Thursday, September 10, 2009

Omigod it's another one

I was listening to CBC Radio this morning where three reporters were talking about how, due to newspapers downsizing or completely closing down, journalists are having to find work elsewhere and many are turning to PR companies. News purveyors and PR firms both deal with getting the message out and journalists are particularly good at that, hence the easy transitions betwen the two fields. The obvious difference, though, is that while news tries to reveal the truth, PR feeds you spin. News requires diligent fact checking while PR requires creativity. News focuses in on a topic; PR is sometimes used to distract attention away from a target. But while the differences are obvious in the definitions, it's sometimes harder to discern when confronted with it.

For example, there's today's Sun editorial by Peter Worthington entitled Independent inquiry needed at THS and OSPCA - another in a long line of editorials by Worthington in support of Tim Trow's leadership at the Toronto Humane Society.

The title itself lends an air of balanced respectability to the words which follow but the words themselves are anything but balanced. Nowhere in the text is it even suggested that the THS needs investigating but rather that its leadership is simply the victim of a bunch of media bullies. The editorial basically points fingers in all directions except at Tim Trow which it commends for saving five puppies from Nunavut.

The editorial brings up the six individuals who recently had their membership applications rejected by the THS brass. It parrots Trow's words, saying "six individuals were rejected, all of whom were disgruntled former employees". That's very interesting because from what I'm told, that statement is untrue. Two of those six, never worked for the THS and another was a volunteer. Of course acknowledging that the THS denied membership to certain unwanted people in the public at large doesn't sound as good as denying membership to "disgruntled employees".

As if to further explain the membership denial, there's this: "I don't see why we should take in people who dislike us and want to disrupt our goal of helping animals," says Trow, which puts a much more positive spin on the fact that people dislike the THS management not because THS' goal is to help animals but because people feel the THS is currently failing in its mandate.

Trow's attitude is reminiscent of ex-Prez Bush' with-us-or-against-us bunker mentality and goes a long way to explain why the THS is in the trouble it's in.

Continuing on: After an editorial in the Toronto Star suggested barring certain people from membership was anti-democratic, Trow reversed the decision and admitted the six. True, and if The Star hadn't published that editorial, you can bet yer ass that those six would still be barred from the THS. So The Star did its job. Good.

If they raise a ruckus at the annual meeting, he hopes other members will rebut or refute critical allegations. What isn't mentioned here is that even though there may be six dissenting voices allowed in at the AGM, Trow has disallowed any other new members from joining and speaking out. I guess he figures he can handle six people given all the proxy votes he's expecting to hold in his hands come election night.

Trow can be excused if he feels some paranoia. Sure, if he's the type of guy that can't tolerate criticism, then, yeah, he should be paranoid because there's a helluva lot of criticism about his management.

Why would the Globe focus on the THS blocking new memberships on the eve of a vote, when the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) doesn't allow any of its general membership to vote for directors? This is just a lame attempt at deflecting criticism away from the THS. The Globe piece was about the Toronto Humane Society and not about the OSPCA. I mean I could fault the Globe for not bringing up the lack of a transparent democracy in Iran but that's not what their story was about. No one is saying the OSPCA is perfect but their faults don't make the problems at the THS any less appalling.

I could go on dissecting this Sun editorial but it's getting tedious. It's like complaining about bad weather.

I will say this, though, about those five Nunavut puppies. The situation up north for dogs is deplorable with too many dogs left outside to freeze to death, starve or be shot. From the looks of things, the transport and rehoming of those pups, and others, is the result of a partnership between the THS and the Iqualuit Humane Society. That's a worthwhile THS project and alongside that effort, the THS shouldn't just use those puppies as some sort of media distraction (note to Worthington: lots of local rescues bring in unwanted dogs from far away places to rehome here. Why don't you ever write in support of them?). THS should use those puppy adoptions as a way to educate us southerners about the plight of northern dogs, maybe generate some funding for them, maybe effect some positive change. That would be doing the right thing.

The best way, though not the easiest way, to counter criticism is by doing the right thing. The Toronto Humane Society is for helping animals. The Toronto Humane Society needs to take care of its animals. It is not a playground for power politics or bloated egos. Do the right thing, Mr. Trow, and facing down criticism won't be a problem. Keep on going the way you're going and no amount of spin is going to silence those who will see you replaced.


