Um, no Lord Black, you’re full of it, actually

Rick MacLean
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I planned to write about the Canada Post plan to end its door-to-door mail service.

Part of me looks at it and says, big surprise. After all, I did find out about it via an email. The irony was obvious. Email. Snail-mail. The internet versus pen and paper, licking a stamp and dropping the result into a mailbox. It all sounds very Downton Abbey-esque.

Yes, I mourn the well-paid jobs certain to be lost as community mailboxes pop up like mushrooms. And no argument from me about the people who lug the mail earning every penny.

True, seniors and those struggling with a disability will need help. But the internet really has changed things. Just ask any newspaper. Pouring money into the post service won’t turn back the tide.

I planned to talk about P.E.I.’s continuing inability to do a proper job of helping its young people learn to add, subtract, multiply, divide and read.

The recently released test results from the Programme for International Student Assessment PISA are an embarrassment. P.E.I. is dead last in the entire country in reading, science, and math. For the second time in a row.

Cynthia Fleet had the good grace in an interview to say the results are unacceptable. But the superintendent of the English Language School Board superintendent highlighting student attendance as a key problem was simplistic.

That wasn’t the worst of it.

“I don’t mind being number 10, if the gap is very close. But we're going to mind being number 10 if the gap is very wide,” she was quoted as saying.

Don’t mind being dead last? You should mind. A great deal.

And suggesting changes at the elementary level will bear fruit years from now is cold comfort. The province has had years to right the ship and its response is to say trust us, it’ll be alright.

I think not.

I planned to talk about those things, then Lord Conrad Black opened his multi-syllabic mouth and, while pretending to be a journalist, began chewing on both feet at once. Frankly, the behaviour of puffed up convicted felon is just too much fun to ignore.

Playing the TV interviewer, he sat down with Rob Ford yes that one, the disgraced mayor of Toronto. The one who was chased around by cops for months because they were following suspected drug dealers and his honour kept showing up in the same alleyways.

Black let Ford to say a reporter had sneaked up to his back fence and snapped shots of his children in the yard.

“He’s taking pictures of little kids. I don’t want to say that word but you start thinking what this guy is all about,” Ford added slyly.

It was a lie. The reporter wasn’t looking into Ford’s yard, or taking photos. And there were no children in the yard at the time. A police investigation settled all that.

But Black, who needs to take a Journalism 101 course, did nothing to challenge or correct the claim. When a real journalist, Carol Off of the CBC, interviewed his lordship, he made it worse.

The police investigation was done months earlier and is public knowledge, she pointed out.

“I didn’t know any of that,” his lordship said. And no, it wasn’t his job to challenge the mayor, or to check his claims in the three days between when the interview was taped and when it ran.

That would earn an F in the media law course I teach at Holland College. In Ford’s case it has earned him legal notice that the reporter plans to sue him for libel. Black’s lucky he’s not on the list too.

- Rick MacLean is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.

Organizations: Holland College, Canada Post, English Language School Board CBC

Geographic location: Toronto, Charlottetown

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