When premiers get touchy

Bob
Bob Wakeham
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If you function blissfully outside the often irritating but occasionally revealing world of blogs, you probably missed a recent piece of additional evidence of the over-reacting, super-sensitive nature of Danny Williams.
The information was contained in a blog called "Meeker on Media," written by former journalist Geoff Meeker (and required reading for navel-gazing members of the Newfoundland press corps), and outlined the premier's complaint to the CBC ombudsman that "Here and Now" executive producer Peter Gullage had revealed a bias against the Tories when he said publicly that it's difficult to obtain information these days because news sources are intimidated by Williams.
Gullage committed the grievous sin of daring to use humour and obvious exaggeration to make his point (a satanic tactic of which I've been guilty at least a thousand times), saying journalists had found the restrictive atmosphere created by Williams to be a "kind of like a Beijing sort of thing."
After the article appeared in a national newspaper, Gullage and his boss in Toronto apologized about the Beijing reference.
But Williams and his gang of sycophantic protectors were decidedly unimpressed with the mea culpa, and took their complaint to CBC ombudsman Vince Carlin, who concluded the apology was warranted. However, he found Gullage's other remarks to be reasonable, given his position, and he implied that if Williams couldn't stand the heat in the kitchen of Newfoundland politics, he should escape (my words, not Carlin's).
A number of thoughts come to mind (from someone who's had dealings with both the CBC ombudsman and irate politicians). What was almost as ludicrous as the complaint itself was the fact that Gullage even apologized. If I had been in his position, I would have laughed it off derisively, and told the premier to get a life (it's been my experience that many CBC bosses upalong do not like upsetting politicians, but that doesn't mean editorial supervisors here, managing coverage of a premier with bully-like tendencies, should be forced to apologize for trivial matters).
And I wouldn't sweat the ombudsman too much if I was Gullage.
On one occasion when I occupied Gullage's desk, and the ombudsman of the day had ruled the Clyde Wells government had a legitimate beef with a piece we had done on government pensions, we merely aired a follow-up yarn on the verdict, one in which I said the ombudsman was entitled to his opinion, but that we were sticking to our guns. There were no repercussions.
On still another occasion, the same ombudsman ruled that my use of commentators like Ray Guy, Rex Murphy and others on "Here and Now" was a blatant violation of CBC policy. I wrote back, saying, basically: "and your point is?" Ray, Rex and company stayed. And, in fact, those sorts of commentators have become familiar across the CBC system.
It should also be noted, as Meeker did in his blog, that the government finding fault with Gullage's assessment that information-
gathering is difficult in the Williams' era is that very same government that continues to blackball the CBC and refuse any requests for one-on-one interviews with the premier, a case of inconsistency and hypocrisy (I'm not a detached player here since the childish cold shoulder came about after I made reference on the CBC morning show to Williams' marital problems, appropriate comments, I say again, given that the topic was coverage of the premier's private life).
So here's what Williams would have us believe: first, that Peter Gullage was exhibiting bias when he said simply that government isn't as transparent as past administrations have been, and secondly, that the "Here and Now" boss should be taken literally, that he really believed critics of the administration are one step away from being put in front of a concrete wall, blindfolded, and shot, Beijing-style.
The irony in all this is that Williams has absolutely no need to stoop to this thin-skinned foolishness, turning molehills into mountains, and portraying himself as a mannequin for diapers.
The premier is still immensely popular, has done more things right than wrong, and should keep his disgust with journalists like Gullage (and commentators like me) buried.
Perhaps it's part of the addictive power trip.


Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by e-mail at bwakeham@nl.rogers.com.

Organizations: CBC, Newfoundland press

Geographic location: Beijing, Newfoundland and Labrador, Toronto

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  • Polly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    Mr. Lane please elaborate .

    Cultural plan------?

    Poverty reduction strategy ---- ?

    Energy plan ---- Do we have one ?

    IT for government ---- how does that help the average citizen ?

    immigration strategy ------ isn't that Federal ?

    Budget surpluses ----- are we not running a deficit for the foreseeable future ?

    Award-winning tourism campaigns --- has there been a noticeable increase in tourism statistics ?

    This is a nice list of buzzwords , but these , do not a LEADER make .

    I want to see tangible evidence .

  • Dave
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    Great piece, Mr. Wakeham. Particularly your last point that the Premier has no need to get so uptight.

    To Polly Pickford: Tuition freeze; cultural plan; red tape reduction; investment in R&D; poverty reduction strategy; energy plan; massive improvement of IT use for government services; immigration strategy; budget surpluses; huge investment in education; award-winning tourism campaigns...

    Yeah, he has an embarrassing temper that does harm where it doesn't need to, but he's not just popular because he stands up to the fed. He's actually a dang good leader.

