Friday, August 31, 2007

Adventures in letter-writing

On August 24, the Toronto Star (Canada) published an article griping that NAFTA
has become a convenient target for those seeking the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination who are following a campaign rite of demonizing trade deals to appease the party's labour base before moving to the centre during the general election.
It quoted some of those Democratic criticisms and then turned to one Elliot Feldman for a comment. The article seemed clearly biased to me, so I did a simply search on "Elliot Feldman" and immediately came up with a result that prompted me to write to The Star. My letter was published on August 27. Now, what makes this worthy of note is how the letter was edited. What follows is the letter as I sent it. The italicized parts are what the editors at The Star removed prior to publication, the words in brackets are ones they added. The individual words changed are irrelevant - notice the whole sentences.
So Elliot Feldman wants to "inject a bit of reality" into the NAFTA debate ("Democratic presidential contenders trash NAFTA," August 24)? We could have used instead a little reality from The Star.

You[r article] quote[s] various Democrats criticizing NAFTA, but the only person quoted [who's] looking at those statements is Mr. Feldman, who you describe only as "a Washington-based trade expert." But in fact, his own bio says he is a former Director of the Canadian-American Business Council, which is a corporate lobbying group, and "a frequent legal adviser to the Government of Canada in WTO cases."

So when Mr. Feldman goes on about Democrats' "base instincts" and George [W.] Bush's supposed "protectionism" and rails against the softwood lumber agreement, he's not injecting "reality," he's injecting the views of business associates and clients. For you to describe and present him as if he was some neutral party was misleading and unprofessional.

I expected better from you.
So what was intended as a criticism of the paper as biased was turned into a criticism of Feldman as biased by selective editing. The only defense for that would be that the paper never made any attempt to learn anything of Feldman's background before quoting him - and I really don't see how that's an improvement. Maybe I shouldn't have expected better after all.

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