Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cautionary Tale, or Why I Always Double-checked My Articles

Publisher, editor out over wafer story

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 | 6:38 PM AT

Stephen Harper attends the funeral of former governor general Roméo LeBlanc in New Brunswick on July 3, at which a New Brunswick newspaper claimed the PM pocketed a communion wafer.Stephen Harper attends the funeral of former governor general Roméo LeBlanc in New Brunswick on July 3, at which a New Brunswick newspaper claimed the PM pocketed a communion wafer. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

The publisher and editor of the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal are no longer with the paper after it was forced to apologize to Stephen Harper and two of its own reporters over a story about whether the prime minister took communion at the state funeral of former governor general Roméo LeBlanc.

CBC News has confirmed that editor Shawna Richer has been fired and that Jamie Irving is no longer the publisher of the paper. Earlier, their names had been removed from the paper's list of senior staff.

The apology, which ran on the provincial newspaper's front page on Tuesday, said the story that ran on July 8 that accused Harper of placing a communion wafer in his pocket was "inaccurate and should not have been published."

"There was no credible support for these statements of fact at the time this article was published, nor is the Telegraph-Journal aware of any credible support for these statements now," the apology said.

"Our reporters Rob Linke and Adam Huras, who wrote the story reporting on the funeral, did not include these statements in the version of the story that they wrote. In the editing process, these statements were added without the knowledge of the reporters and without any credible support for them.

"The Telegraph-Journal sincerely apologizes to the prime minister for the harm that this inaccurate story has caused. We also apologize to reporters Rob Linke and Adam Huras and to our readers for our failure to meet our own standards of responsible journalism and accuracy in reporting."

Video of the state funeral in Memramcook, N.B., on July 3 shows Harper — an evangelical Protestant — reaching out to take the host with his right hand, but it doesn't show what he did with it.

Harper outraged

During a news conference at the Group of Eight summit in L'Aquila, Italy, on July 10, Harper slammed the allegations that he had pocketed the wafer.

The Telegraph-Journal issues an apology on its front page on Tuesday.The Telegraph-Journal issues an apology on its front page on Tuesday.

"I think somebody running a story — and I don't know where responsibility lies — somebody running an unsubstantiated story that I would stick communion bread in my pocket is really absurd," Harper said.

"First of all, as a Christian, I've never refused communion when offered to me. That is actually pretty important to me," he said.

"And I think it's a real, frankly, a low point. This is a low moment in journalism, whoever is responsible for this. It's just a terrible story and a ridiculous story, and not based on anything, near as I can tell."

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister's Office told CBC News that Harper "appreciates and accepts the apology."

Professors begin boycott of Telegraph-Journal

The apology comes on the same day that a dozen professors from the University of New Brunswick, Mount Allison University and St. Thomas University issued a news release stating that they will no longer talk to the newspaper because of its decision to fire a student intern over factual errors that appeared in a story.

Tom Bateman, a political scientist at St. Thomas University, is one of the professors leading the boycott.

"From my point of view, this has nothing to do with the Irvings, this has nothing to do with the size of the family business. It all has to do with the editorial integrity of the newspaper, the health of civic debate and what looks to me like a bit of an infringement on journalistic independence," Bateman said.

In May, Matt McCann was fired after writing a story about a faculty protest against Premier Shawn Graham receiving an honorary degree from the University of New Brunswick.

Richer said McCann's story was unbalanced and contained three errors.

The professors joining the boycott include six from St. Thomas, four from UNB and two from Mount Allison university. They say they will reconsider the boycott when McCann graduates in 2010 or if he is reinstated at the Telegraph-Journal.

It was another in an embarrassing string of events for the Telegraph-Journal.

Saint John Mayor Ivan Court dared the newspaper's publisher to a debate and temporarily imposed his own ban on speaking to the Telegraph-Journal in January over his belief that the paper was too negative in its coverage of city hall.

Court then said in late June that Irving and several senior newspaper staff members had told him in a private meeting that if the city cut taxes and replaced its manager, the tone of city hall coverage would change.

