Ethics Czar Now At Telegraph-Journal

SAINT JOHN, New Brunswick, September 12, 2009 ( – The New Brunswick paper that infamously fabricated the story in July about Prime Minister Stephen Harper “pocketing” a communion host at a Catholic funeral issued a second apology on Saturday.  The Saint John Telegraph-Journal is now admitting that they not only made up the story, but that they ‘manipulated’ quotes from the diocese of Saint John’s Vicar General and Chancellor, Monsignor Brian Henneberry.

The new admission from the paper, whose July 8th story sparked a media whirlwind leading up to Harper’s July 11th meeting with the Pope, has prompted renewed calls for further explanation, particularly regarding the accusation of Liberal Party involvement in the scandal.

“In its troubled report on the communion service at former governor general Roméo LeBlanc’s funeral mass in July,” the paper writes, “The Telegraph-Journal said prominently, on the front page, that Monsignor Brian Henneberry … had ‘demanded’ that Prime Minister Stephen Harper explain what he had done with the communion wafer that he had been given.

“The newspaper has determined that Monsignor Henneberry said no such thing and believes that the false assertion was wholly the product of improper editorial manipulation,” they say.

According to the paper, Msgr. Henneberry merely explained to the interviewer the Church’s teaching on the issue, and made no accusations against the Prime Minister.

In the paper’s initial apology on July 28th, they indicated that the story was fabricated by senior staff.  “In the editing process, these statements were added without the knowledge of the reporters and without any credible support for them,” they wrote.  Subsequently, editor Shawna Richer was fired and publisher Jamie Irving, of the billionaire Irving family who owns the province’s major newspapers, was suspended.

This second apology follows an announcement made on Wednesday by President James D. Irving, that Jamie Irving, his son, has returned as vice-president of the Irving’s media company, Brunswick News Inc., and will continue to oversee the day-to-day operations of the company’s newspapers.

Regarding journalistic standards, however, the announcement indicated that Irving will now be reporting to newly-hired editor-at-large Neil Reynolds, who has been tasked with developing a code of ethics for the company’s publications.  According to Reynolds, the position is related specifically to the Telegraph-Journal fabrication scandal. 

Following the Telegraph-Journal’s initial apology, CTV Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife reported a tip indicating that the Liberals had fed the ‘pocketing’ story to Jamie Irving.  The Irvings, in fact, are long-time supporters of the Liberal party.  “So what happened?” asked Fife.  “Well, I’m told that the Liberals passed the story to young Jamie Irving who was the publisher of the paper.  He passed it to the editor who put it in the paper without checking it out.”

Numerous conservative bloggers suggested at the time that the Liberals may have pushed the story through the paper for political advantage in order to cause division between the PM and Catholics. Harper has been successful in courting the Catholic vote, which, according to one study, delivered in May, contributed significantly to his election wins.

In light of this new apology, some commentators are again calling for an explanation, not only from the Liberal party, but also from Jamie Irving. “If the Telegraph-Journal is really serious about their ‘apology’,” writes conservative blogger John Pacheco, “let them compel their publisher, Mr. Irving, to tell the whole truth about this sordid and scandalous affair.”

A code of ethics? From where, the Liberal Party’s play book? Give me a break.

If the Telegraph-Journal wants to get really serious about cleaning up its act, it should spill all of the beans.

Until then, this is all window dressing.

Canadian Media: is there anything more credible?

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