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Every now and then, you’ll run into journalists who insist their work doesn’t have to be edited. They’ll argue that they are so precise, so careful, so good, that their copy shouldn’t be touched. Their metaphors are stellar, their similes are carefully chosen, their pacing is perfect. And whoever those journalists are, they’re absolutely wrong.

There is no journalist, and probably no one else, whose work doesn’t benefit from review, even if that review is as simple as one extra set of eyes. Those eyes don’t even have to be expert eyes: we have blind spots, places where we gloss over detail  and jump from point to point, places where we miss the blatantly obvious because we’re so used to a topic that we read things that aren’t even on the page.

Now, to Muskrat Falls, and the report from the independent engineer put in place as a condition of the federal government’s loan guarantee for the project. That engineer produced a draft report on the project last November. This province’s minister of natural resources, Derrick Dalley, says his department only asked for the report last week.

“We didn’t need to see a report for the federal loan guarantee,” he said. “We’ve got our own work done around the project and the loan guarantee and the financing.” Keep in mind, the independent engineer is the only body doing any independent oversight of the project while it’s under construction.

“The independent engineer is providing the oversight,” Dalley admits. “Beyond that, we don’t have anyone in place to provide oversight over the construction.”

But that doesn’t mean Dalley, or anyone else, is availing of that expertise.

“I think what we need to recognize — and I would appreciate it if you would — is that Nalcor has assembled a team of experts. The experts are in the engineering oversight, and the work that’s being done for the project (is) among the best of people that we could find,” Dalley said. “We don’t have within the Department of Natural Resources the entire expertise to get down to every little nitty gritty detail about engineering decisions. We have Nalcor, which is a company that’s owned by the people of the province, that have experts, among the absolute best that we could find.”

Not to denigrate the good folks at Nalcor, but there are experts all over government, and even though there are, the provincial government has an auditor general to independently review their work. There are plenty of other audits as well. We have cabinet ministers who make decisions, supported by expert staff, to withhold government information — and an access commissioner who reviews those decisions and, strangely, often finds them wanting. Why? We’re human. We make mistakes. And the best way to produce the best product is to have as many eyes as possible review work, whether it’s this editorial, the constituency allowance spending of MHAs or a multibillion-dollar hydroelectric development.

Which is why this editorial will be edited, then read by the managing editor and placed on a page — and then that page will be read and proofed by another editor. Chances are, it still won’t be perfect — but every bit of input from every perspective will make it better and more well-rounded. And the bigger the story, the more thoroughly it will be reviewed before it ever makes the paper.

It’s just good practice. For a project where spending is in the billions, you’d think it would be standard practice.

Not only that, you’d think the minister involved would be keenly interested in the results.

Organizations: Department of Natural Resources

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls

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Recent comments

  • david
    February 26, 2014 - 10:37

    Newfoundland....a world class joke. Ukrainians we are not.

  • Winston Adams
    February 26, 2014 - 10:11

    I would advise readers, including journalists to read the scholarly work of "JM" filed with the PUB,under the heading of Investigation of the power outages , and then go to the comments listing. JM's piece is second on the list. He is the best we have as an "independent engineer"(although he may be an economist) and who raises valid question for answers on what a nightmare we are headed for with Muskrat Falls, and the fallout for the ratepayer. If you find it too long, read the Conclusion page. If any is not clear to a journalist, the journalist should ask for clarification.... at least bring to light what he says is reckless behaviour by Nalcor. It is unbelievable that the main media is ignoring this scholarly work, which has cost the ratepayers nothing. A jouralist, a good one, should be able to condense his piece to inform the average reader. It is important to do so. Your readers, not only the PUB , should understand what he has said, and the sooner , the better. It deserves coverage by the media.

  • Ed Power
    February 26, 2014 - 07:57

    Mr. Dalley is one of those uniquely skilled ministers blessed with the ability to bury his head in the sand and place it firmly in his nether regions simultaneously. I wonder which tune he whistles as he passes the Muskrat graveyard? "Don't Worry, Be Happy" perhaps...?

  • Maurice E. Adams
    February 26, 2014 - 07:21

    And if the independent engineer had required Nalcor to make changes that were not in the best interest of ratepayers/taxpayers ---- Dalley and the premier must rely on Ed Martin to advise them. ..... And would he do so if such change threatened his pet project, his competence, the economics of the project (not from the federal government's and the bankers' perspective), but from the NL ratepayers'/taxpayers' perspective ---- or would he say ANYTHING?...... ........... "Trust me" just doesn't cut it.... and when will the opposition call for a halt on this UNNEEDED project?

  • Cashin Delaney
    February 26, 2014 - 05:12

    "metaphors are stellar, their similes are carefully chosen, their pacing is" all more important than fact. Instead of crying about what you can't access, why not have one of your stellar perfectionist Journalists DEDICATED to MUSKRAT. We get buddy sent away (Michael something, can't remember) to POW camp in indo-china somewhere. James bald-spot (still laughing at what The Independent crowd did to him) basically calls it as they say it, no follow-up questions (the first ones must have been deemed perfect). No engagement. Wangersky's scapegoating of the non-voters in his role as 'systems defender'. No depth. A fair journalist given mandate could at least reframe some of the risks, speculate on the report in question. The other side of the editing affair, censorship, and the much worse, self-censorship, probably come into play much more so than tension about simile integrity or metaphor aptness? "the best way to produce the best product is to have as many eyes as possible review work" best, like quality milk - homogenized homogeneous and pasteurized? Oh, yeah, I forgot, I can go read for Uncle Gnarley and Ed Hollett for the same price. You guys will so go the way of letter mail, and I'm sure you will scapegoat us again, then, as non-voters, and also as the masses of illiterati too disengaged to appreciate every best shallow piece of chaff you print?