Category Archives: Canadian Journalist

Blog for the discussion of the craft and business of journalism and reporting in Canada

A “gangrenous limb” speaks

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Two of the journalists Conrad Black called “gangrenous limbs:” Bob Blakey (left) and Brian Brennan, raising a glass to the memory of Alberta legend Bob Edwards.

One-time media tycoon, British Lord and American convict Conrad Black generated controversy recently when the Calgary Public Library Foundation named him the recipient of the Bob Edwards Award. The honour is bestowed annually in the Alberta city on an outspoken Canadian author.

Black achieved special notoriety amongst journalists in the city during a bitter strike in 2000 at the Calgary Herald — not least for calling striking journalists “gangrenous limbs.” Black was then chairman of a company called Hollinger, which had accumulated a large number of Canadian newspapers, including the Herald.

One of those “gangrenous limbs” was historian, author and Facts and Opinions founding writer Brian Brennan. Brennan writes on his own blog why, despite the honour bestowed on Black, he still chose to help the foundation host the event. He reports how Black was booed during a speech touching on the travails of Toronto’s embattled mayor Rob Ford, the fall of Richard Nixon, and Black’s own incarceration in an American prison for mail fraud and obstruction of justice.

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Greg Locke in Maclean’s

Offshore Oil by Greg Locke © 2013 -
The semi-submersible offshore oil exploration drill rig, Henry Goodrich, working on Husky Energy’s White Rose offshore oil field 300km south of St. John’s, Newfoundland. Photo by Greg Locke © 2013

Greg Locke, Facts and Opinions’ managing partner, visual, is profiled this week in Maclean’s, Canada’s national newsmagazine. The Maclean’s feature, online and in the magazine on news stands, includes a gallery of Locke’s photographs of Atlantic Canada’s offshore oil industry.


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New Liberal leader in Newfoundland


ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland – The Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal Party elected Dwight Ball as their new leader following an election designed to make it easier for more people to participate. Ball had been interim leader since Yvonne Jones quit to run and win in a federal by-election last year. The sitting member of the house of assembly, from rural Newfoundland, fought off four other candidates, two sitting MHAs, also from rural Newfoundland, and two high-profile business persons from St. John’s.

In a broad reaching attempt to open up the party, attract new members and extend the democratic process, the party opened the Nov. 17 leadership election to the public allowing people to sign up and vote online, over the phone or at the convention in the provincial capital.  Considering the rise in Liberal popularity, it also meant the public had the opportunity to possibly vote for the next premier of the province directly.

The Liberals signed up 38,006 new party supporters during the five-month leadership race, and more than 23,000 of those cast a ballot. Party president Judy Morrow said the next two years are all about turning that list into a province-wide organization going into the next election. This Liberal race also featured a preferential ballot with each eligible voter ranking their choices, from first to fifth.

The party was nearly wiped out when millionaire businessman and lawyer Danny Williams became premier under the Progressive Conservatives in 2004, and at one point nearly lost official opposition status to the New Democratic Party, which has enjoyed major growth in the urban ridings in St. John’s. Since the confederation debates of 1948-49 the political divides in the province have been traditionally rural Liberal vs urban Conservative with the Liberals being the party that brought Newfoundland into the Canadian confederation and St. John’s conservatives in the merchant and clergy classes, opposing it. Other than this historical footnote and a few oddities along the way, there is very little difference, ideologically, between the provincial parties.

 The performance of Williams’ successor, Kathy Dunderdale, has been underwhelming since she took over the premiers’ seat following Williams surprise resignation in 2010. Her polling numbers have led her to the dubious position of the least-popular provincial premier in Canada. This, and her government’s lackluster performance and general disorganization, has meant a resurgence of support for the Liberal party again and set the stage for the next provincial election in 2015. Until a recent attempted palace coup inside the New Democratic Party, that saw two of its five caucus members depart to sit as independents, the NDP stood a good chance of making significant gains in the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly.

With possible leadership changes in the NDP and PC parties in the coming year the stage is almost set for the next election in Canada’s most eastern province.

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Gorden Pinsent


Canadian actor, Gorden Pinsent, today, during rehearsals for tonight's performance of A Lion Among the Ladies: Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Mendelssohn’s incidental music (Op. 21/61) with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra in St. John's, Newfoundland and their Master Works Series. Photo by Greg Locke © 2013.

