I thought that once I got to the bottom of this YWCA Daycare Report fiasco, I would either feel angry or triumphant.
Instead, I just feel sad.
We all grew up placing our trust in authority figures, and that included our parents, teachers, police, religious officials and even the media (but never politicians). When there is a breach of trust though, it is something that can shake you to your very core.
So let me give you a brief recap. I voluntarily undertook the assignment on behalf of some of my fellow bloggers, such as Sara and Prairie Voice, to try and track down the data that led to CTV's statement that "most Canadians would prefer a national day-care program over a federal cash payout", as it related to the YWCA's recent media circus over their report, "Building a Community Architecture" in support of universal daycare.
I simply wanted to know what facts supported the data; a simple question, I thought. After all, this Parliament could fall on the daycare issue, and the politicians' beliefs about Canadians' opinions in this regard could be the tipping point. I never realized how persistent I would have to be to ferret out the truth.
You can read some of my previous posts to discover how much digging I had to do to climb up the chain of command at the YWCA National office. Nobody seemed to know much about this report. Even the co-author, Fahreen Beg had to direct my enquiry to Jenny Robinson, Director of National Initiatives, who apparently coordinated the project and report.
At this point I was getting a little suspicious. The co-author didn't know anything about it?
Several more emails were sent out to Jenny asking how CTV came to the conclusion from the report that 'most Canadians would prefer a National Day Care Program...'
In reply, I simply received form letters referring to the study.
At this point, saner people would have given up, but I tried a new approach: Go back to the source. So I looked up that original CTV report again, and noticed it was written by an Alicia Kay Markson, with files from the Canadian Press. I tried all kinds of ways to get her email address - google; CTV website; I even tried contacting their "Whistleblower" site to suggest lack of credibility in the media as a topic! Needless to say, they didn't bite.
O.K. Then I faced my least favourite alternative as an unpaid investigative journalist - long distance. I called the head office and asked if I could be put through to Ms. Markson's voice mail.
A man actually answered the phone. Yikes! I wasn't prepared for that! What do I say?
I gathered my wits and asked for Alicia, but I was told she wasn't around at the moment.
"Oh, could I please leave a message?"
-Well, you could, but she likely wouldn't call back, because she is VERY BUSY.
"Right. Well, could I leave it anyway please?"
-What's this about?
So I launched into my little diatribe without sounding too threatening; like just saying that I'm interested in a story she did about the YWCA report. Then I asked if perhaps he could help me?
-Sorry, I don't think so.
"Um, do you think I shouldn't be asking about all this?"
That threw him off! He mumbled something I couldn't quite make out.
Finally, I was able to at least get him to take my name, phone number and email address.
File 13. End of story.
But wait! About a half hour later the phone rang. Blocked call. The hair on the back of my neck stood up.
"This is Alicia Kay Markson calling. May I please speak to Joanne?"
Yes, you sure may, Ms. Markson!
I told her I was trying to understand where that statement in her story came from; that I had searched the whole study and still didn't see any evidence to support it.
She assured me that it was in the report. I replied that I had poured over every word, and the closest I could find was "Canadians agree that universal child care is a necessity", (which was suspect in itself), but I didn't find the word 'most'.
Well, I could tell she was getting a bit impatient with me now, and asked me what my 'interest' was in all this?
"Well, I'm a blogger, and I'm doing a little investigative journalism".
I could hear the amused tone in her voice - 'Really?'
"I'm a Conservative blogger, and there are a lot of us out there trying to get at the truth in main stream media. I want to give you the opportunity to tell your side of the story".
Well, to her credit, the conversation didn't end there.
She candidly explained that she didn't really read the whole report.
What? Pardon me?
I took the opportunity to give her a brief summary; explaining that the participants from the four cross-Canada focus groups were hand-picked and therefore could hardly be considered unbiased.
She replied that she got the statement from the National Coordinator.
Ah, well that explains it! Good ol' Jenny Robinson.
I thanked her kindly for her time and assured her that I was very grateful.
Well, as I sit and digest all this, I'm thinking that reporters probably are rushed off their feet, and likely don't have a lot of time to dig into facts before they stand in front of a camera. So, I'm willing to give Ms. Markson and the Canadian Press the benefit of the doubt.
But if this is representative of how MSM reporting works, then it really is 'Buyer Beware" when it comes to being a media consumer. I give Ms. Markson full credit for her honesty and candor.
But my rose-coloured glasses are now in the trash.