The internet is one of the best inventions ever… certainly of my time… Information travels at nearly instantaneous speed from one computer to potentially millions in the blink of an eye. It’s awesome. But it’s not perfect. One of my personal beefs with the internet is the kick in the nuts that professional journalism has taken. Speed is more important than accuracy. Being the first one to break a story is more important than getting the facts right. Having a catchy headline that can easily be forwarded or retweeted is often more important than the story itself.
I’m no journalist. I don’t pretend to be. This is my personal opinion. Right or wrong, these are my thoughts. There are still good journalists out there. And then there’s the shit…
Last week I read an article on Canoe.ca (which has gone downhill greatly over the years, but that’s another story) about a man with an outstanding bill for unpaid toll highway tickets in excess of $2,855. At the end of the article was an online poll asking the reader whether the man should have to pay the bill, or if $2,855 was excessive. A third option of “I don’t know” was also included, although what’s the point of that, really?
As I read the article, I immediately felt like this was another one of those attempts by someone who screwed up, and thought that they could garner some public sympathy in their fight to maybe have the bill reduced, or better yet, waived completely. I voted that he should pay his bill… just like anyone else should have to pay their bills. End of story. Or was it?
I’ve copied the entire story below. Why? Because in this internet age, it’s way too common for journalists to amend their stories after they’ve been published. Remember what I said about speed over accuracy? Get the story out there… then clean it up after the fact. Because everything is digital they simply over-write anything that needs to be updated. It makes it very difficult to find original copies of stories. [NOTE: Bloggers have that flexibility as well… if I make a typo or an error… I can easily go and change it on the fly. But I’m a blogger… not a journalist. Some people pretend that they are the same thing. They are not. You CAN be both… but being a blogger does NOT mean that you are a journalist. Or viceversa. True journalists are held to a higher standard than the average blogger.]
TORONTO – When Brian Mann went to Service Ontario to renew his licence plate, he already had 407 things on his mind.
He ended up with $2,855 more.
That’s how much cash he was told to cough up before they would give him a new sticker.
“I just about fell over,” said the Oshawa, Ont., man.
Turns out, records show, he had a number of years of non-payment on his 407 ETR account and they have added up.
The original bill on unpaid tolls was $494, but with interest, taxes and administration fees of than $2,300, it’s now getting to an out-of-control point for the electrician and new father.
“It’s so stressful,” he said. “It makes it difficult to sleep.”It’s certainly raises the cost of getting the licence plate renewal he needs to drive for his livelihood.
The next day I went to Canoe.ca and saw the same picture, except a much different headline. Someone had stepped in to take care of the bill. I was actually livid. My first impression was that this guy had whined enough publicly to get someone’s attention who then decided it was best just to make it all go away. Great. What a wonderful story that is. Don’t want to pay your bills? Just make a big stink. But then I started reading the article… and I couldn’t believe what I was reading. This was the exact same incident… yet written about from a completely different angle. The guy wasn’t trying to get out of paying a bill. Somehow someone else’s license plate was electronically attached to his pass, and racking up charges… 14 years’ worth!
I immediately did a search for the original article and was surprised to still find it online. I wanted to read it again incase I had completely missed the point of it the first time. No.. I don’t think so. Surely then it must have been written by a different reporter… nope. Same person! What? Why was none of this information in the first article? Even the poll at the end made it seem like he was a slacker… Should he have to pay the $2,855? Yes. No. I don’t know. Those were the options.
This is a copy of the second article…
It may have taken 14 years to get there, but Brian Mann finally arrived at his 407 destination.
Actually 14 years and one day.
That kind of simplifies the story of the Oshawa electrician who was facing $2,855 in back fines for tolls on the 407 ETR dating to 1999 — more than $2,300 of that in accumulated interest and administration charges.
Mann just recently found out about the years of non-payment and was facing not being able to renew his van’s licence plate as a result.
But the Toronto Sun gets action — with the help of a Hwy. 407 executive and the highway’s ombudsman, too.
Mann was sure it was not him driving on the privately owned highway since he was in Asia during a lot the time in question. He just needed someone within the 407 to listen.
This is where 407 vice-president Kevin Sack came in.
Sack ordered an investigation and found Mann should not have faced this bill.
It turns out, somehow, there was a second license plate added to his original transponder — even after that transponder was cancelled. For some reason the tolls kept being added on.
So, after reading both of those… same newspaper… same journalist… 24 hours apart… what do you think? Am I completely nuts or what?
Oh… and I have to say.. this is my favourite line out of both articles… “But the Toronto Sun gets action“