And now, the truth…

… actually, I assiduously try to avoid using ‘truth’ in my blog post titles.

I’ve also given myself 24 hours on this one, given my propensity to swear like a sailor. I don’t usually do that in print, but this time, it was getting pretty darn close. I’m also posting this against the advice of several friends. But you know me: I like to get things off my chest…

I should note: yeah, I did fire off an intemperate email to Mr. Berman in the wee hours of the morning, as I let the dogs out and cast a bleary on the Innernets. He’d posted a link from his Facebook page to Colin Wills’ blog, now removed, but a post nonetheless that contained inaccurate information about yours truly (my response below). So naturally, because of the link and the inability of my mind to fully crank that early in the morning without the benefit of coffee, I thought it was his blog.

Once I woke up and realized it wasn’t his, that it was Wills’ – who had already accused me of being a ‘shill’ for town hall on Facebook, another post since removed and apologized for – I sent Mr. Berman another email apologizing for the mix-up, but that I still needed to meet with him.

Yes, I had consulted with my lawyer, but guess what – my reputation, for one reason or another, has been assailed the last three weeks with untrue statements, and quite frankly, I was fed up with what I can only describe as malicious bullshit (so much for me not swearing)… Not that I’m blaming Mr. Berman for that one, other than his posting of Don Gallinger’s letter of resignation that made the rounds during Christmas, and suggested that editorially, I and the E-B were at the beck and call of municipal masters. But this needs to be understood: as a private citizen, one cannot just say whatever the heck they please about me. Call me an ass, obtuse, dimwitted, slovenly, pretentious, or obsequious… and you’d probably be accurate. Call me crooked, or question my editorial integrity, and suddenly you will have a problem.

And so it was that we met at a downtown coffee shop, and came away with what I thought was a mutual agreement and understanding after an hour or so of conversation. However, Mr. Berman seems intent on breaking the Treaty of Espresso Post, so I guess I need to at least have my side aired out.

This is where we get into a little bit of a primer of defamation of character. Here’s a much simpler explanation:

Defamation is any written or spoken communication and any picture or representation calculated to bring a person into hatred, contempt, or ridicule, or to lower his or her reputation in the eyes of “right-thinking” people in society generally. It includes statements that injure persons in their occupation or profession. Canadian law generally gives every person, in public as well as private life, the right to his or her good name and the right to enjoy a reputation unsullied by disparaging or defamatory statements made without lawful justification.

So, saying I’m a shill for the town, accusing the E-B, and by extension, myself, editorially answering to the Town of Collingwood, could be considered defamatory, as it would be considered a statement ‘injuring (a) person in their occupation or profession’. Colin Wills called me a shill, and I called him on it; he has since apologized. Mr. Gallinger also apologized to me this week, as he recognized I’m doing my job – and trying to balance both sides…

Then we come to one of the defences – Fair Comment:

Fair Comment is a defence when the words complained of are recognizably expressions of opinion rather than of fact. Fair criticism on a matter of public interest is not libel. However, the underlying facts must be proved to be true in order to protect the comment. The comment is then protected as long as it is an opinion that an honest person knowing those proven facts could hold.

For instance, pointing out that a series of numbers don’t add up to what the presenter expects – and that could easily be proven – is fair comment. It’s also fair comment to express a point of view on a series of questions that may or may not be relevant. It is not libelous – no matter how many sentence fragments one picks out of my content. If someone is going to write or say something that I consider has holes in his or her logic, I’m sorry, but that’s just fair game.

(It should be noted the definition of Fair Comment in this country is pretty broad. That said, you still cannot accuse someone of malfeasance or impropriety.)

As another instance, pointing out that I glossed over the resignation letters of former PRC committee members is fair comment. In that case, yes, you got me on that one. On that, I can accept that I’m an ass…

Also – ‘demanding’ that I sit down with any individual who is not the subject of a story to explain why a story isn’t being covered, or doesn’t appear to be covered, is not happening. As I explained to Mr. Berman last Saturday, and not to be dismissive, but he is a nobody (not that he’s a ‘nobody’; he is a somebody. But in this context, a nobody) to whom I am under no obligation to explain what stories the paper may or may not be working on.

The only person to whom I owe the obligation of informing what stories I may or may not be working on is my boss. Readers find out what I’m working on… when it gets published. For certain stories, we may put out the call on Facebook or Twitter for possible sources for a story… however, if it’s an investigative piece, it’s highly unlikely we would ever tip our hand, especially to an individual who is completely unconnected to the story.

I can only assume that’s what caused Mr. Berman to post what he posted; after I made reference to the ‘hot story’ I would likely be scooped on, he emailed me to find out what I was working on. Somehow, I don’t think it works like that…