  • Audacity
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    John Crosbie on This Hour Has 22 minutes:

    The CBC can kiss my arse!

  • July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    CBC was also admonished when a radio journalist used the word DIVORCED in a senetence about the Premier.

    If he is divorced, what is the big deal? Fifty-two per cent of marriages end in divorce so it is nothing unique to Danny Williams.

    It won't cost him any votes or popularity.

  • W
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    cultural plan = repackaging of funding announcements that any provincial government would make anyway; red tape reduction = why hasn't the Minister of Business published a list of the ''red tape'' requirements the government has supposedly reduced?; investment in R&D = like Kodiak footwear?; poverty reduction strategy = repackaging, see above, and has it actually reduced poverty?; energy plan = the energy plan that is centred around one imaginary project (the so-called Lower Churchill) and several expropriated ones?; massive improvement of IT use for government services = and why has that been centralized under control of executive council?; immigration strategy = how's that working, anyway?, given that net international immigration is basically unchanged from any time in the past two decades?; budget surpluses = now budget deficits, despite the oil and Voisey's Bay revenues from deals which pre-date Danny (and which he used to denounce as ''giveaways''); award-winning tourism campaigns = which look great on TV, has tourism actually gone up?

  • W
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    Greg from Edmonton, Alberta writes: CBC was also admonished when a radio journalist used the word DIVORCED in a senetence about the Premier.

    = = =

    1) Actually the D-word was used by a GUEST on the radio.

    2) CBC was ''admonished'', in the passive... by whom?

  • Polly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    The premier is still immensely popular, has done more things right than wrong, and should keep his disgust with journalists like Gullage (and commentators like me) buried.
    Perhaps its part of the addictive power trip ------ For those of us who happen to be naive on the subject , will someone please compose a list of all the good this premier has done . I am hard-pressed to find much in the way of tangible good . Please don't start the list with the Atlantic Accord .....

  • Polly
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    Mr. Lane please elaborate .

    Cultural plan------?

    Poverty reduction strategy ---- ?

    Energy plan ---- Do we have one ?

    IT for government ---- how does that help the average citizen ?

    immigration strategy ------ isn't that Federal ?

    Budget surpluses ----- are we not running a deficit for the foreseeable future ?

    Award-winning tourism campaigns --- has there been a noticeable increase in tourism statistics ?

    This is a nice list of buzzwords , but these , do not a LEADER make .

    I want to see tangible evidence .

  • Dave
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    Great piece, Mr. Wakeham. Particularly your last point that the Premier has no need to get so uptight.

    To Polly Pickford: Tuition freeze; cultural plan; red tape reduction; investment in R&D; poverty reduction strategy; energy plan; massive improvement of IT use for government services; immigration strategy; budget surpluses; huge investment in education; award-winning tourism campaigns...

    Yeah, he has an embarrassing temper that does harm where it doesn't need to, but he's not just popular because he stands up to the fed. He's actually a dang good leader.

  • Audacity
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    John Crosbie on This Hour Has 22 minutes:

    The CBC can kiss my arse!

  • July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    CBC was also admonished when a radio journalist used the word DIVORCED in a senetence about the Premier.

    If he is divorced, what is the big deal? Fifty-two per cent of marriages end in divorce so it is nothing unique to Danny Williams.

    It won't cost him any votes or popularity.

  • W
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    cultural plan = repackaging of funding announcements that any provincial government would make anyway; red tape reduction = why hasn't the Minister of Business published a list of the ''red tape'' requirements the government has supposedly reduced?; investment in R&D = like Kodiak footwear?; poverty reduction strategy = repackaging, see above, and has it actually reduced poverty?; energy plan = the energy plan that is centred around one imaginary project (the so-called Lower Churchill) and several expropriated ones?; massive improvement of IT use for government services = and why has that been centralized under control of executive council?; immigration strategy = how's that working, anyway?, given that net international immigration is basically unchanged from any time in the past two decades?; budget surpluses = now budget deficits, despite the oil and Voisey's Bay revenues from deals which pre-date Danny (and which he used to denounce as ''giveaways''); award-winning tourism campaigns = which look great on TV, has tourism actually gone up?

  • W
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    Greg from Edmonton, Alberta writes: CBC was also admonished when a radio journalist used the word DIVORCED in a senetence about the Premier.

    = = =

    1) Actually the D-word was used by a GUEST on the radio.

    2) CBC was ''admonished'', in the passive... by whom?

  • Polly
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    The premier is still immensely popular, has done more things right than wrong, and should keep his disgust with journalists like Gullage (and commentators like me) buried.
    Perhaps its part of the addictive power trip ------ For those of us who happen to be naive on the subject , will someone please compose a list of all the good this premier has done . I am hard-pressed to find much in the way of tangible good . Please don't start the list with the Atlantic Accord .....