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Inaccuracies plague coverage of consent agreement
Dec 10, 2010
Most of the local media coverage of the Canadian Real Estate Association/Competition Bureau consent agreement, ratified on October 24, has been fair and responsible. One exception is a local community newspaper article written without contacting WinnipegREALTORS® for its opinion, and yet contained a comment attributed to someone else that the association had strong objections to a member providing a flat-fee service. This is far from the truth. WinnipegREALTORS® has always allowed different business models for its membership, including a flat-fee service. 
The other inaccurate statement is a reference to “real estate professionals now must allow sellers to pay a fee to get a listing on the MLS®.”  Again, this is not the case. The new consent agreement makes it clear that full-service REALTORS® can continue to conduct their business in the same manner as they have in the past. They are not obligated to take a “mere posting” and put  the listing on the MLS®, letting the seller do much of the work of selling the property. Even if a REALTOR® offers to take a mere posting, they  must still offer compensation for the co-operative selling of the property, be available to provide professional advice on all offers and counteroffers — unless directed otherwise by the seller in writing — take full responsibility for the accuracy of the information submitted to the MLS® system, and be clear in letting other REALTORS® know the seller has reserved the right to sell the property by himself/herself.
Across the country, some of the coverage has been quite irresponsible. A reporter for The Province in B.C inferred that rules in the province prevented REALTORS® from charging a flat fee for listing a property on MLS®.  Jake Moldowan, the president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, responded to the article, saying it was not true, and added: “Long before the Competition Bureau and the Canadian Real Estate Association took the route of clarifying the rules, competition was alive and well, so for our members and clients, it’s business as usual.”
The article below, by Heino Molls, speaks to the  issue of media credibility.
It comes down to this
There’s a lot of ink getting laid out about the agreement between CREA and the Competition Bureau regarding MLS®. The most thoughtful comments related to this are available in REM, a real estate magazine, and on the website www.remonline.com. There are also comments on our web pages that are important because they come from those in the field — real estate brokers and sales representatives who deal with the situation first-hand. 
The worst reporting on all of this, I am so sorry to say, is in the mainstream media. The damage done by  major newspapers, as well as television, radio and electronic media to any situation is so bad these days, it should make all who stop and think about it weep. It isn’t just this discussion about the real estate industry, it is all  stories and all articles about everything.
It is maddening to see the slap dash, bang it out in a hurry and don’t worry about accuracy today, because nobody’s going to care tomorrow attitude, in so many alleged news providers. We are losing more and more outlets of accurate information every year. We have been losing them for the last several decades. 
I grew up counting on the media for reporting facts and there was a time we would get it. Here in Toronto, we had a wonderful newspaper rivalry between the Toronto Telegram and the Toronto Daily Star. They go to great lengths to get a story. The antics and trickery that reporters went to to beat each other to a source or the real facts of a story were legendary. The bottom line was to get it right. That the story had to be accurate was a given. To write up a sensational piece and get it out first was the ultimate goal but it had to be correct. 
Even with all the tricks and chicanery, they never cheated. To be caught out was the worst thing that could happen to any newspaper, radio or television news program.
Sadly that seems to be gone today. We have many news outlets where reporting an item is now  the top priority. Writing an explanation of what an item means is secondary and must be equally fast. Lost by the wayside is truth and accuracy.
Years ago, a large news organization would have a team of regular reporters to cover events related to a particular field or beat. Today, most reporters must cover several beats. Major newspapers may have one writer cover real estate one day and computer technology the next. The writer is not an expert on either topic and that is understandable, but to have a writer not know anything about the field he is assigned to is reprehensible. We have that every day in our media outlets.
It is hard to blame the news media because they just don’t have the financial resources to assign a team of reporters to anything. So one reporter or one freelancer is charged with getting a story “fast.” It comes down to money. It doesn’t come down to accuracy. 
Fifty years ago, a young girl named Marilyn Bell swam across Lake Ontario. It was an incredible achievement. Before the swim, the Toronto Star cleverly arranged to get her exclusive story and shut out the Telegram. As Ms. Bell came to shore completing her swim, an ambulance pulled up to take her to the hospital. It was a rented ambulance loaded with Telegram reporters. They almost got away with it until someone recognized one of the reporters and exposed the scam.
Today, there would never be a team covering the event, let alone two teams competing with each other. At most, there would be a reporter and a photographer. More often than not, the reporter would double as the photographer for the newspaper or take a video for TV as well as report the event.
All of this saves money. Delivering a wide array of accurate news faster and cheaper than anyone else cannot be done with one overworked reporter on each beat. 
So it comes down to this: CREA and the Competition Bureau have come to an agreement that does not change the fundamentals of REALTORS® selling property. The major news media outlets have rolled out stories of life-altering, dramatic, mind-boggling changes to how people sell their homes. REM has accurate stories about it and some important, thoughtful comments from REALTORS® working in the field.
Which one do you want to read?
(Heino Molls is publisher of REM. The website is www.remonline.com)