Israel Asper   Letter 06   30-Jul-2002   Do you rule an empire of the brain-fried?

Israel Asper
"A woman asked Ladner if it was not true that pot users become irresponsible, their marks fall, and they cannot hold jobs." Stephen Brown

30 July 2002

Israel Asper
Executive Chairman
CanWest Global Communications Corp.
3100 TD Centre, 201 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg MB   R3B 3L7

Israel Asper:

Still unresolved is my grievance concerning the Vancouver Sun allowing itself to be used as a conduit of hate propaganda in its support of The Jewish show trial of Michael Seifert.  I raised this issue with F. David Radler, who at the time bore ultimate responsibility, but as you now own the Vancouver Sun, the obligation to retract and apologize for that hate propaganda rests also with you.

In my several past letters to you, I have been exhorting you to release the reporters in your media empire from various prohibitions on what they are allowed to say, but something I came across recently took me aback, and made me question whether even your completely releasing all your reporters from all prohibitions would be enough to make much of a difference.

What I came across was the following article, which appeared originally in the Georgia Straight, concerning some personal habits of Vancouver Sun staffers:

Sun Writers Smoke Pot: 33 Fail to Turn on Publisher


Sun reporter Peter Ladner was fired recently for being honest.

He was dismissed within 36 hours after he had told a PTA meeting on drugs that he knew of about 20 writers or editors at the Sun who smoke marijuana regularly.

The official reason the Sun gave Ladner for his dismissal was incompetence.  But Ladner said he was told by a senior editor who handled the firing: "I'm not going to pretend that your statement on drugs has nothing to do with your dismissal."

He made the remark, which brought down the wrath of the Sun, at a recent meeting of the Hillcrest Elementary School PTA in Coquitlam.

He had been invited to be a panelist representing university students.  This is an important point, since he was not representing the Sun in any way.

During the question period, a woman asked Ladner if it was not true that pot users become irresponsible, their marks fall, and they cannot hold jobs.

Ladner replied: "Not so.  It is quite possible to smoke pot and function in society.

"I know of 20 people ... who are quite responsible some support a wife and family very well who take pot regularly, like every weekend."

Unfortunately for Ladner, another Sun reporter, Richard Blair, was covering the meeting and put Ladner's name and remark in the story he wrote on the meeting.

Blair wrote, in part: "UBC student Peter Ladner, in response to a question on drugs said: 'In the organization I work for I know of 20 people who smoke pot regularly.' "

The ironic part of the whole thing is that Ladner's estimate of 20 heads on the Sun editorial staff is a very conservative one, according to several informed sources.

The actual figure, according to one Sun staffer who did a head count of heads, is about 33 about one-third of the total editorial staff and an overwhelming majority of the staff writers under 25.
Naomi Pauls and Charles Campbell, The Georgia Straight: What the hell happened? (30 years of Vancouver's alternate weekly; The best of the Georgia Straight), Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver and Toronto, 1997, pp. 50-51.

Thus it was revealed to me that one reason that Vancouver Sun reporter Rick Ouston could have written such garbage concerning Michael Seifert, and one reason that Vancouver Sun editors could have approved it, is that, in part, many of those involved were brain fried.  Their minds were too fogged to distinguish truth from disinformation.  What was left of their resolve was too feeble for them to take a stand on anything beyond legalizing narcotics.  I had initially hypothesizd that they wrote so badly because they were so corrupt, but now I was forced to admit the additional possibility that it might also be because they were so stoned, and as well to acknowledge possible interactions, such as that the stoned are easier to corrupt, or that the corrupt are more likely to get stoned.

True, the above Georgia Straight article is more than three decades old, and the Vancouver Sun personnel of 1969 are likely to have been largely replaced by 2000 when Rick Ouston wrote on Seifert and yet cultures do endure beyond the individuals who embody them, such that the halls of the Vancouver Sun, though populated with new faces, may nevertheless be as redolent of marijuana smoke today as they were thirty years ago, and perhaps even more so.

Thus, your releasing Rick Ouston, and Vancouver Sun reporters and editors generally, from prohibitions on speaking the truth might not be enough.  To really upgrade the Vancouver Sun from the status of fish wrap to that of newspaper might take drug tests, the first series to weed out the worst cases, and a continuing series to monitor compliance.

Lubomyr Prytulak

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