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.