Vancouver Sun Story Has Similarities to Other Online Sources

I wasn’t planning to have “Bash the Vancouver Sun Week” here at All About Work, but it seems like many questionable things are slipping through unnoticed at the beleagured daily Vancouver newspaper.

The July 19 edition of the Sun includes an announcement of a Sun-sponsored “architecture tour” to New Orleans. Accompanying this announcement (on page C9 of the print edition) is a sidebar story with the headline “A guide to the storied architecture of New Orleans“.  No writer’s byline is attached to this guide. And no sources are credited for the information in it, either in the print or online versions.

If you Google “New Orleans architecture”, the second link that comes up is this one from the New Orleans Online website. Here’s New Orleans Online’s description of the American Townhouse architectural style:

1820-1850. Found in the Central Business District or Lower Garden District. A narrow three-story structure set near ground level. Facade wall on property line. Asymmetrical arrangement of facade openings, balcony on second floor. Exterior made of brick or stucco.

And here’s the Sun‘s description of the same style:

Built from 1820 to 1850, this narrow, three-storey house fashioned of brick or stucco is found mostly in the Lower Garden District and the city’s central business district. The homes usually sit close to the property line and have a second-floor balcony.

New Orleans Online’s description of the Double-Gallery style:

1820-1850. Found in the Lower Garden District, Garden District, Uptown, Esplanade Ridge. Two-story structure raised on low brick piers. Side-gabled or hipped roof. Structure set back from property line. Covered two-story galleries framed by columns supporting entablature. Asymmetrical arrangement of facade openings.

And the Sun‘s description:

Built from 1820 to 1950. Found in the Lower Garden District, Garden District, Upton and Esplanade Ridge, these stately two-storey houses are set back from the property line and built on raised on low brick piers. They have side-gabled or hipped roofs and distinctive two-storey facade-style galleries framed by entablatured columns.

You get the idea. The Sun guide lists five architectural styles, and the descriptions of four of them (American Townhouse, Creole Cottage, Double-Gallery House, and Shotgun House) have noticeable similarities to the descriptions of the same styles on the New Orleans Online website. Although the online and print versions of the Sun’s guide both state that the guide includes five styles, there is a sixth – Creole Townhouse – included in the online version. The Sun‘s description of this style also has noticeable similarities to New Orleans Online’s description.

The style described in the Sun guide but not included in New Orleans Online’s list is the Antebellum style. However, if you Google “antebellum architecture”, the third link that comes up is the About.com description of this style. Here’s what it says:

The term Antebellum architecture refers to elegant plantation homes built in the American South during the 30 years or so preceding the Civil War. Antebellum is not a particular house style. Rather, it is a time and place in history….Most Antebellum homes are in the Greek Revival, Classical Revival, or Federal style: grand, symmetrical, and boxy, with center entrances in the front and rear, balconies, and columns or pillars.

Antebellum houses have many of these features:

  • Hipped or gabled roof
  • Symmetrical façade
  • Evenly-spaced windows
  • Greek pillars and columns
  • Elaborate friezes
  • Balconies
  • Covered porch
  • Central entryway
  • Grand staircase
  • Formal ballroom

And here’s the Sun‘s description:

Less a housing style than reflective of a time (the years before the American Civil War in the early 1800s), these boxy, majestic homes are neoclassical and Greek revival in style, and were the elegant choice for wealthy plantation owners. Built with symmetrical facades, evenly spaced windows, hipped or gabled roofs and Greek pillars and columns, many have elaborate decorative friezes, huge ballrooms, centre staircases and covered second-storey balconies.

As with the material from New Orleans Online, there are noticeable similarities between the Sun‘s description and About.com’s description. The Sun‘s reference to the American Civil War is framed differently than the About.com reference, but the Sun‘s reference also has a problem:  since the Civil War lasted from 1861 to 1865, dating the years before it as “the early 1800s” is somewhat inaccurate.

A few months ago, I wrote about the use of uncredited online sources in a story in the Province (Vancouver’s other daily newspaper). As with that story, the problem with this Sun story is not that other sources were used for information – there are only so many ways to describe a particular style of architecture. The problem is that there is no acknowledgement of the sources which seem to have been used to create the Sun story. At a time when the Sun is having serious problems, it probably should be more careful about running material that might bring its credibility into question.

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