"I and our former manager met Jamie Irving and his editorial staff in the manager's office. And we were told that unless we did what they wanted, they would continue what you see daily in the paper. And we saw the result of that: We no longer have a city manager," Court said.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

An Evening on the Veranda

Sorry, MusingWoman, it's still very hot. However, it was only 37C today. Bonus is that it makes for balmy evenings outside. Downside is, I must still get up and go to work the next morning!

Kelly Next Door phoned me one day a few weeks ago: "Neighbour, do you have Alzheimer's?!?


"You have your Christmas lights on."

"No, silly lady!! THOSE are my patio lights. They are Christmas lights when they are in swags along the railing. Now they drape to and fro from the overhang, so they're patio lights. Can't you tell the difference?"

And so tonight I'm lounging on the veranda under my patio lights - maybe I should call them 'veranda lights? Lanterns? Nope, Bruce Cockburn sings "Patio Lanterns" and Bruce should know.

The crickets are sawing away, or maybe it's the grasshoppers - but I detest 'hoppers so prefer to pretend they're crickets.... and maybe they are. For sure I know they aren't cicadas.

And you can tell I'm overtired by the way my mind is wandering... ok, more than usual. It's not just today's heat. It's also poor sleep from many days' heat. And perhaps a glut of OJ/ginger ale in an effort to rehydrate after my after-work yard work.

The weeds alongside the driveway were driving me nuts. The embankments are too steep to trim the area with the riding mower (and we own no other), so nothing but to use the weed wacker/string trimmer/highly-lethal-to-weeds-and-ankles-vegetation-tamer. The only time it's cool enough for the job is either far too early or far too late per the neighbours - a down side to being a townie.

So today at 6pm, I rammed Bryan's authentic Indiana Jones hat on my head, I fueled up my trimmer, loaded it with string (and few extra pieces in my pocket because you just know it'll run out at the end of the driveway, and it's a loooooong driveway) and commenced to wack weeds.

I didn't look at the temperature because I didn't want to know. I do know that when I was done, not only was I covered in plant body parts but was quite overheated, and not in a sexy come-hither way.

Stripped off my dirty clothes in the garage, threw them straight into the washer on the way through to the house and headed straight for the shower, and I do believe it was the coldest shower I've even voluntarily submitted to in all my born days. It felt SOOOOO GOOD.

Wet, wearing a damp old cotton oversized shirt, I assumed a semi-horizontal position on the couch under the fan, cold OJ & ginger to hand, when everyone and their dog proceeded to phone me: my husband (safe and sound in Valleyview), my son (ditto, in Grande Prairie), my neighbour, the lady from the Falkland museum..... at which point I turned off the phone. Selfish, huh?

Stripped the bed and remade it with fresh cotton sheets and a light cotton quilt that I made many years ago. Should have done that last night. Shoulda, coulda, woulda. Didn't.

Rode the motorcycle to work today which means TA-DA! the left hand is on the way to recovery. Still can't get my rings on, the middle knuckle is still enlarged and very sore. I can pull in the clutch lever, though, which is more than I could do even on Sunday. The other fingers are still a bit puffy as well, but that could be as much due to the heat as to the abuse I heaped upon them.

I know some of you won't believe me, but I find this is the best weather in which to spin wool. I know. Who'da thunk it? I like to spin in the grease, and hot weather softens the lanolin, so the wool spins nicer. My neighbour downhill to the south thinks I'm a bit weird (OK, a lot weird but the feeling is mutual). I'm pretty sure he hasn't quite figured out what that contraption is or what I'm doing with it. If I was actually spinning wool, I'd be wearing a long cotton dress and have a bonnet on my head, nez pas?

So, out on the veranda, either under the veranda-patio lights or treadling my wheel and making my neighbour crazy - it all serves a purpose: keeping me sane in the heat and providing a valid excuse to avoid the bookkeeping on my desk yet one more evening. The lengths some people go to, eh?

And the silly part is, just like when I avoided my term papers at college until the last possible moment, it's such a relief to get it done, so why don't I just do it and stop prolonging the agony?