Canadian actor, Gorden Pinsent, today, during rehearsals for tonight’s performance of A Lion Among the Ladies: Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Mendelssohn’s incidental music (Op. 21/61) with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra in St. John’s, Newfoundland and their Master Works Series. Photo by Greg Locke © 2013.  …click to enlarge.

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Jones: a Ford nation

Canada, once phlegmatic, is no longer a serious country.

The national and global obsession with Toronto mayor Rob Ford confirms something Free Range columnist Deborah Jones increasingly suspected about Canada’s national character.

The question is, how to respond. To laugh, or cry?



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“I looked down the barrel of the future and saw a dark, empty hole.”

By Chris Wood 

Some time back a friend of mine and I were sharing a coffee in downtown Vancouver and worrying at the problem of journalism before the apocalypse. Not the Biblical one; the biological one. It’s hard to look most of the trend lines in our society, our economy, our biosphere, in the eye, and feel happy about where they point. If everything’s going to hell and no-one much is paying attention (because the mainstream media has turned itself over to celebunews), what are a couple of ink-stained wretches from the old school to do?

My friend found part of her answer starting up Facts and Opinions—dedicated to taking clear-eyed, candid, and, if called for, lingering looks at the many dark and wonderous processes of life unfolding around us. I found part of mine contributing occasional thoughts on our fraying natural security, and how we might hold on to a little of it.

But this essay, “Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene,” may be the most eloquent meditation yet on the central problem of our age, the one we gnawed around the edges of that morning, and the one that no thinking person can escape if they honestly look about them. Writer Roy Scranton, a former United States Army Private, is now a doctoral candidate in English. His essay appeared in The New York Times’ philosophy blog, The Stone.

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George Packer’s The Unwinding

F&O Packer Unwinding book titleAmerican George Packer of The New Yorker was scorching in his take of the state of his union, talking in Vancouver at a writer’s festival.

Writes Rod Mickleburgh: “He drew gasps from the nearly sold-out crowd at the university’s Frederic Wood Theatre, when he pointed out that Sam Walton’s six heirs will eventually have as much wealth as the bottom 42 per cent of Americans. Meanwhile, incomes for the country’s top one per cent have soared by 256 per cent over the past 30 years, while those of the middle class have nudged higher by a mere 21 per cent.

“These aren’t just numbers,” said Packer. “This is a very bad sign. It’s bad for democracy … It’s starting to feel like the end of an empire.”

Read Mickleburgh’s story in Ex Libris, available to monthly subscribers or with a $1 day pass to Facts and Opinions.

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Defending the “black market in human decency”

This essay in the New York Times, Slaves of the Internet, Unite, is a fine defence of the value of writing, art and, yes, journalism.

Tim Kreider, an American writer and cartoonist, quotes Vladamir Nabokov: “Let us not kid ourselves. Let us remember that literature is of no practical value whatsoever.” Responds Kreider: ”  
“But practical value isn’t the only kind of value. Ours is a mixed economy, with the gift economy of the arts existing (if not exactly flourishing) within the inhospitable conditions of a market economy, like the fragile black market in human decency that keeps civilization going despite the pitiless dictates of self-interest.”
Kreider is calling for creators to stop giving work away for free on the Internet, in a world where no one hands out necessities like free groceries or shelter, or most luxuries.
All I would add is that nothing is ever “free.” Often, though, it requires critical thinking to figure out who is paying for it, and to realize there’s a cost to neglecting what really matters.
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Thanks for your trust

Thank You for your support of Facts and Opinions. Thank you for your vote of confidence.

We promise to live up to your trust.

Use the code sub2015 (or Sub2015) to access pages protected by passwords.

Find  our Table of Contents here, featuring new works on Facts and Opinions and updated Saturdays — and occasionally as major breaking news warrants. Sign up on here for FRONTLINES, to receive new blog posts by email. Find evidence-based reporting in REPORTS; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. Please share our links and tell others about us.

Deborah Jones, managing partner, Editorial.    E-mail: djones AT

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Facts before opinions

”You are entitled to your opinion … you are not entitled to your own facts.” That quote by Moynihan is the motto on F&O’s Science page, and it’s a guiding principle of good journalism.

We took notice as The Los Angeles Times banned letters-to-the-editor that deny climate change. The wonderful precision of an editor’s explanation is noteworthy:

“I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page; when one does run, a correction is published. Saying “there’s no sign humans have caused climate change” is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy,” wrote  Paul Thornton.