Saturday, April 29, 2006

Reply from Lorrie Goldstein!

O.K. I lied. One more post about the media-flag controversy. This is probably going to make somebody angry, because I am pulling a "Garth Turner" and going a bit off-message. I still support the government's decision on flying the flag high. However, I've reconsidered my stand on the media access restriction.


I wrote Sun Columnist Lorrie Goldstein yesterday and invited him to check out my post and forward any related comments. He still stands by the Sun's editorial, but his extremely introspective response regarding media complaints about access-denial at Trenton caused me to reassess my own position:

"Just had a chance to read your blog. Thanks for the plug, but I must say I do agree with the Sun's stand on the issue of the media being allowed to attend the arrival of the soldiers' coffins in Canada.

The Sun, as you know, has always supported our military and we believe these "tarmac" ceremonies are an important part of our history that should be recorded by the media, as well as a compelling reminder to all Canadians of the enormous sacrifices our armed forces are sometimes called to make on our behalf.

In other words, if we're going to send the military into a war zone, then let's realize what a serious decision that is — BEFORE we send them — not after."



When I asked Lorrie for permission to publish his comments, he thanked me for asking and added the following:

"On the second point, while I believe it's important for the media to fight (figuratively speaking) for the right to be present at the airport ceremony, it does take place inside a military facility (Canadian Forces Base, Trenton, or at a similar location) which is, of course, a restricted area. In other words, if the military asks the families if they are comfortable with the media presence and any of them refuse, then the military is obviously within its rights to refuse us access. I would only ask that the issue be fairly put to the families - that is, that allowing the media to attend at the reception of the soldiers' coffins has been a long-standing practice and has not, to my knowledge, ever produced problems before. However, if the families still insisted on no media presence, then of course the military has the right, as it always has, to refuse us entry to the tarmac area.

Sorry, for the long-winded answer but I'm trying to draw a distinction between the media agreeing to restricted access, which I do not think we should do, as opposed to respecting the right of the military to restrict our access, based on the genuine wishes of the families. Our major objection is that the prime minister appeared to change a long-standing protocol which had not caused any controversy in the past without even asking the families, or, it appears from the latest reports, the military itself, if this was necessary. To me., it's simple - the prime minister said he was changing the protocol for the sake of the privacy of the families. Our question: Did he or someone from his office ask them?"


Lorrie Goldstein



I have reproduced the emails almost in their entirety because I promised him that the essential meaning would not be changed, and I didn't want to upset my favourite columnist!

After reading Lorrie's very reflective message and the letter from Cpl. Ryan Maher, I have to ask what is wrong with just asking the families what their wishes are on an individual basis? As Cpl. Maher says, "if there is even one member of one family who would have liked the repatriation ceremony in Trenton to be private, then the media should respect that request with no questions asked." Seems reasonable to me.

I want to thank Lorrie Goldstein for taking the time to forward his thoughts and also for acknowledging the existence of the blogosphere. I think this is an excellent example of how MSM and bloggers can work together to produce constructive, dynamic discussion which is healthy for our democracy.

Now I am sitting here wondering if a giant lightening bolt is heading my way from Ottawa.

Probably not - it's a big tent.

* * * * *

Update - I just checked out Garth Turner's blog. John, a "current serving member of the CF", makes the following points:

"On the flag front, I think the tories are correct in returning to the real protocol for flag lowering...Chretien used the death of 4 good men to make political hay for anti-US sentiments (Martin continued this trend). The only reason the flag was lowered for the first four in Afghan was to incite anger in Canadians as opposed to respecting the men that he sent there under equipped and with poor old equipment (which may have led to their deaths in the first place)...

On the funeral side of things, changing that policy back was again, to combat the MSM’s agenda to try and impact our foreign policy... Support our troops and leave this non-sense behind."


So here is my final question: Is this a matter of respect for family privacy or of policy protection? If the former, then why not ask the families? If the latter, how does one media ban make a difference when they are allowed everywhere else?

In any case, let's support our troops in more ways than just post-humously.

48 comments:

Derik Foulem said...

Bravo!!

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Oh-oh. If Derik agrees with me, that's not good.

