Monday, May 7, 2007

Lies, Damned Lies, and Journalism

I remember hearing this story on the news a couple of days ago:
New report suggests Vancouver's safe-injection site a failure

VANCOUVER (CP) - A new study suggests a safe-drug-injection site in Vancouver that has been hailed by scientists as a success is really a failure.

The study, published Wednesday in the Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice, says there are serious problems in the interpretation of findings about Insite - the first such facility in North America - which opened as a pilot project over three years ago.

Disappointing, but ok. If Canadian Press is reporting it, there must be something to it, right?

Not necessarily. Cathie From Canada does a lovely job of exposing this story for what it is: ideological tripe from the Canadian branch of an American neo-con anti-drug astroturf organization. It seems the ‘study’ is nothing more than a review of other studies, its author is director of research with the Drug Prevention Network of Canada, and the Journal mentioned has only ever published two issues. Online. More insight into the backers of this so-called ‘study’ from Creekside:
The Drug Prevention Network of Canada is an offshoot of , wait for it, the Drug Prevention Network of America. It is headed up by Calvina L. Fay of Drug Free America, Save Our Society From Drugs, and Drug Watch International, dedicated to "combating the drug legalization movement globally". An advisor to Bush on drug policy issues, you may have heard her on the news recently proselytising against the medical use of marijuana for cancer patients. Yeah! - War on drugs!

But let's have a look at the Board of Directors for the Canadian branch of DPNC :
~ Randy White - Reform and Alliance Party MP for 12 years, right up until he went public with the idea of using the "notwithstanding clause" to prevent the passage of SSM and that was the end of him - too hot for Harper.
~ Gwen Landolt - VP of REAL Women of Canada. Thanks for all your fine work fighting Status of Women Canada. I especially liked your argument that shelters for battered women are discriminatory because there aren't comparable shelters for battered men.
~ a couple of graduates from the Scientology Narconon Program, now working as drug counsellors...

If you go back and examine the original CP article closely it reads a lot like a press release, which is what I suspect it originally was. CP puts it on the wire, uninvestigated and unquestioned, and it is subsequently picked up and run verbatim by CTV, the Sun, numerous radio stations, and several foreign news services. I Googled the lede and got over 200 hits.

This one is right up there with the "Cell Phones Are Killing Bees" story.

If this were just a case of an internet rumour run amok, or a catchy but inaccurate sound bite on the evening news getting repeated endlessly but never really retracted, then I could almost understand. But these stories are being run in NEWSPAPERS! The last refuge of true journalism, if you believe the dead tree journalists. These guys supposedly went to journalism school where they would have been taught to check their sources, then get second and third sources, and then investigate their sources for bias and conflict of interest. Hell, I only took that one night course in Feature Writing at Ryerson and even I know that much.

And yet, it’s the bloggers who are shunned as ‘unprofessional’ and barred from scrums and press rooms by the Real Journalists.


  1. Hi Jennifer
    Nice to see another Canadian content only blog - there's not that many of us.
    Actually I've been here once before to read your Blog Against Theocracy posts.

    Re Insite
    Harper doesn't like it so Insite's future funding is always in doubt. Good call on this being a press release, but whose exactly? Macleans also published it.
    Something's definitely up here.

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