Journalism society says “no comment” to questions regarding award

Jury shrugs off formal complaint to the Canadian Journalism Foundation

An update for readers regarding the decision by a jury of the Canadian Journalism Foundation to award a website viewed locally as an organ of Vision Vancouver and environmental charities with their Excellence in Journalism award for small/local media. This institution devoted to upholding journalistic principles and keeping organizations and governments accountable responded to the concern with that familiar phrase: "No Comment". Here is the response from the chair of the CJF jury:

Mr. Klassen;

We have had the opportunity to review your concerns and remain confident in our decision and the process and criteria used in selecting the Vancouver Observer as the 2012 Excellence in Journalism award recipient (small/local media).


Michael Benedict

It was a less than fulfilling response under the circumstances, so Mr. Benedict was asked to elaborate. It was an opportunity for an organization dedicated to promoting journalistic ethics and accountability to put those principles into action. So:

  1. In the spirit of openness and transparency, will you release the jury's written decision as to why Vancouver Observer (VO) was given the Excellence in Journalism award?
  2. Also in the spirit of openness and transparency, will the CJF release Vancouver Observer's submission to the CJF?
  3. Does the jury acknowledge that there are real concerns about political partisanship and conflict of interest within VO's reporting, or was there an attempt made to look into questions of conflict and partisanship by you or the jury after the matter was brought to your attention?
  4. Was it deemed necessary by the jury to contact any Vancouver-based media sources after the concerns about VO were raised, and if not, why?

Three and a half minutes after these questions were sent by email, came the following response:

Hello Mike;

We have nothing further to say on the matter.


Michael Benedict

No comment, in other words. It certainly shakes one's faith in these awards and makes you wonder where journalism is headed if we're celebrating political mouthpieces. I certainly hope that a more rigorous process is used for the CJF in the future, but Benedict's response does not provide much comfort.

For my earlier comment about journalism, see "Blogs are not journalism".

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  • spartikus

    “No comment” means “declining to comment”.

    “We have nothing further to say on the matter” is a comment. It means “we have nothing further to say on the matter.”

    They’re different.

    However this whole thing is all very minor league – I think you should aim higher. Demand to see the ballots for the Oscars, perhaps? I never did like the look of those Price-Waterhouse guys. They must be hiding something.

    • Where’s that sense of irony, James? Ask a few questions of an organization promoting journalistic standards on the national stage and they clam up tighter than some backwater bureaucrat. You like to keep us honest, so why deny us the opportunity to do the same with someone else?

      • spartikus

        Ask away, Mike. But “we have nothing further to say” isn’t “no comment”.

        Citizen-blogger: “Hey you, I have questions about your decision based on A, B, and C.”

        Organization: “Hi, CB, we’ve looked at A, B, and C and stand by our decision.”

        Citizen-blogger: “I don’t like your answer. I have questions about your decision based on A, B, and C.”

        Organization: “Okay, but we gave you our answer and have nothing further to say.”

        How “no comment” works:

        Citizen-blogger: “Hey you, I have questions about your decision based on A, B, and C.”

        Organization: “No comment”.

        Step back from this particular situation for a second Mike and ask yourself what another organization might say if the competitor of an award-winner made the same sort of demands you are.

        Ex. Paul Krugman has opinions, says conservative economist! How could he win the Nobel Prize?! The process is in danger of falling into disrepute. I demand to see the jury’s decision!


        • Paul T.

          James, you’re trying to compare apples and oranges. As a former journalist, I share Mike’s outrage over such a decision. I hated to hear the term “Liberal Media” because lots of good journalists don’t necessarily subscribe to that slant. In fact we overwhelmingly attempt to not have a slant at all.

          Then you see decisions like this, where a gang of journalists pat a clearly partisan blog on the back and it just makes you cringe.

          Remember it wasn’t a single writer being given this award, it was the organization as a whole. So to give it, the organization should have been judged on the balance of their work. Clearly they should have been disqualified since they are partisan. It’s a shame the CJF won’t review their decision. It’s OK to admit you got it wrong.

          • spartikus

            You’re assuming your conclusion, Paul. There’s been something missing from this series of posts: An examination of actual VO articles. You’re ignoring the body of VO’s work – quite a lot of which has nothing to do with politics at all.

            As a former journalist you should know certain outlets have certain editorial slants. The Guardian, the Sunday Telegraph, the Washington Times, etc. Heck, the editorial page editor of the Vancouver Sun comes out of the Fraser Institute. I don’t think very highly of the Fraser Institute but the Vancouver Sun is still journalism. Because it’s more than just Fazil Mihlar.

