The Garret Tree
Sunday, September 04, 2005
  CBC 56: "A spiral toward extinction"
The London Sunday paper The Observer has rather snooty piece in its edition today, "A Canadian Farce the BBC Must Not Repeat" where a writer says the "CBC is in a spiral toward extinction."

It is written by someone called Peter Preston. Although it allegedly describes the picket line outside CBC Vancouver, there is no placeline and it sounds to me as if it was just whipped off while Mr. Preston, a business not an arts writer, was looking out over his green and pleasant garden in Kent or perhaps from the loft of his South Kensington flat before popping out for a good dinner and some better wine.

The analysis has pretty well been said before, although his focus is comparing the CBC situation to the future of the BBC. Preston seems to have gotten his all background from the National Post, which he calls Conrad Black's "finest creation," rather than bother to do a simple fact check even of Google News.

Preston is, of course, grossly inaccurate when it he calls it a strike. It is a lockout.

But this armchair critic crossed the line in my view when he says:

....CBC managers and unions seem to live within a cocoon of introversion that allows them to threaten and stall and hang tough without ultimate penalty. Who needs to be back to work while New Orleans sinks into the ooze? Someone else will cover it. And someone will always pick up our bill.

That is what made me again get out of the sun and back in blogosphere. Because of the stupidity and lack of vision at the Senior Management Committee, everyone I know, locked-out journalists and technicians and locked-in middle managers and others I spoke to on the line today are sick, depressed and furious that we are not covering Katrina.

I am sending a copy of this blog to the Observer's equivalent of the ombudsman.

You can see the response here.


I received a swift response from British academic blogger Michael Bywater from Cambridge:

FYI, Peter Preston isn't a business writer. He's one of this country's leading liberal/left journalists and was for many years editor of The Guardian, and arguably a very distinguished one. The comfy Kensington flat/Kent greensward is (though I see the rhetorical point you seek to make) a bit of a cliche and untrue.

Preston's journalistic credentials are as impeccable as they come in this age of debased journalism. And I think you'll find that the Conrad Black reference – and the sinking-into-the-ooze para -- was deep irony. Something we do a lot of in the British press, though sometimes it doesn't decode well beyond these shores. You could check Preston's stuff on Lexis and see for yourself, I suppose.

I don't have any views on the piece you are offended by, nor do I write for The Guardian (although I have done occasionally many years back). No axe to grind. I just thought that as a journalist, you'd appreciate some background here.

Kind regards

Michael Bywater

I had assumed when I was notified about The Observer article that Peter Preston was a business writer (it was on a business page) still hoping for an invitation to one of Tubby's and Barbara's now much diminished parties.

I don't have access to Lexis (I'm locked out) but I did check out Peter Preston with Google:

Wikipedia says he was the editor of The Guardian from 1975-1995. The same article says he was "mocked by The Spectator for his convulted writing style" and that he led a team of reporters who investigated corruption in the British Conservative party, including the "cash for questions" scandal.

Another bio says Preston was "was a war correspondent from the Indian-Pakistani war, from Bangladesh and from Cyprus....and one of the initiators and founders of the Press Complaints Commission, the British organisation for self-regulation in the press."

I even found one of his articles on the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting site, another piece examining the future of the BBC after the recent scandals.

In the end I decided that, despite any hints of irony, my complaint against Mr. Preston, which I have already filed with The Observer, must stand.

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I write in a renovated garret in my house in a part of Toronto, Canada, called "The Pocket." The blog is named for a tree can be seen outside the window of my garret.

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Name: Robin Rowland
Location: Toronto, Canada

I'm a Toronto-based writer, photographer, web producer, television producer, journalist and teacher. I'm author of five books, the latest A River Kwai Story: The Sonkrai Tribunal. The Garret tree is my blog on the writing life including my progress on my next book (which will be announced here some time in the coming months) My second blog, the Wampo, Nieke and Sonkrai follows the slow progress of my freelanced model railway based on my research on the Burma Thailand Railway (which is why it isn't updated that often) The Creative Guide to Research, based on my book published in 2000 is basically an archive of news, information and hints for both the online and the shoe-leather" researcher. (Google has taken over everything but there are still good hints there)

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