When I outgrow my bad habits, I'll be too old for mischief, and who wants that!~

Monday, July 27, 2009

Temperature update

Just for the record, 42C is getting a wee bit too warm for me. It's still 29C at 10:30pm for pity's sake!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Watching Lightning Flash

It's a quiet evening. I'm alone at home for the first time in quite awhile. I should probably be in bed, but I've left this blog for far too long, there's a lovely light show dancing behind the mountains to the south, and I can sleep in tomorrow morning. In fact, I'm waiting for the house to cool down (all the windows wide open) so I can sleep well.

Bryan and the posse were here for a few days on their way back north. They got to southern Oregon before turning their bikes northward again. Got here Thursday night about three minutes before I arrived home from work. Needless to say, supper was very late that night.

They hung around yesterday, then departed mid-morning today, heading to Nakusp via Salmon Arm (I know, Huh?, that's bikers for you.) and eventually back in the north country by Sunday night. I walked away from the mound of linens in the laundry room and went on a little drive myself, up to Eagle Bay for the afternoon.

I would have ridden along with them, at least on the Shuswap loop back to Vernon, but I did a major number on my left hand last week. Was winkling a heavy object from a high shelf (when you're my height, all shelves are high) when it tipped my way and came down directly onto the tips of my ring and middle fingers (they're the same length because the top of my middle finger was removed down to the bone during an incident in my childhood involving a door and a highly incensed younger brother).

My first reaction was to remove my rings - good reaction. The second was to swear fluently and profusely under my breath - also a reasonable reaction. It hurt too much to yell. The ring finger sustained the most damage, but even the little finger was swollen for a few days. And the pain shocked right down to my elbow.

Taped the ring and middle fingers together for a few days. Made typing a wee bit awkward (but the Winfield editor sliced open his hand with a knife badly enough to require surgery, so our publisher was only mildly sympathetic - "If Chris can type with one hand...." ya, ya, I get it).

More to the point, it made biking impossible because I can't pull in the clutch lever. Now that's a real crisis.

Still can't get my rings on past the first knuckle, and typing (or anything else for that matter) makes the entire hand sore after only a short time. And that's the end of my whining. It'll heal. Eventually.

It's been hot in the Okanagan for a few weeks now, and no rainfall until last night. Had a good all-night soaker. The lightning is crashing and flashing all around us but no sign, unfortunately, of more rain. I just hope it doesn't kick up more fires. The three biggies last week were more than enough, thank you very much. Smoke from the Terrace Mtn. fire was so thick in Vernon that it was even hazy in our office. Last night's rain helped stop its headlong rush, reduced it from a category 5 fire down to a 2, I think.

I've been more careful with my yard watering. We haven't been issued water restrictions yet but that could come yet. The vegetable garden I established this year is doing great. Been enjoying the produce already.... as have the resident deer. I didn't mind them trimming the lettuces, got more concerned when they moved into the wax beans, but mutilating one of my tomato plants was the last straw!!! Placed dryer sheets on plants around the perimeter - friend Bernie up at Sunset House used that strategy with some success. Neighbour Mike has acquired a motion-triggered water sprinkler to fight his ungulate foes. May have to try that if the dryer sheets are not effective.

The baby quails made their debut last weekend. Two couples successfully hatched out rather large clutches, and the babies are a nice size already. They do a tour through our yard as part of their morning routine. I know they find a fair number of bugs and grubs in the vegetable patch - hoping they get more of the grasshoppers and earwigs! I'd rather not use pesticides - too many good insects and visitors get damaged in the process. One of my backyard neighbours has successfully sterilized her yard of all fauna, nuisance and beneficial alike. Not my idea of a healthy, welcoming yard.

I have photos somewhere to post but you know, between an ongoing stream of company over the past three weeks, very hot days, my hand booboo and spending my evenings outside - well, not much computer work getting done at home these days. I figure 40 hours a week of it at work is enough sometimes. Don't get me wrong - I love my job, and I love writing in my spare time. But it's summer in the Okanagan!!! I have all winter to ruminate and write and overwork my bladder with endless pots of coffee.

