Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lazy Journalism

I've been keeping tabs on a few foreign newspapers, generally these papers provide interesting insight into matters our "news" agencies either don't report at all or bury in a single paragraph blurb on page D12 in the Lifestyles section (or give a 15 second soundbite at 3:34 or 3:35 am when no one is watching). But today I read what I consider to be some the laziest/sloppiest journalism I've seen since 2004's Dan Rather fiasco on 60 Minutes:

Today the LEAD story in Ottawa's Globe & Mail was:

Slain soldier well trained, officer says
Father of Boneca's
girlfriend says reservist was unprepared for combat in Afghanistan


OTTAWA The father of the young woman whose sweetheart was killed on Sunday when a Taliban bullet pierced his neck during a firefight in Afghanistan says Corporal Anthony Boneca was terrified of his mission and ill-equipped for the task.

"They weren't prepared for what
they ended up with over there, that's the big thing," said Larry DeCorte, whose
daughter Megan had received a promise ring from the 21-year-old soldier.

The body of Cpl. Boneca, a former high-school quarterback who was his
parents' only child, is expected to be returned to Canada tomorrow.

A four-year reservist with the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment, he had been
trained to handle a rifle and to conduct patrols. And the demands of a previous
mission he served in the war-wracked country were in keeping with his training.

This tour was different, Mr. DeCorte said. This time, Cpl. Boneca and
other soldiers who were part of the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian
Light Infantry battle group were sent to Kandahar to rout the Taliban.

"When they went over there, they didn't think they were going to have
that kind of combat," Mr. DeCorte said. "They thought it was going to be the
same kind of things, going on patrols and stuff like that, not hand-to-hand
combat like he ended up in. Also, they aren't mentally prepared for it. He
wanted out in the worst way."

But Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor, who was asked about Mr. DeCorte's allegations yesterday during a visit to Winnipeg, said the Canadian soldiers who are in Afghanistan are there because they want to be -- and they can't just leave when the going gets tough.

"If a reservist didn't want to go to Afghanistan, they wouldn't be sent. And if they
were regular soldiers who didn't want to go, they wouldn't be sent either
because it wouldn't be in the interest of the military commanders to have people
there who didn't want to be there," said Mr. O'Connor, a former brigadier

"When you get there, just because you don't happen to like the tasks, well, this is the army. And everybody has to take equal risks and they
get equal opportunities."

Reservists like Cpl. Boneca do not get an escape clause, the minister said.

"There might be regulars who have concerns and want out, too. But unless there is cause, unless there is some justification other than they don't want to do it, we're in operations. You
don't vote in and vote out of operations. You're in it," he said.

Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Lemay, who has served in Afghanistan and who witnessed the preparation that Cpl. Boneca received at the Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre in Wainwright, Alta., said the army "trains its personnel to their utmost capabilities."

That is as true for reservists as it is for the regular forces, Lt.-Col. Lemay said.

"You all go through the same training, very demanding training, that the army puts all its soldiers through prior to deployment. And then, following that, you still have about a month of
theatre-specific training."

But Mr. DeCorte said Cpl. Boneca did not believe he was ready for the duties he had been handed and even considered telling an army padre that he was suicidal in a bid to be released from the

It was a feeling of dread that Cpl. Boneca said was shared by many of the young Canadian soldiers, added Mr. DeCorte. Seven-day patrols stretched to three weeks without adequate food and water, he said. And the exhausted Canadian troops are under constant threats from rocket-propelled grenades or small-arms fire.

Mr. DeCorte's 19-year-old daughter Megan, who had been dating Cpl. Boneca since just before his first deployment to Afghanistan, met up with her boyfriend in Italy in May when the soldier took a scheduled leave.

"He said he just didn't want to go back. He was scared. He was scared for his life. He was scared of the whole thing. He was scared of the Taliban, scared of everything."

Is it just me or does this just scream of the REO Speedwagon song Take It On the Run: "Heard it from a friend who, heard it from a friend who, heard it from another...."

I guess these days when it comes to journalism "talk is cheap when the story is good"

I mean even if there's truth to the story, even if the father of the girlfriend of this soldier happens to be right-- isn't kind of careless to lead with such a story? Wouldn't the case be better served by investigating Canadian military facilities to see how poorly or how well trained they actually are? Interviewing government officials (The Globe & Mail IS based in Ottawa-- Canada's capital-- it's not like the journalist would have had to go that far to do so), getting down to the nitty gritty.

I guess this one isn't so much sloppy as it is lazy-- rather than do the extra research that might make a compelling or riveting article, the journalist was willing to write the story around the comments of the father, of the girlfriend, of a fallen soldier. That's like writing a biographical article on Kevin Bacon based on the comments of Val Kilmer because he was in Top Gun with Tom Cruise and Tom Cruise was in A Few Good Men
with Kevin Bacon.


Susan as herself said...

My. That sounds like it could have been written in Weekly World News or The Globe. They always seem to have "a reliable source."

Bar said...

LOL - you are too funny with your REO Speedway comment (I need to write about them - I was dating one of their roadie when they were big in the 80's)

Also - you mentioned three hotties in the last paragraph. Sorry but these things just stand out to me!

Perplexio said...

Susan: I really think I entered the wrong field now. If they're letting journalists get away with this level of laziness-- those chimps from the Careerbuilder.com ads would make better journalists than the one that wrote this article!

Barbara: Well, with no end in sight with this bad journalism, I guess I'll just have to "roll with the changes."

Snooze said...

I found the article ridiculous too, for the reasons you mention. However, just to clarify, The Globe and Mail is based out of Toronto and is billed as 'Canada's national newspaper'. The Ottawa Citizen is the Ottawa paper. I'm not sure what paper the article appeared in as I just read it off of the web.

:P fuzzbox said...

Maybe if they dug a little deeper then they wouldn't have got the liberal slant that they wanted.

Keshi said...

LOL @REO joke! Brilliant :)


Curare_Z said...

I think Fuzz is right...too many journalists these days seem to put their own personal slant on things...and they dig until they get what they want.

Is it just me or is the "father of the girl who was promised to the soldier who died" (WHEW -- that took the wind out of my sails) being irresponsible too? Instead to honoring this young man who was serving his country, he's belittling his sacrifice by saying he was a scared little boy the whole time. Not the way I would want to be remembered.....

The Phoenix said...

It's called fourth-hand journalism, and it's a shame really.

Lazy Canadian ;)