Sunday, February 19, 2006

"A" is For Ambush: A-Channel "Journalist" Stephen Andrew and Sandbagging the News

A is for Ambush: A - Channel "Journalist" Stephen Andrew and Sandbagging the NewsPEJ News - C. L. Cook - For media students and viewers concerned about the state of the media in these dangerous early days of the 21st Century, last night's (Feb. 16, 2006) supper time newscast served up by Victoria A - Channel reporter, Stephen Andrew is a text book case in slanted, biased, agenda-driven reportage.

A is for Ambush: A - Channel "Journalist"
Stephen Andrew and Sandbagging the News

C . L. Cook
PEJ News
February 17, 2006

It's not often one gets the chance to see the raw truth behind the manipulation of what passes for news in the corporate media but last night, I was so favoured. Local filmmaker, Andrew Ainsley, an acquaintance of a friend, came around, fresh from his "interview" with crack reporter, Stephen Andrew. At issue, Ainsley's latest documentation of the treatment meted out to the poor and homeless by the authorities here in the Garden City.

The day before, Victoria publication, Monday Magazine featured a story on Ainsley's footage of the arrest of two friends caught searching for food in a local grocer's dumpster, (Trash, Security and Videotape, Andrew MacLeod, Monday Magazine, Feb. 16-22, 2006). The "divers" had been harassed by the store's security personnel a couple of days previous, and told by the security guards food in the dumpster was routinely poisoned. Unbelieving, Ainsley set out to capture those claims on tape. What happened next led to his fateful meeting with Stephen Andrew.

Ainsley's video, surreptitiously shot from the window of a van parked across the bare construction site abutting Food Country, in the heart of the tony Cook Street Village, documents a Victoria City Police take-down of his two friends, complete with audio recorded by a hidden microphone worn by one. What the film revealed is no secret to any of the burgeoning homeless population in this, one of Canada's most expensive cities, but the footage may shock those sheltered citizens in Victoria who assume the police here follow their pledge to honour both the law, and the rights of the people that law is designed to protect.

But, Victorians watching A - Channel's ace reporter, Stephen Andrew didn't see the unedited version of events.

The video, in its unedited form, clearly reveals the private security guards, while police stand by, take it upon themselves to interrogate, berate, and on more than one occasion lay hands on the men in custody. It reveals: Besides ignoring their responsibilities to the law and Charter of Rights, Victoria City Police, through the thuggish attitude displayed toward the entirely peaceable subjects under their control, abandoned too, in this instance at least, their duty as the sole arbiters of the law.

It is not legal for private security guards to lay hands on people, let alone push them around while handcuffed and in police custody. But, this breach seemed fine to the several police officers dispatched, lights a-flash to the scene of the dumpster caper.

The video also records the arrest of the filmmaker, Andrew Ainsley, spotted by the intrepid security guards filming from across street. Ainsley faces a "mischief" charge, and had one of his cameras and a tape seized by police. These are as yet to be returned.

The day after the Monday Magazine story hit the streets, A - Channel secured a copy of Ainsley's video. Seeing the video, Victoria City Police Chief Paul Battershill gave a press conference in which he made the unsubstantiated charge of a "set-up" carried out by the filmmaker to make the police look bad. It was a theme eagerly picked up by reporter, Stephen Andrew.

In a classic "ambush" interview (this is the form made famous by that other paragon of good journalism, Geraldo Rivera), Andrew approached Ainsley, who had already declined an interview with him, lights on and camera rolling. A true stenographer to power, Andrew repeated the Chief's points, clearly attempting to lead his subject to reiterate his predetermined conclusions, if only superficially. But Stephen does Geraldo one better, including grisly photographs, provided presumably by the police, of an American police colleague wounded by a small knife. This apparently to make the peaceful arrestees, who knew they were on camera, seem dangerous. The slasher pic preceded Ainsley on camera in Andrew's edited version of reality.

Nice touch, Stepho!

This coercive approach may not be evident to those gentle viewers used to assuming those passing themselves off as "journalists" adhere to a professional code of conduct. They likely rely on Stephen Andrew, and his editors at A - Channel, to present unbiased reports that cover more than one side of an issue. Stephen Andrew gives proof to that lie.

But, Stephen never said he was a journalist. Despite his position as President of the nascent Victoria Press Club (bio. pending), what little is published about Stephen's background omits mention of his journalistic schooling. Presumably, if one never swears the oath, one isn't bound by the code of conduct.

I don't know if Stephen is an accredited journalist. He presumably holds press credentials credible enough to gain entrance to the Legislature, but even if he's not a REAL journalist, or never sat through those tedious Journalism 101 classes where ethics and so forth were instructed and debated, common decency should dictate what even FOX News recognizes as an important element in reportage: Fairness and Balance.

It may not be rare to see skewed news, but it's less common to see the raw abandonment of any semblance of truth or fairness in a story less covered than created. You see Stephen, I've seen the raw footage of Andrew Ainsley's film. And, I've also seen the video shot of you interviewing Ainsley and know, in your case, A stands for more than Ambush.

Andrew Ainsley's "mischief" charge is scheduled to be heard in provincial court March 15th, 2006

You can check out Andrew Ainsley's films at:
President Stephen Andrew's Victoria Press Club is:
A -Channel can be found at:

Chris Cook
is not an accredited journalist either, but he serves as a contributing editor to PEJ News anyway. He also hosts Gorilla Radio, a weekly public affairs program, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria. And, he knows fair and balanced reporting from skewed, agenda-filling propaganda when he sees it.

You can check out the GR Blog here.

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