            As a former journalist you should know media organizations make partisan endorsements all the time.

            The heart of all this, it seems to me, comes from an article that appeared in the VO on Vivian Krause. There were clear allegations that article contained false information about her. I’ve asked on more than one occasion what that false information was and have never received a response. I’ve looked on the Fairquestions website and there is no such claim there.

            If you want to display an award was given in error, you need to show – not allege – that the VO has knowingly published falsehoods. Having an editorial slant is not grounds for such a charge.

      • Bought and paid for?

  • boohoo

    Seriously….who cares.

    • Paul T.

      Apparently you care boo. At least enough to comment.l

  • Glissando Remmy

    Thought of The Night

    “If you didn’t know, CJF stands for Copenhagen Jazz Festival … !”

    Everyone I asked re. the meaning of the CJF acronym, got it wrong, by a mile!
    Self appointed juries in need of attention and self nominated candidates in need of recognition are a dozen a nickel.

    One Foundation awarding another… what’s new morning glory?
    They are doing it in Hollywood for more than 8 decades!
    We celebrate mediocrity in schools from an early age, we give all the kids who graduate, a Diploma of Achievment, when in fact what they do is graduating from Grade 2 to Grade 3. It’s psychotic!

    Like the Prizes they award in Cannes for all those Artsy Movies! Regardless what anyone understood, the audience clap happily, and vigorously during the credits roll.
    Another day, another buck.
    Everyone goes home, never wanting to ever watch what they just saw, ever again.

    Same here. At the end of the day, rest assured, VO will never make me curios of their Journalistic acumen. One previous browse of their content was painful enough for me.

    But I’ll be glad to consider them in the future, for a “Glissando Award” if they’d ever make a submission to the CRF – Canadian Remmy Foundation.

    Till then though…

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

  • Whenever you are trying to prove something, every element of your claim can be proven by circumstantial evidence. You don’t need direct evidence or an admission. The inferences to be drawn here are unambiguous. Their criteria for selection is unknown and unknowable, thus their award is meaningless. A lack of any known standard to judge journalism reflects on the people giving out the award. It can’t seriously be a real journalism award without some objective standards. And they won’t disclose what particular piece of journalism was recognized for the award? What more need you establish circumstantially Mike?

    Circumstantial evidence is not like a chain where if you break a link and the chain collapses. Circumstantial evidence is like a rope. Each individual strand adds more and more strength. If one of the threads snaps, the rope does not lose all its strength.

    I think we can move on because you’ve made your case and it’s up to the jury of readers. Denying the evidence does not negate it. What more can be said?

    • Steven Forth

      And the main evidence is available on the Vancouver Observor website. So go there, read a selection of articles, and come to your own jugement.

      • Which article did they win the award on Steven? I’d be happy to read it and see if it is award worthy. Perhaps you can single out any one article that is hard news reporting and or stellar journalism? I don’t see it as anything other than obvious partisan spin. It’s not even a good simulation or camouflage of actual journalism. Honestly, you must read about confirmation bias. It’s permeating your entire thought process. You need to re-partition and reformat and start from scratch in the brain housing group.


        • Steven Forth

          Thanks Karla. I will try to do that. I will also work on imaginging a magical fuel three hundred years in the future.

          I earlier posted a few links to VO stories I enjoyed. Of course the award was for the whole site and not one story, but here is another story I enjoyed.

          • The secrets of the universe are revealed to nobodies. Faraday was a book binder’s apprentice. Einstein was a patent clerk. I’m sure you had you lived in the past as a cave man you would have had no problem understanding an iPad or a cigarette lighter. Most of us aren’t as evolved to comprehend future inventions and technology before they exist.

            The chemistry and technology required for the energy source of tomorrow is being worked on now, but isn’t yet within man’s capability. It doesn’t mean because the future is unknown that it is unknowable. And what is your contribution to your fellow man again?

          • Steven Forth

            You may wll be an unrecognized genius Karla. And I agree that much innovation comes from unexpected sources. My issue is rather with anyone knowing what science or technology will look like in 300 years. Or thinking that the status quo could or should be maintained that long.

            My own contributions? I have translated a few poems. And I have wonderful children and a grandchild. I also have a great community of people that I work with to create new companies. Most of these companies have something to do with collaborative work and learning in one form or another, or evolutionary and social models applied to semantics (in the service of collaboration). But I also want to get involved in next gen manufacturing and start making stuff I can drop on my foot.