Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Steve Paikin: Class Act

As seen here, ripping up Whatzisname for playing the censor.

Paikin is the host of what is, quite probably, Canada's most respected current affairs show, The Agenda. I've seen it (episodes are on their website), and though it isn't flashy, it's excellent. It also has a tendency to book controversial guests: one of them, Kathy Shaidle, is a notorious anti-Muslim agitator online. I saw the episode, and she wasn't very good, and her writings aren't very good either.

But, since she's also very much anti-Liberal, this didn't suit Whatzisname one bit. So, well, I'll let Steve tell it:

It was with a considerable amount of surprise that I received an email from Warren, the public affairs consultant and Liberal Party operative, the day our program was set to air.

Warren has been a guest on The Agenda several times, and, in fact, had been a guest with Kathy Shaidle on The Agenda in 2007.

Warren told me that he planned to blog about our “outrageous decision” to “give Kathy Shaidle a platform, and for provincial tax dollars to indirectly fund same.”

He asked whether we had any comment to make and whether Kathy was being paid to appear (she wasn’t).

Warren then included in his private email to me a lengthy list of things Kathy had said about other ethnic groups, mainly Muslims.

Here's what he sent, alleging Shaidle had said or written all of these things...

[here follows a laundry list of valid-but-irrelevant complaints]

I told Warren that if he was looking for an official comment from the program, it should come from our communications department or our executive producer, so I forwarded Warren’s email to Dan.

Later that same day, I received another email from Warren informing me that he was emailing the Minister of Education to ask her to pressure us to “unbook” Kathy Shaidle, and that if we didn’t, there would be significant consequences for TVO and The Agenda. He did, indeed, email the Minister.

Well, now we’ve got a different story, right? Now, it’s no longer a story about the appropriateness of our choosing Kathy to appear on the program. Now it’s a story about a well known Liberal Party operative threatening us (with what? We didn’t know) unless we did what he said.

That’s a very different story and as a result, we naturally refused to “unbook” Kathy. We do not take our marching orders on whom to put on or take off our television program from anyone, but most assuredly, not from partisan political operatives with personal grudges (Warren’s tangle with Kathy, I’ve learned, goes back awhile).

So if Warren’s ultimate goal was to deprive Kathy of a “platform,” his approach failed spectacularly.

Throughout the course of the day, Warren and I emailed back and forth a few times. Much to my surprise, I found my private emails to him quoted on his blog. I found that to be a violation of etiquette and surprising for someone who, I would imagine, understands the value of private conversation.

The show went ahead. Kathy Shaidle didn’t insult Muslims – or anyone else. Some viewers have suggested she appeared angry and defensive but she was not the ogre Warren demanded we take off the public’s airwaves.

After the program, I emailed Warren once again, offering to talk to him at his convenience about the day’s events. He declined, saying “the damage has been done.” What that damage was, he didn’t say.

At this point, I was unclear as to whether my efforts to communicate with Warren were really about resolving a difference of opinion, or simply providing content for his blog.
No doubt.

I've been doing this for a while. My numbers aren't as high as they were, but I've never really cared that much about that. Read it or don't. I certainly don't pull Kinsella's numbers. But even if I did want to pull those kind of numbers, there's no way that I'd pull a stunt like this to get them. Not only does this hurt his credibility, but it damages the credibility of the man he works for, and the sense of entitlement in his "I'M GONNA EMAIL THE MINISTER!!" tirade reinforces every negative stereotype about the Liberal party and its apparatchiks that Canadians have of them. It makes them look worse than Republicans; more like the bloated patronage-ridden power brokers that drag down the Japanese LDP.

It's every reason they got their asses kicked all in one idiotic package. And, as an added bonus, it'll have ticked off a key public media figure in Canada, which is the LAST thing the Liberals need. They have little pull online, especially compared to their Conservative and NDP counterparts, and the press is predominantly Conservative-leaning in Canada. They need people like Paikin, and he'll be thoroughly alienated after this.

One can only hope that somebody dressed this guy down thoroughly. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

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