House of the Discarded said...

I've kept quiet over the hoopla going on at THS. I'm not a political person and leave that up to the folks who have the energy to deal with it.

The ONLY thing I don't understand is why on earth Tim Trow doesn't just freakin' resign? I would think the pressure, stress and anxiety would be horrifying.

You'd think Trow would just throw up his hands, flip the protesters the bird and do something else.

Really. Life is too short to put up with that bullshit. I'd be out of there and let the cards fall where they may.

Evil Shannanigans said...

Unfortunately, I don't think it matters where you live, newspapers and their reporters will be biased. Our own newspaper printed an editorial about pitbulls and the ban and how we are best rid of them. I was so angry I was shaking when I read it. So I cancelled my subscription and read my news online.
Fair and balanced reporting is a lost art in this day and age.

Marcie said...

Worthingtons's a vetran of both the World War 2 and the Korean War, the only reasons I mind my tongue when I email him. He also was the founding editor of the Sun newspaper, seems like he’s still got free reign to write whatever he pleases. Peter Worthington is a Tool for assuming everything that Trow says is a fact.

Speaking of Trow he likes your Blog, well I don't know if he likes it but I know he reads it.

Lynn said...

Hey Fred - This video doesn't really belong in this section, but wanted to send it to you anyhow. It's such an uplifting look at pitbulls:


Fred said...

Sorry, Marcie. I had to edit your comment. What you wrote is true, though, no doubt.

Fred said...

Thanks, Lynn. That is a great music vid. Posting.

Anonymous said...

Being a veteran doesn't excuse Worthington from his lack of integrity, his shoddy journalism and editorializing rather than fact-based and checked objective journalism. Worthington simply took Trow for his word, didn't contact the various Protest Groups, or anyone with a contrary opinion. He shows contempt for brave whistle-blowers and critics who risk or have lost their jobs as a matter of conscience being labeled as disgruntled rather then the sincere reformers that they are. He made no comment about the animals who have died of neglect, the ridiculous litigation, failed to uphold a person's right to speak a truth without being bullied by lawyers, he makes no mention of Trow's atrocious record in 1983, the OHS investigations, the devastating Ontario Veterinary Medical Association condemnation of the THS under Trow, the devastating Management report by the City of Toronto, and, like this time around, the animal neglect, mismanagement, indiscriminate firing, irregularities in the meetings, etc... Worthington took Trow for his word, as he did in the 2006 article where Trow claimed to be a member of the Brickworks Advisory Committe, and like he has done in scores of articles where he invokes Trow's statistics and low euthanasia rate. He is a shoddy journalist for a sensationalist paper who will do the Truth a favour when he retires. The veterans I have known have a contempt for autocratic leaders, journalists worth their salt ask questions and respect openess and transparency and ask difficult questions and demand evidence, look for evidence that is contrary to their favoured opinions, they let friendship and cronyism and their cherished beliefs and wish-thinking and fantasies take a back seat to the truth. And what in the name of Ducks does Nunavat have to do with anything? Either Worthington is a fool or actually believes that the tokenism of Nunavat dogs bears any relation to answering allegations of animal neglect, alleged donation stealing, alleged worker and adopter and volunteer abuse, and a whole host of well documented allegations being allegedly investigated or having been investigated by the Ministry of Labour, The Workers Safety Insurance Board, The College of Veterinarians of Ontario, The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Ministry of Natural Resources, The Canadian Revenue Agency, The Ontario Public Guardian and Trustee, The Ministry of the Attorney General.
I would love to see those members have their arguments refuted, because the THS has denied everything, has not made any attempt to answer the well documented allegations with anything but blanket denials and most inane responses, and by intimidating critics with the threat of litigation or with litigation, allegedly browbeating employees co-operating with the OSPCA investigation, and similar tactics which are reminisent of a police state, but certainly not a humane society.

Fred said...

Hi Anonymous, I've edited your comment. Some of your statements required some fact checking (like specific numbers, etc.) on my part and I unfortunately don't have the time (or I'm too lazy).