oh boy is that itch going to be scratched!

It will be less than marvelous  how this will play out--right along party lines. The Conservatives will argue taxpayers funds should not be spent on the PM's nannies. The NDP will cry that at a maximum pay of $15 dollars an hour the nannies are being exploited by not being paid enough, The Greens could suggest it may all be worth it if the nannies also do the recycling and turn down the heat in the house at night. The circus is back in town !

And all the while other people will go hungry, veterans will wrestle with their demons, seniors will scrimp their spending, and the environment will continue to go to hell.

The nanny story should be no more than a distraction to the real political work of the country. But it's a story found to have legs by journalists engaged in the most time honoured tradition of chasing a story - following it to the last possible paragraph and sound bite.

That's why it is important for Trudeau to do the prudent thing and put an end to this. Pay up buddy !

Let's get on to doing the important work of the nation. And, lets get on to telling more important stories that really matter.

Monday 30 November 2015

First job in broadcasting.

People usually remember their first job in their chosen career with a little bit of nostalgia.

Often that includes the name of their first boss, what the office was like, and probably how little they were paid.

I had all of that and more - but what I mostly remember is fear, lots of fear.

I'd completed my broadcast training and hit the road looking for a job.

Driving a 1969 Datsun 1000, loaded with a sleeping bag, demo tapes, and a map I headed up the Fraser Valley into the BC interior. I'd determined the Vancouver market was one that I was not ready for, so I sought some place small, where I could make a few mistakes and not get fired too quickly.
You know, some place not too difficult to start out, but where you could learn a lot.

I got as far as Kelowna , and there got a phone call from the first place I'd dropped off a resume' - Abbotsford BC.

The guy on the line had a job offer for me, radio news, evenings and weekends for the princely sum of $375 a month. It was 1973, and that kind of pay was real tight for the times, but what the hell, it was a start.

He asked when could I start, and I said as soon as I can get on the road and get there.
I arrived the next day.

CFVR Abbotsford, the sign hung there over the parking lot  like bait, and I took it.

I remember the News Directors first name was Terry, I don't recall his last name. I don't recall how long he'd been there, but he had the look and feel of a man who already wanted to get out.

We had a brief meeting, very brief, and I was hired.

Now the fear started to creep in, and it would get worse.

"Terry" now really looked like he wanted to get out of there--like now , or yesterday.
And so came the question from him- when can you start your first shift?

Remember I had taken the bait, and like an over eager fish I answered --I can start right away.

And with that Terry stood, got his coat on, plopped his hat onto his head and said:
" The newsroom is down the hall, it's 10 past 2, and you're reading the 3 O'Clock news"

Before I could try to shake the hook out of my mouth and dart for cover, he was gone, walked out the front door of the station building and drove away.

I found the newsroom, in it sat a man who looked perplexed as I walked in. His name was Con Hild , the sports guy.

I explained I'd just been caught, er hired, and I had to read the news on air in about 45 minutes, without any kind of training or orientation.

Con was a great guy and he helped me out, showing me the basic ropes of the place, what the format was , what commercial breaks played in that next newscast and so on.

Now it was 10 to 3, nothing had been written or prepared, there was no more that could be done but grab some wire copy from the Canadian Press teletype , a big metal monster of a thing that ground out stories. It was a noisy beast, but it was my salvation.

5 to 3, and I'm sweating like a pig ( do pigs sweat?) This one did.

The next few minutes were a blur, I read that news cast, signed it off, and melted.

The phone rang.

Always fear a phone ringing right after you're read a newscast. It is seldom good.

It was " Terry" with a short message- "Guess you'll do, come in at three tomorrow for the start of your first real shift "

I looked over to the sports guy, and he said :   " He does that all the time, he hires somebody throws them on air, and if they make it, they have a job"

"Terry" not long after left Abbotsford .

I stayed, but not for long.

I later worked for a guy whose cry before each newscast was " I'm not ready "

I can sure relate to that.