one weeks news threatens us all

The territory needs better government. We're talking about municipal, First Nation and territorial levels. Without it, we're all gonna suffer. Particularly journalists - because we're, like, immersed in this stupidity.

The territory needs better government.

We’re talking about municipal, First Nation and territorial levels.

Without it, we’re all gonna suffer.

Particularly journalists – because we’re, like, immersed in this stupidity.

And the Yukon Workers’ Health and Safety Board is starting to sniff around our offices and, these days, the last thing a territorial business needs is a higher WCB assessment.

See, a little-known risk of journalism is an affliction commonly called noggin burst.

In a functioning society, rates of noggin burst among reporters is low.

But in a dysfunctional region … well, let’s just say a newsroom can become as dangerous as a Nova Scotia coal mine.

One second, the journalist is fine – talking on the phone, or otherwise behaving normally. Then, after placing the receiver back in its cradle softly, the journo will feel the muscles in their neck and shoulders start to tense. Their fingers will stiffen, ball into a fist and then relax, only to begin the process again.

Soon after, they will grab their head in their hands, jump out of their chair and bellow at the top of their lungs, “ARRRGH!”

Often, this will be accompanied by the afflicted yelling, “youhavegottabekidding,”“unbelievable,”“seriously?,” or, in particularly bad bouts, something much more profane.

It happens unexpectedly, and, not surprisingly, scares the hell out of healthy staff.

Then they’ll stagger out of the newsroom, often into the kitchen or down the street, their face grim.

In the worst cases, they collapse. Dead.

To the best of anyone’s knowledge, that only happens to reporters who have been weakened by several less-severe incidents of the dreaded noggin burst. But in a society such as ours, those little events happen on a daily basis.

And we’re all getting worried.

The specific trigger isn’t entirely clear.

But it’s usually preceded by calls to supercilious public officials more concerned with playing games than serving the public good.

It might be brought on by that high-ranking city mandarin who won’t provide the cost of settling a three-year wage settlement with firemen. Don’t residents have a right to know?

Is he trying to keep a lid on a grievous and totally unnecessary waste of money?

Or are the city bean counters useless? After all, after three years of wrangling with union lawyers, you’d think officials might know how much the arbitrated agreement with 24 firemen would cost. You’d think they would have a contingency fund set aside, because that’s what a responsible government would do.

Can you feel your shoulders tightening?

Or it might be small-town politicians who redirect sewer-and-water rebates meant for seniors and year-round residents to other programs, and then try to pass it off as an accident.


This in a town that in recent memory had its democratically elected council ousted and replaced by a Roman-style dictator because of rampant financial mismanagement?

Between 2004 and 2006 the town needed a $10-million infusion of cash.

And now, just four years later, the official line is that managers simply forgot to allocate $250,000 to an annual sewer-and-water rebate?

Really? This is what officials are telling us? (Deep breath … deep breath.)

It may happen when, in a community rife with mental health problems, a cabinet minister silently cancels a $500,000 program for, yup, mental health patients, with no explanation beyond an ambiguous “there’s been a change in priorities.” And that delivered by a flunky because the minister hasn’t got the balls to pick up the phone and explain the decision himself.

Or noggin burst might happen when, after two decades of talk about the need to plan for future energy needs, a reporter attends a luncheon and sees a graph that shows energy demand exceeding supply by … oh, 125 gigawatt hours. That’s almost 50 per cent more power that we’re producing now – in just three years!

And, after pooh-poohing wind energy for damn near 15 years (inefficient and not dependable) officials are now suggesting, publicly, they will supply up to 45 of those missing gigawatts with … yup, wind energy. Not expensive diesel.

Really? In three years … 45 gigawatt hours of wind? The mind reels at the questions that provokes, not the least of which is, how much will it cost to erect the turbines? And where is the money coming from?

Or is this wind thing just a convenient way to put off fears of huge diesel riders on our power bills courtesy of new mines?

But the worst cases of noggin burst come when seemingly disparate events join together, building on each other.

For example, when the reporter finally links the estimated $25-million hospital being built in Watson Lake to the cancellation of the aforementioned mental health program.

The mental health program could run for 50 years on that construction budget.

Toss in a thuggish gag order imposed by Health and Social Services managers, possibly violating employees’ Charter rights and making them fear for their jobs (present and future), to shut down an investigation into this important matter and … well, yeah, the shoulders tense and the hands begin to clench.

Or noggin burst might begin to form when the journalist notices government offices cropping up in several former private businesses. But that would likely be a minor event, at best.

A major bout of illness could be triggered by the addition of a seemingly unrelated event or two – say, a hotel closing that threatens to turf 23 people onto the street.

That, coupled with the lack of a government assisted-living complex and the awareness of a gross expansion in government office space, might trigger a serious case of noggin burst.

Yup, those multi-event incidents are the most dangerous for the reporter immersed in this stuff.

For example, a journalist might report how a local school bus company downplayed diesel leaks in its Dawson fleet and then fired a woman who refused to drive one of the fuel-spilling vehicles. Well, that might cause the reporter’s eye to start twitching uncontrollably.

Then, a few weeks later, when one of the buses, full of schoolchildren, experiences a minor explosion and witnesses see a pronounced red flash around the bus, well, noggin burst is unavoidable.

Why? Because it suggests officials across government had not acted to protect the safety of children.

Incredulity has been established as one of the early-warning signs of noggin burst.

After all, who is the government responsible to? The bus company? Or the children?


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