Anonymous said...

While on the surface it makes sense to ask the families what they want in fact the reality would be that everytime a family said no the government would be forced to explain and immediately the media would want to know which family and why. The government has made a decision and I support them. Let the media cover the funerals if the family wants.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Good point, anonymous. However, would the government have to tell the media which family it was that didn't want the coverage?

I hear you though. We should be focussing more on proper equipment than worrying about media rights anyway.

Gabby in QC said...

On a somewhat related topic: NDP MP Chris Charlton (last Wednesday or Thursday) brought forth a motion in Parliament to have November 11th declared a national holiday.

Should such a motion pass, and human nature being what it is, November 11 would become another day to catch up on household tasks, or catch up on sleep, or R & R time, or whatever ...

Ceremonies commemorating the Canadian Forces (both living and dead) would no longer be held in schools across Canada. Veterans would no longer participate in Q & A sessions with schoolchildren, making history come alive for those students. And more important, those Veterans taking part in such activities would no longer be able to bear witness to their personal experiences and those of their comrades.

I hope MPs vote down Ms. Charlton's motion should she insist on presenting it again.

Danté said...

Lorrie, that sounds like quite a reasonable compromise. Unfortunately, some of you colleagues believe that they have the right to unfettered access to these events, no matter what the families feel. Hopefully, they'll come on board to the way you and I see it.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Gabby, I agree with you that things should stay as they are on Remembrance Day. The only thing I might add is that it is difficult for people to attend the ceremonies if they are at work. However, if a person felt strongly enough about it, I'm sure they could work something out with their boss.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Dante, I think you may have hit upon something here. Some newspapers have been almost tabloid-like in their tasteless pursuit of a gut-wrenching front page shot. They are the ones that have spoiled in for all the media.

So, I guess in the interest of expediency, this is the only way the problem could be resolved from a practical point of view.

Zac said...

Glad to see your coming around Joanne

ward said...

Keep the media banned from tarmac ceremonies. A rule is a rule. Rules such as this have as much to do with individuals as they do with the military body. No individual stands above or ahead of his comrades, even in death.

To allow otherwise would be to allow greiving families to set national and military policy. A sometimes yes sometimes no policy is no policy at all, and one that would be ruthlessly exploited by the media.

Putting the question to the families is dirty pool. What family would not want to have thier loved one "honored" front and center in the media spotlight?

As well, the families are in a time of deep greif and loss. Is that the best time to be making decisions as to what type of media coverage one would want on the return of the deceased?

Should a family who has just lost a loved one to the war want media attention by all means invite the media to that loved ones funeral, and into their homes.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Ward, your view makes sense to me too. I honestly have never vacillated so much on an issue before. Darn good thing I'm not the PM!

One thing for sure - I'm glad Harper is in charge right now. We need someone like him; someone strong at the helm; someone who doesn't crumple at the least hint of dissension.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Zac - Don't count your chickens...

Zac said...

Just saying that I'm glad to hear your comin' around.


BTW, we do have a leadership race on right now, I could always arrange to get a membership form to ya Joanne...eh? How 'bout it.


haha

Dark Blue Tory said...

Lorrie Goldstein kicks major ass. No, he always has.

So does Greg Weston, when he decides to be on our side.

Congratulations, Platty.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Zac - I'm pleading temporary insanity for the moment.

DBT - Yeah, they're both good guys.

"Congratulations, Platty"??

Riley Hennessey said...

Joanne,

Good stuff I completely agree with you. It's all about what best serves the family and not what the media or the public wants.

Derik Foulem said...

Since when is it insane to have an open mind and weight in both sides of an argument?

One think I learned in my first philosophy class is that an argument with someone is not valid if both party don't come in with the premise that the other person can convice them that they are wrong.

Mac said...

One of our veterans, Major Don Robertson (retired) OMM, CD (member of the Royal Canadian Legion and past president of the Surrey Chapter of the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association), did an opinion piece in our local newsrag, supporting the government. Here's a quick quote...

"In today's reporting, there is too much guesswork and supposition. In addition, online polls do little to curb the emotional side of soldiers doing their duty in far-away places under conditions of service that come to them as no surprise.

