Rafe: LNG shill, Province blogger practices shabby journalism

Screen capture of Regulator Watch video, in which host Brent Stafford (left) attacks Dr. Eoin Finn (right)
Screen capture of Regulator Watch video, in which host Brent Stafford (left) attacks Dr. Eoin Finn (right)

I am pleased to see that Brent Stafford, shill for the Postmedia Group and Resource Works and their unqualified support for Woodfibre LNG, has chosen to respond in the social media to articles of mine written in this publication.

Screen capture of @BrentStafford tweet defending his interview practices
Screen capture of @BrentStafford defending his interview practices

Stafford defends the notion that you can interview with one interviewer then have that interview voiced over by different interviewer and published as if the result was fair, ethical and accurate. He could not have made my point better than by producing the interview by a male and then showing it re-done by the very attractive Meena Mann, whom the subject, Dr. Michael Hightower – a globally-recognized expert on LNG tanker safety – had never heard of.

It must be noted that the viewer is not told about this switch and has every reason to believe that the interview was done in person throughout by Ms. Mann.

This isn’t doctoring an interview?

Stafford believes that this is good journalism – I am in no position to argue the moral precepts of modern journalism but say that it is a highly deceptive practice and done deliberately. I invite you to listen to both interviews and consider the inflection in the voice from Ms.Mann and her body language, including nodding, smiles and so on.

This is not what Dr. Hightower heard when he was being interviewed and lest you think that is minor, consider how much the inflection in the voice and the body language matters in normal social intercourse. Anyone who has pled cases in the courts knows how many ways you can ask a question and how many ways you can look, gesticulate, and visually work with words as you do, and the difference that can make even though the words are precisely the same.

If this were not so, why wouldn’t Resource Works and Mr. Stafford use the male interviewer, his face, and his gesticulations? Without seeing the guy, I think we can assume that he is not as nice looking as Ms. Mann nor as charming and pleasant to watch. Surely that’s done in order to make the interview itself more convincing and watchable.

It was this practice I condemned by article here and do so again now. It is a shabby deceptive practice intended to deceive and, rather than alleviate that conclusion, Stafford emphasizes and enforces it.

Courtesy of Eoin Finn
Courtesy of Eoin Finn

What is interesting are the recommended distances that LNG tankers must maintain from shore according to Dr. Hightower and his Sandia Laboratories. The on-the-water research of Commander Roger Sweeny, RCN, Ret. and the academic work of Dr. Eoin Finn is anathema to Woodfibre LNG and its shady owners.

There’s a reason that Stafford and his clients and partners, Resource Works and Postmedia, avoid this question like it was Ebola. The Sandia recommendations, as you might imagine, are most unhelpful to Woodfibre LNG. In fact, they have spent the time since this was exposed in The Common Sense Canadian, to remain studiously silent on the subject.

Speaking of Dr. Finn – a Howe Sound resident, retired KPMG partner and chemistry PhD – Stafford did a number on him that made me feel ill. It looked like an interview but was anything but. Stafford displayed Dr. Finn making a number of statements elsewhere at different times as if he knew he was in a debate with Captain Stephen Brown, spokesman for the LNG tanker industry. Captain Brown then gave his lengthy industry-biased replies. Needless to say, it would have spoiled everything if Stafford had given Dr. Finn a chance to respond.

In response to a series of tweets Stafford has levelled at me, I have raised this pseudo-interview but in spite my urging that he come clean, he won’t deal with this.

I have repeatedly asked him to explain how a newspaper chain Postmedia (which publishes his video blog) can take an official partnership position on one side of a very public issue when basic journalism ethics require that they remain neutral? How can they pretend to present fair coverage of the LNG and the Woodfibre application issue to the public when they are financially involved supporting them? Stafford refuses to answer.

I’ve asked him about his playacting as a journalist in his gig with the Province and he replies that since he explains what he’s doing its quite OK to fake evenhanded journalism.

I allege no lawbreaking – only misleading make-believe journalism. I can only imagine what Jack Webster, the toughest but always fair journalist, would say if he were alive.

Let me end this part of my response to Stafford by saying that any legitimate enterprise, which is telling the truth about what it intends to do and the consequences, doesn’t need to resort to deceptive practices and glib pseudo journalism to make their case. Furthermore, legitimate enterprises are prepared to meet the questions and criticisms raised and to do so honestly and forthrightly.

My recommendation is that if you want to hear the results of Woodfibre LNG’s propaganda machine, totally unaffected by the truth, that the place to go is Resource Works, the Postmedia Press and Mr. Stafford.

All others – stay tuned.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

7 thoughts on “Rafe: LNG shill, Province blogger practices shabby journalism

  1. Hi Rafe: good article. I agree with your assessment of Regulator Watch and of Brent Stafford. Content is a small part of the communication signal. And yet words count for a lot. You point out all the tricks Stafford used to appear credible. The key for me is in the small paragraph at the end of each Vancouver Sun piece from Regulator Watch “…published for commercial purposes…” There are many such pieces with glowing supportive non confrontational language, supportive of shipping, Port Metro Vancouver, free trade and the Asia Pacific Gateway. Stafford uses hyperbolic words to dismiss shipping contrarians like Eoin Finn. Where does Stafford’s funding come from? Where is the professional journalism association to which he belongs? What professional conduct code does he follow? Yes journalism credibility is low but it is so because of the Vancouver Sun and others that will publish anything for money and try hard to make it look like real news. Stafford is a small rhinestone on the flashy free trade glitter jacket. The main approach to social license is NOT decent behavior but rather a huge marketing campaign funded by governments and industry. Eg “Canada would wither and die without Port Metro Vancouver”. Clear Seas mandate is to conduct independent research and publish stuff on shipping risk. Their second priority is to convince Canadians of the benefits of shipping. Heavy bias. Enbridge and their pastel fake picture of Douglas Channel. This is a serious propaganda campaign financed by some public money enabled by news media with very low standards. I say be skeptical of everything you see and hear, BS and the appearance of believability should be the main story in and about the news.

  2. Thank you Rafe for outing Brent Stafford, Resource Works, and Postmedia Group. The lies and false reporting are egregious. Unfortunately there is too much time and work to be done to continue working on stopping Christy Clarks truly evil plan than to give these minions much time.

  3. Nothing surprises me anymore about the Liberals, the business lobby that own them and the media that kowtows to both for a pittance in advertising revenue( compared to what they COULD be making if they actually investigated and reported objectively).

    Boycott newspapers, boycott news hours, to hell with them.

    If they want to sugar coat a story to make their sponsers look better then only their sponsers will see it…….

  4. Me thinks Brett must’ve posed a long time in front of his bathroom mirror to get that look down pat.

  5. “What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”…Sir Walter Scot

    This is about a perfect example of the word deception. The whole thing was contrived to fool the public and many hours and planning were devoted to how it would be presented. This is simply disgusting at every level and unacceptable as a legitimate interview.
    Mr. Stafford seems to think it is o.k. but everyone I explain this to seems to think the opposite and that it is disturbing to say the least. If anything can be gotten from trying to understand his motives it is that this is a man of very low moral character who will manipulate, deceive, lie and use people and then when confronted will try to defend his low morals with further low morals.
    It is helpless people at stake and he could give a dam!

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