Thursday, 23 February 2017


Guest Post written by David Vardy

The 2015 movie Spotlight won a Best Picture Oscar for a story about investigative journalism. Spotlight is a story about how the Boston Globe, through its investigative reporting, directed the spotlight upon abuses in the care of children that had been covered up. In so doing the Boston Globe took on a monolithic institution which had hidden the truth about three cases of abuse, growing to 13 and ultimately to 90 Catholic priests who had abused their young charges.

The Boston Globe took on the perpetrators against all odds. They conducted intensive journalistic investigation and brought to light information about mass culpability which was known to many but not revealed to the public. The film focuses upon the process of investigative journalism. Where is investigative journalism in Newfoundland and Labrador, where the abuses at Mount Cashel were among the first to be exposed in what ultimately became a global phenomenon of sexual predation by Christian pastors, first brought to light by the Sunday Express?

Uncle Gnarley has exposed an accusation from a former insider telling us that Nalcor falsified the cost estimates for Muskrat Falls. Yet the media have not responded - certainly not publicly. The insider has alleged that the information is widely known within Nalcor. There has been no response by Nalcor’s Board of Directors or by the Minister. 

Is government concerned about corruption within Nalcor? Is Nalcor concerned that those who falsified estimates are still occupying senior positions?

Uncle Gnarley has invoked the cover up which took place within the Church, the cover up which was exposed by Spotlight and, closer to home by the Sunday Express and later by the Hughes inquiry  into the Mount Cashel abuses. Instead of the Catholic church the monolithic institution at play in this drama is Nalcor energy and the culpability lies within that organization and not the Church.

How much evidence do investigative journalists need before they start to dig into the truth? Have local media ever released a story without disclosing the identity of the source? What is the journalistic standard of proof before a story is written? Has every story been corroborated by more than one source? Is there a requirement that the source be publicly disclosed?

The Dunphy inquiry has attracted huge media attention. Is it because it is so easy to sit during a Newfoundland winter in a warm hearings room while lawyers conduct the investigation and relieve the media of responsibility? 

Why have journalists turned so little of their attention to the unfolding debacle of Muskrat Falls, relieving government of the responsibility to deliver on their promise to “open up the books on Muskrat Falls”?

Why have revelations concerning Nalcor’s ineptitude, arising from the work of the “Independent Engineer”, been covered only by Uncle Gnarley? Are the media conscripted to the cause of Nalcor by their dependence on ad revenue from government and its Crown Corporations? Is our community so incestuously knit as to inspire fear of retribution? Would oversight be more robust if the Muskrat Falls project were being built by an investor owned corporation such as Emera, which is building the Maritime Link? 

Instead Nalcor Energy is being given the deference which had been accorded to the Catholic Church before these revelations of abuse were brought into the spotlight.

Uncle Gnarley has opened up the debate in his blog post When Media Silence Hurts Everyone. Government, institutions, the public, and especially the media, have a stake in the issue. Who will answer the call?

David Vardy