There is danger in donning a uniform today, just as in days gone by. It is a condition of service and civilians seem shocked when this occurs. Logically speaking, more Canadians are killed in traffic accidents on holiday weekends than soldiers in service of their country in a given year. Let's return to some kind of perspective."

Thanks for your service, Major.

Zac said...

Good point Derik..I don't think that we are all on the same page here.

Chuckercanuck said...

Joanne (TB):

in many conditions, average people don't want to object, or raise a fuss. As a consequence, they suffer indignities or boredom or pain to avoid the discomfort of being disagreable. in grief, I suppose its easier to be disagreable, but still - why force it on people.

Yes, the media will seek out the parents to get public declarations of whether they want the media or not. I've seen it already, this week. In Canada.

Beyond what the editorial board of the Sun feels, I haven't heard a good reason to grant access in the first place.

Additionally, it shouldn't be just about the families - the military at CFB Trenton has, albeit lesser, input in terms of privacy for their grieving personnel.

BTW, discovered Lorrie Goldstein only in the last year or so. Great columnist!

Joanne (True Blue) said...

"Since when is it insane to have an open mind and weight in both sides of an argument?"

Derick, who said it was insane?

Joanne (True Blue) said...

CC - I agree with you on all counts. Interesting perspective about the military personnel. It's a complex issue.

The Dinning family has attacked Harper on this. I suppose it is their right. However, I can't understand why anyone would want their child's funeral to be so public.

Dark Blue Tory said...

Joanne,

I'm sorry, I've been doing that a lot lately. I got all confused and stuff...

*bangs head against wall* There, that should do it.

SO SORRY!

Dark Blue Tory said...

As far as Dinning is concerned, I see where he's coming from, but the other three families aren't so fond of having the media attend.

Unfortunately, the majority rules in this instance. Mr. Dinning can speak with the media all he wants now that the returning ceremony is complete.

That's what the government said.

I don't get it, personally. Perhaps the Liberals are egging on an emotionally charged man.

Riley Hennessey said...

Zac,

What do you mean you don't think we're all on the same page here?

and I'M the one that thinks I'm better than others? Please....

Joanne (True Blue) said...

DBT - lol! No apology needed. You've just been doing too much multitasking! It can takes it's toll.

Derik Foulem said...

You pleaded temporary insanity....hence temporarily insane....

Mary said...

I think that by inviting the media in would make a media-circus out of the whole thing and the grieving cannot let themselves be free to express their grief without having a camera and a close-up of their tears being exploited. And the ones with a desire to become the next media personality would come out of the woodwork. Please keep the media hounds at bay and keep them out of the last place for quiet reflection and prayer.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Derick - I get it now.

Well, I had meant that somewhat tongue in cheek. Just because I can see both sides of an issue doesn't mean I'm ready to come over to the dark side, as Zac had invited me to do. ;)

Zac said...

C'mon Joanne, I have a membership form ready for you...

Zac said...

LPC(O) AGM is next weekend Joanne, its not too late....

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Mary, I tend to agree with you. Give the media an inch, and they'll take a mile, just to capitalize on the drama so they can sell more papers the next day. Yet, what if all members of all the grieving families would happen to want that? Should the PM still say no way? I admit that it would be a fairly unlikely scenario.

Zac - I don't think it is allowable to hold membership cards from two different parties. The possiblity is intriguing though. Go in as a mole. Do your best to assail the party from within. Mmm... the idea has potential...

Zac said...

Sneak it, vote for Volpe to be the leader and sneak back and watch the whole thing come down around us.

Sounds like something Tango might be interested in...you guys can work together.

Chuckercanuck said...

Dark Blue Tory,

I'd say minority rules in this case.

If three families say yes and one family says no, my gut pushes me to say no.

Derik Foulem said...

Ever wonder why the Media is the way it is Joanne? My thought is too much marketing, which is just a reflection of us as an audience.

It's easy to say the Media is this and the Media is that, truth be told they give the majority what they want to see because they're after ratings.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

CC - Even if one person from any family has an issue with the media, I say no. Thanks for weighing in!