And right now, there's a great sound and light show to sit and enjoy. Wish y'all were sitting on the veranda with me, oohing and aahing.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"But I Don't Smoke!"

The Terrace Mountain fire has left its mark even on Falkland. My car was covered in ash this morning. Vernon, of course, is buried in the stuff. And I was told the night sky was quite spectacular (couldn't see from our place as the wind had blown the smoke cloud over us, blocking out the sky).

I'm recovering from a severely sprained set of fingers on my left hand. Is somewhat detrimental to my typing skills. Today I'm attempting to get through the day without taping them but I'm thinking by afternoon, they'll need the support.

Never fear, my dear friends and family near and far, far away. I am fine, alive and almost healthy.

Bryan and two buddies are on their way back north from a bike trip down the Pacific coast highway. He called from Seattle this morning to say they could be in Falkland tonight. But he's right back up to Valleyview again. That would leave me, as friend Joyce puts it, in 'widow practice' again.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Groovin' ttttttto the Rhythm of the..... sprinkler?!

It's finally hot, hot, hot in the sunny southern interior. That means up early to water the trees before going to work, out late in the evening to turn off the sprinkler that's been running since suppertime. My baby plants need lots of care, especially little cedar trees.

Bryan sussed out the location of a hummingbird nest directly in front of the house, lowest branch on the fir tree (still 3m or so off the ground). We can't actually see the nest but there's no doubt it's there.

My mom is out for a week from Airdrie. I picked her up Wednesday evening at Kelowna Airport. She was anxious to see the hummers but I told her to be patient, just sit still and watch. Sure enough, I could almost feel her vibrating with excitement when she came into the house half an hour later, after not only seeing them at the feeder but also our two resident males having one of their regular territorial skirmishes.

The garden is coming along nicely: little green tomatoes on the vine, yellow beans and potatoes flowering, onions bulbing up, herbs already in their second growth after I wacked them back ("Oh no! Not the scissors! AAAAHHHHH!), and a wild variety of lettuces to grace our salads.

I've taken to spinning on the front deck on quiet Sunday afternoons when they occur. Currently working on an Arcott fleece I bought from Jody up at Valleyview before I moved. The neighbours directly below us had company two Sundays ago, arrived while I was working outside. They were shown around the yard, and then the visitors kept looking up towards our house. I thought maybe they were looking at the flag up in the quarry, and perhaps they were at first. And then the woman of the group kept looking and I realized she was trying to figure out what I was doing. That's me - oddity on the neighbourhood tour.

Last weekend, spinning was definitely not on the agenda. After the proverbial week from hell (not just for me; seems like the entire office was in stupid mode) and the return to hot clear weather, we hit the road.

Friday night we went to Lorenzo's Cafe directly from my office, to watch Shane Phillips (instrumentalist extraodinaire) and a lovely nighttime ride home ... complete with a kamikaze whitetail doe that tried to take Bryan out.

Mid morning Saturday (after watering was done of course) we took the long way to Revelstoke via Nakusp (the really long way around is via Invermere!). We went through Vernon and east on Hwy 6 through Lumby and Cherryville; across on the Facquiere cable ferry and a stop for beer and snackies; north past Nakusp and across Arrow Lake on the Galena Bay ferry (the only rain of the entire day) and the final sprint to Revelstoke. 320km that way.

Spent the night with Bryan's mom and left late in the morning - in time to face all the weekend cottagers heading back to Alberta (the Emptying of Mara) up to Salmon Arm and back to Falkland on the Salmon River Road. 155km that way.

Total km travelled including the Friday night trip to Lorenzo's - 600km.

Bryan's calling me. He's packing up the Triumph to take north, heading out on Tuesday. He, John and Gerald will be back next weekend, on their way to Oregon and the Pacific Coast Highway. I'm buying tickets for the NASCAR 300 - already have mine and Bryans but now need a pair for the guys. So they'd best be here by Saturday night!!

And then, when that ride is over, he'll be back up north for another month or so.

Have an offer on the house we will probably accept. That's good news.

Kids are all doing great. Need to grab a cheap flight up to GP to see wee Abby......