The Signal Blog is a recent arrival on the provincial media scene.
Here is how the blog describes itself:
This is where comings and goings mix with news and views to create a dialogue amongst the people of St. Johns. A celebration of and infatuation with everything unique and wonderful that this city has to offer.
With contributions from local writers, musicians, filmmakers and the countless people who read and respond to our stories, Signal is more than just a blog about St. Johns.
Signal is the St. Johns blog.
There is no full identification of who runs Signal Blog, though it is not a secret that the site is operated by Darcy Fitzpatrick with a handful of contributors.
The blog focuses a great deal on arts and culture, with a smattering of other news. The writing quality is uneven, ranging from amateurish to quite good. The story mix is refreshingly unpredictable. Ive read an occasional item that impressed me like this one on Quidi Vidi Brewing and some that didnt, such as this piece on Toni Marie Wiseman of NTV.
Now its true that the reporter on the entertainment beat, who covers the frivolous stories, is often scorned by other, more serious journalists. Most reporters have heard and many have made snide comments about their colleagues who cover the light stuff. Fortunately, very few say it out loud, on the record.
The Signal blog wasnt so discreet. On July 13, they launched a mean-spirited attack on Toni Marie Wiseman that was patronizing, unfair and possibly defamatory.
The headline said Exclusive interview with Toni Marie Wiseman.
Normally, I might stop and question such claims, since it was not an exclusive they were copying a link from someone elses blog but the item, brief as it was, presented more pressing concerns. Heres the full text:
Ex-pat Robert Carnell of Kingston, Ontario radio show Salt Water Music presents his two hour interview with a piece of Newfoundland and Labrador esoterica, the one and only Toni Marie Wiseman.
(This is followed by a link to the audio files.)
Im still listening to it right now and so far the discussion has spanned back as far as her childhood and discusses her entry into the NL media biz.
To be perfectly honest, I have a hard time taking Wiseman seriously her involvement with NTV pretty much disqualifies her for me in that regard.
Heres a clip from NTV News of her pretending that a $50 bill dangling from a string is in fact actual magic:
(You can view the link at the Signal blog.)
Thats not to say she couldnt be a lovely person in most regards. I cant really confirm that either way, but I can assess that her integrity as a journalist is somewhat farcical.
The patronizing, holier-than-thou tone is bad enough. But what really galls me is Fitzpatricks assessment that Wisemans integrity as a journalist is somewhat farcical.
I know Wiseman, and she once reported on a business venture of mine. I dont know her well enough to call her a friend, but no matter I have criticized friends before too. The key thing is, if I ever question a journalists integrity, I am meticulous in demonstrating why. Because the nastiest, most damaging thing you can do to any reporter even on the entertainment beat is question his or her integrity.
In this instance, the only substantiation Fitzpatrick offers is the fact that Wiseman works for NTV, and doesnt see the strings in a magic trick. To the first point, Im a veteran of the Stirling empire and realize it can be an interesting place to work. However, I also know there are some talented people there, who care about what they do. Their integrity is not sacrificed by where they work.
On the day this slur was posted, I sent a message to Wiseman looking for her reaction. She was on vacation so it took some time for her to respond. Even then, she was hesitant to say anything on the record. Finally, she offered this much:
My skin is getting thicker all the time, but things like this still smart. The truth is I'm NOT a news journalist, nor do I profess to be one. I am an entertainment reporter.
And what about the magic trick?
I cannot tell you how it was done. Jeremy Bennett did have me promise not to do that. There were no 'strings' as such, but it IS an illusion, not magic. I'd be more interested in learning how he slides those metal rods through his neck. He's on youtube doing that. Ouch.
Now, if Wiseman was guilty of violating journalistic ethics, I would agree with Fitzpatrick. But I have no reason to believe this is the case. Some will quibble with various aspects of the NTV newscast, from production values to lack of investigative reporting, but I honestly dont believe the newsroom is ethically challenged.
Because Wiseman reports on what some consider fluff, people are quick to dismiss her as a lightweight.
But dont underestimate Toni Marie Wiseman.
She has been performing live stand-ups every day for 20 years, which is almost certainly longer than any working journalist in the province. (Until recently, news reports were rarely broadcast live.) She is seasoned, poised, has great presence on camera and stays cool when things go awry.
Live TV is hard. Ask the reporters at Here Now, who still make occasional flubs in the live news hits they perform every day. Yet, Wiseman makes it look easy.
If you spent five minutes talking with her, as I have, you will note she is also quite intelligent.
She deserves better than this.
And she deserves an apology.