[UPDATED] Blogger attacks journalist in Newfoundland

[UPDATE: An original version of this post contained inaccurate
information, and the post has been edited to remove the inaccurate

In St. John’s,
a bit of an online dust-up occurred after Geoff Meeker, a blogger for The Telegram, expressed his surprise that CBC provincial affairs reporter David Cochrane and
members of the House of Assembly press gallery didn’t make a
story out
of statement by Premier Williams.

In the post, titled All Elbows, to his Meeker on Media blog on
The Telegram newspaper’s website, Meeker went as far as accusing the media Cochrane
of suppressing
a major story. Meeker is described on the blog as a “former journalist and
managing editor” who is “now an independent communications consultant.”

Williams made a comment in the House of Assembly about selling the province’s
crown corporation hydro company but when questioned outside of the House he
clarified his statement to mean some assets, if need be, and the “story” died
before it lived in the daily news line up of any of Newfoundland’s news

CBC provincial affairs reporter David Cochrane fired back in the comments section below the column. Cochrane wrote:

“I was in the legislature when Williams made that comment. The entire press gallery perked up when he spoke of selling Nalcor. We pulled him outside for a scrum to ask about it. Even before we asked a question he clarified his comments. He said he misspoke in the legislature. He wasn’t talking about selling Nalcor. He was talking about selling the individual assets it acquires…So while his statement in the legislature certainly appeared to be big, big news the followup showed that it wasn’t what it appeared but rather a careless comment from Williams that he immediately clarified. I don’t write this to defend Williams. Only to explain why the media (this IS supposed to be a media blog isn’t it?) didn’t do a breaking news story that day.”

Meeker then retreated from his earlier
harsh language. He acknowledged the editing in a follow up post, titled Nasty Charges. Explaining the changes, he wrote:

“I changed the wording in my blog, removing the word ‘suppress’ to describe how media decided not to report a controversial statement by the premier in the House of Assembly. In my view, there is no question that I could use that term to describe what happened.  The premier said something controversial. Soon after, the premier said he misspoke. The media who were present that day decided not to do the story.  The word “suppressed” is fair comment, based on the accepted facts of this story. But is also a word with great potency for journalists. I have enormous respect for Cochrane. I realized that he was insulted by that word, and understandably so. After all, I wasn’t there that day to witness firsthand what transpired. So I decided to change the wording.”

In a post to his blog Polemic & Paradox, blogger Peter Whittle wrote about Meeker’s transparency and
how he had deleted his accusation of suppressing the story, thereby striking it
from the public record. Whittle said that many reputable news organizations
have policies stating that online articles must not be changed, but corrections, updates and
follow-up stories should instead be added and linked to the original story.

Over at NLPress.ca, where I am a contributing editor, the editors of the Newsroom Blog, reposted Whittle’s
commentary with an editor’s note saying that this situation is a perfect example of the difference between
professional journalism, online or otherwise. The note states:

“Some of the traits of a working professional in this business is
knowing the difference between reporting, opinion and analysis and
where the lines are. One of the other key traits of a professional
journalist or news editor is having good news judgement. The
experience, training and knowledge of what consitutes “news” …not
just a personal agenda or cause. The two posts referenced on the Meeker
blog illustrate these differences well. There is more to journalism than just having an opinion.”

Looks like the gloves are off in this remote outpost of
journalism when it comes to professionals versus the amateurs.