Thursday, January 31, 2008
A REPORTER WHO'S NOT AFRAID TO WRITE ABOUT THE IRVINGS!!!!
I had my picture taken with Chris a couple of hours before I was arrested by the Saint John Police Force.
Too bad they deleted the picture from my camera. < around 200 pictures were deleted by the Saint John Police Force >
I added some pictures with his story -
I though you might be interested in this story on the irvings; it is not available online so your blog would be the first to run it in New brunswick.
An Inside Look at the Irvings
Chris Arsenault. Canadian Dimension. Winnipeg: Jan/Feb 2008. Vol. 42, Iss. 1; pg. 33, 4 pgs
Leland Thomas doesn't want a natural-gas pipeline to destroy a natural park near his home in Saint John, New Brunswick.
For the last year, the retired veterinarian and a group of Saint Johners calling themselves the "Friends of Rockwood Park" have been organizing public forums, petition drives and meetings with their political representatives to oppose the proposed pipeline, which they say would cause environmental problems along with ruining some of the city's only green space.
But the Friends of Rockwood Park are in a bind; they're having a hard
time communicating their message to the public because every
English-language daily newspaper in New Brunswick is owned by Irving family interests - the same people proposing the pipeline.
The Only Show in Town
Along with the newspapers, the Irving family, valued at u.s. $5.9
billion and ranked 129th on the Forbes magazine billionaires list in
2007, owns more than 300 companies in the province with interests in forestry, construction, food processing, transportation, energy
refining, retail and distribution.
"I don't know anywhere else where a corporation owns everything," Leland
Thomas told Canadian Dimension. "I don't know anywhere else where one company, one family, has this kind of dominance on the business world."
The Irving group of companies directly employs around eight per cent of the province's 750,000 residents, according to figures from Kim Kierans, director of the journalism school at the University of King's College in Halifax.
Brunswick News, the holding company for the Irvings' media interests, employs some 650 people and, with the exception of three weekly papers the Saint Croix Courier, the Sackville Tribune Post and the recently opened Carleton Free Press - the company owns all provincial newspapers.
This includes the three largest English-language dailies located in
Moncton, St. John and Fredericton, along with eleven English weeklies, seven French week lies and a significant radio and Internet presence
Don't Bite the Hand that Feeds You
In 2006, the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications issued a damning report on the Irvings' monopoly, stating: "This situation is, as far as the Committee could determine, unique for developed countries."
According to Erin Steuter, a professor at Mount Allison University
in Sackville, who has studied the monopoly, "Journalists know not to
bite the hand that feeds them and anything critical of the employer is
considered completely unacceptable."
The Irvings' monopoly, or "media-industrial complex," to quote the
Senate report, has become such a lightning rod for controversy, even the provincial Conservative party - hardly an enemy of big business - is speaking out.
"The Grandson of the Irving family [Jamie Irving] is now running the
Saint John Telegraph-Journal" said Conservative leader Jeannot Volpe in an interview with cd. "The Irvings are proposing some major projects in the city and now there is a direct link between the family and the industrial base," said Mr. Volpe, adding that New Brunswick is unique in having a media monopoly directly attached to an industrial empire.
Along with the natural-gas pipeline set to destroy Rockwood Park, the Irvings are proposing a new, $7-billion oil refinery for Saint John.
The new refinery, with a capacity of 300,000 barrels per day, would increase industrial emissions in New Brunswick by 25 per cent, making it impossible for the province to meet its Kyoto targets. The editorial boards of all three Irving city dailies support the project.
Inka Milewski, science advisor to the Conservation Council of New
Brunswick, thinks a lack of reporters who understand the science of
climate change is the biggest problem with coverage of the proposed refinery in Irving papers. She doesn't believe there are direct orders from Irving family members demanding reporters slate coverage in favour of the project. Editors certainly choose to support
the new refinery out of free will.
However, it is unlikely those editors would have been
given their positions had they held differing views. Like other
observers, Milewski thinks, "there is no capacity for Irving media
outlets to really dig into these issues."
A Media Culture of Self-Censorship
This isn't to say coverage in Irving newspapers is completely static or
monolithic: the Moncton Times and Transcript runs a decent column by Ginette Petitpas-Taylor, chairperson of the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women; the excellent Janice Harvey spins a weekly piece for the Saint John Telegraph-Journal and the Fredericton Daily Gleaner syndicates Gwynne Dyer. But when it comes to covering the vast and often controversial Irving Empire, Irving papers simply aren't up to the task.
"Time and time again, we have seen that the media are really not very good at reporting on their corporate owners," said Isabel Macdonald, spokesperson for the New York-based watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in
Reporting (FAIR). Macdonald cites an example when nbc News was planning a story on consumer boycotts: "an organizer was asked [by an NBC reporter] to name the largest boycott going on today; and it was against General Electric - NBC'S parent company." When this news came out, "
The NBC producer said 'we can't do that' and the network dropped the story," Macdonald told CD.
