Mess Media, September 19, 2009
In the aftermath of the killing of Darcy Allan Sheppard the media has referred to two conflicting narratives in describing the events that led to Mr Sheppard’s death. One narrative, the “Evidentiary Narrative” took shape based on security camera footage and eyewitness testimony. The other, the “Navigator Narrative” took shape shortly after accused killer, Michael Bryant hired Brian Mulroney’s public relations firm Navigator Ltd.
A week later we now have the second wave of Navigator’s plan – attack the revelations that the Navigator Narrative has no credence. The Globe and Mail’s Joe Friesen in an article entitled “Michael Bryant’s Spin Class” leads the way by claiming the Navigator Narrative MAY have came from old fashioned reporting but did it?
Friesen reveals that even PR experts admit that Navigator is the source for the Navigator Narrative.
Several leading PR experts said they assumed that the story’s changing tone was due at least in part to tips and sources provided to reporters by Navigator. They thought Navigator had encouraged reporters to ask about the movements of victim Darcy Allan Sheppard on the night he died, or pointed them in the direction of his 61 criminal charges, or raised doubts about who was the aggressor in reporters’ minds.
Friesen also admits Navigator was
handing out press releases and generally letting it be known that they were now in charge of Mr. Bryant’s communications.
But Friesen attempts to deflect the PR expert acknowledgement by claiming that reporters who worked on the story were never contacted by Navigator.
Does Friesen read his own paper? It’s well known that reporters protect their sources closely and some are willing to go to jail to protect them.
It was the Globe and Mail that revealed Navigator as the likely source of the Navigator Narrative and it was the Globe that revealed Navigator’s PR tactics.
Reporters talking to them [Navigator] have to agree that everything is off the record.
The Globe also reported that when a news story says “we have new information” the source may be Navigator or “someone egged on by Navigator.” So if the source is someone egged on by Navigator, reporters technically can deny that Navigator is the source thereby upholding their agreement with Navigator.
So let’s examine the Navigator Narrative. Does it share the characteristics of old fashion reporting? Are the sources identified? Where are the witness statements and quotes?
The Navigator Narrative of the events emerged shortly after Bryant emerged from police custody looking like he was granted a few hours in the spa and a visit from a tailor. Navigator went to work quickly. Off the record “sources,” fed various media speculation about an alternative version of the events.
Stories about Sheppard’s long past hit the media. All they could come up with was that apparently many, many years ago Sheppard was accused of forging some bad cheques in his hometown of Edmonton and hours before his death Sheppard was stopped by police after complaints from a neighbour. He was thought to be drinking but police determined he was sober enough to ride his bike and they sent him on his way.
“Sources” again also claimed without evidence that Sheppard may have grabbed Bryant’s steering wheel or perhaps attacked Bryant and Bryant was in fear for his life. Police were forced to admit that they were looking at the video for ALL possibilities.
Navigator bombarded the media with so much speculation that Toronto Police Traffic Services Sgt. Tim Burrows was forced to respond.
But Burrows insists questions about the scenarios – which cast Sheppard in a much harsher light – did not originate with police.
“Where is all this stuff coming from?” Burrows says he asked himself as reporters raised those issues during informal press briefings.
Burrows acknowledges police may have fuelled those suggestions once they arose. Rather than speculating on each reporter’s question, he says, “The most appropriate response would have been just to say, ‘Yeah, we’re looking into every possibility.’ “
The media happily reported the Navigator Narrative without challenging it. There are no quotes from actual witnesses to support the Navigator narrative. No supporting quotes from eyewitnesses in any media report at all. Not one. None.
Let’s review that:
Not one person has been quoted in the media anywhere to state on the record that Darcy Allan Sheppard attacked Michael Bryant. No one has been quoted stating that Sheppard tried to grab the steering wheel. No one.
Yet many in the media report that “others” have said it. The only reasonable explanation is that “others” is Bryant’s PR firm Navigator Ltd. and local and national media have reported the unsupported Navigator Narrative from a PR firm as fact.
To make matters worse this unsupported Navigator Narrative smears a dead, hard-working father and it comes from an elite PR firm representing the privileged man charged with his road rage killing.