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Derick - What you just said is so true! Everyone should remember that when they go to purchase a newspaper, or watch something on T.V. If it didn't sell, they wouldn't put the garbage out there.

We are our own worst enemies.

Thank you Derick for pointing that out. Anyone who shops at Walmart, and then complains that we are losing our Canadian identity and market share should be looking in the mirror. (Myself included).

Good fodder for another post.

Now I must go to a CD release party. My son's group is launching their first CD and I am very excited about it!!

Candace said...

Way cool about the CD launch - looking for reports...

Re: the tarmac. The media is full of it IMHO (ok, maybe not so humble). Their embeds in Af'stan get to film the caskets leaving. Do we REALLY need to see them land?

Did you watch the last publicized one? Where the poor wife couldn't seem to leave the hearse? and was coaxed/cajoled to leave? It was the most heartbreaking thing I've seen in a long time, and very private and personal.

Had the cameras not been there, would whoever it was escorting her (military, if I recall correctly) have hurried her? Or left her to her own time & devices, to deal with the reality of her husband in a box, in her face, as it were, for as long as necessary?

The "new edict" has us seeing caskets leaving Afghanistan and possibly, depending upon the families request, the funeral. We "miss" the repatriation in fact, if not intent (leaving Afghanistan, with full honours from their colleagues).

Anyone who has watched the (whatever it is that the military calls it) ceremony in Afghanistan "gets" the cost to Canada and "gets" the loss.

Frankly, I've only ever watched the repatriation ceremonies out of duty. It has ALWAYS seemed an imposition on the families and their grief, and very voyeristic (IMHO).

My role, as an interested observer and citizen, is to acknowledge the sacrifice made. I can do that by watching the Af'stan ceremony. I do NOT need to intrude on a family's pain to do so.

The media is just whining, I think. This is, of course, just my opinion.

Mary said...

I hope that this nation does not become like big one across the border where anything and everything goes in the media.
This is a split personality world. One side demeans it‘s sitting President, another treasures it’s good people. This is a power grubbing world. A tug-of-war between good and evil. Mel Gibson came out with the Passion of the Christ. Michael Moore comes out with a money making film that trashes a good man’s reputation. Then the movie of United 93 is due to hit the screens at the same time as a song & a comedian trashes it’s sitting President in his own presence. Do we remember anything that the past has taught us? We used to call ruining another’s reputation sin, but now it is called freedom of expression to do anything and everything to destroy another person. The terrorists destroy with real explosives in real time but the other kind is the kind exhibited by the drive by-media and others who deliberately set out to destroy with words as exhibited by what the media was attempting to do with Rush Limbaugh. Two years of verbal assault and the final exoneration is buried on the back page. Yes we live in a crooked world, inhabited by a lot of no-conscience people.

Sara said...

did you tell the guy you wanted to marry him lol

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Candace - Your humble opinion probably mirrors mine, as you will see in my next post. Launch details also to follow.

Mary - Unfortunately, that is the price we pay for freedom of speech. The system has its flaws, but to have anything else would not be democracy. Hopefully people can see personal attacks for what they are - blind partisanship lacking integrity and solid reasoning.

Mary said...

Well said Joanne! I guess I got carried away with all the cheap shots thrown around by the main stream media. As usual you have a good perspective on things !

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Sara - Yeah, I told him you were interested too; if we both weren't already married. ;)

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Mary - The trick is not to take attacks against someone you admire personally. You do have a right to be angry though, and you express your concerns very well!!!

Zac said...

Could always adhere to Trudeau's old saying of, "attack the idea's, not the man".

Although I can't always hold myself to it...either way.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

I like your strategy, Zac. Sometimes if feels so good to fling a barb at someone or something you dislike intensely, but it doesn't really further the argument. It's like the really negative attack ads in election campaigns - they can come back to haunt the side that launched them.

-eg.
"Soldiers in the streets;
In Canada"
Looks like you were making this up.

Zac said...

Oh god that ad was so stupid...that when I new we we're cooked.

Zac said...

* that's when I knew that we we're cooked.