Irving dominance over New Brunswick dates back to 1924, when the family patriarch, K.C Irving, bought his first gas station in Saint John; K.C. owned a station in Bouctouche NB prior to entering the St. John market, but most observers consider the St. John station the beginning. From there, K.C. built up a network for business, striving for full-spectrum industrial and commercial dominance.
Today the empire includes:IrvingOilLtd.,J.D.Irving Ltd., Midland Transport, Kent Building Supplies, Ocean Steel and, of course, Brunswick News.
The Irving companies are privately held, not publicly traded like most
major corporations, so information on their activities is more difficult
to obtain. In the fashion of law-abiding gangsters, the Irvings use
their media muscle to exert dominance and attain profit on behalf of
family. And sometimes, they financially and politically bludgeon their
enemies in broad daylight.
[HERE] Magazine: Case Study in Corporatism
On October 18, 2007, [HERE] Magazine (the Irving-owned New Brunswick equivalent to Toronto's NOW and Vancouver's Georgia Straight) hit a new low - even for a rag. The magazine (where this reporter used to work as a columnist), with a circulation of about 37,000 in Saint John, Moncton and Fredericton, ran a cover story entitled, "Why not choose natural gas?" The story broke all of [HERE]'s own style guidelines.
It was ghostwritten, whilst all their other stories had author bylines.
Moreover, it clocked it at 302 words; according to the magazine's
editorial guidelines, the low limit for a cover story is 1,000 words.
The story reads like a 1950s advertisement for nuclear power or
something hosted by The Simpsons' Troy McClure. "Ever wonder where natural gas comes from?" asks the opening sentence. Oh, please, do tell!
Apparently, "The history of natural gas extends to the ancient peoples
of Greece, Persia and India." It's always good to keep literary
infomercials in their historical context. The article only quotes one
person: the marketing manager for Enbridge Gas New Brunswick.
"The Irvings just run press releases as their own stories," said Dr.
And, as for [HERE]'s hard-hitting conclusion, well, the media-relations professional lets the reader decide: "Why not consider natural gas, an environmentally friendly fuel?" The Irvings are, of course, trying to build more natural-gas pipelines and a new liquefied natural-gas (LNG) terminal.
No Sex, Please: We're New Brunswickers
[HERE] had been an alternative magazine, a youthful - often lousy - mix of piss and cider vinegar up until 2004, when the Irvings forced it to sell out. Initially based only in Saint John, the publishers tried to
move into the Moncton market. That's when the Irvings started the Metro Marquee.
"I got brought on as a sex columnist at the Marquee when they opened to compete with [HERE]," said Heather Narduzzi in an interview. When the Metro Marquee started generating some ad revenue, Narduzzi says the Irving family took a closer look at the paper's content. The Metro Marquee was terminated in favor of [HERE]'s brand once the Irvings took control of both papers on October 28, 2004.
"My editor, Alec Bruce, called me to his office and showed me a memo, which he said came directly from the Irving family themselves," Narduzzi told CD. "My editor read out the subject: 'Platonic Relationships.
Please have Heather switch her column IMMEDIATELY to a relationship column. Not sex. No more sex. Think celibate!'"
From a purely business perspective, it would make sense for [HERE] to publish a sex columnist; the irreverent and informative musings of syndicated fancy-pants Dan Savage are the only reason many people pick up these sorts of "urban weeklies." But the Irvings know they have no competitors in this or other markets, so they don't have to dilute their social conservatism to cater to customers.
Narduzzi quit after that meeting with her editor. "I decided not to
write about relationships, because I would be talking out of my ass,"
Like a virgin version of Michael Corleone in The Godfather, the Irvings made Ms. Narduzzi an offer she couldn't refuse.
Serving the Customer or "Getting Served"?
According to Harvey Sawler, a biographer who croons for the Irvings like someone on their payroll, the family has done so well because they always, always, put the customer first: "Look after the customer and they'll look after you," was said to be the mantra K.C Irving stamped into the organization's corporate culture. When it comes to New Brunswick's media, the customer is perpetually stuck at the back of the restaurant, but there's nowhere else to eat in town.
"The public is getting frustrated with this monopoly," said Conservative leader Volpe. "How are citizens expected to have their voices heard if the media doesn't want to hear the message?"
While Canada's Senate, the provincial Conservative party and a host of academics, commentators and citizens have railed against the monopoly, no one has done anything much about it. And, as for the friends of Rockwood Park, "we've been stopped," said Thomas. The gas pipeline will proceed.