Sounds very Star Trek-y

The Wrath of Ian, with me in the role of Khan Noonien Singh, Colin Wills in the role of James T. Kirk, and…

Wait-ta-minute, this isn’t a happy story at all!

It seems I’ve become target for the local pajamadeen in this Pretty River Academy story, what with taking direction from the town, and seemingly actively engaged in trying to destroy the school — both, by the way, just to be clear, is not true.

As much as it makes for a great conspiracy theory, the idea that “the town’s long-established newspaper is no longer editorially controlled by owner, but by connections to the Town of Collingwood” is so ridiculous that I don’t even know where to start. The E-B values its editorial independence over advertising, which is why the sales people have been instructed to stay at least 50 feet away from me — if for their own personal safety if nothing else.

Now, I know Mr. Gallinger isn’t happy with the story we wrote about the layoffs at the school, but that’s news, just as it was news that Amaizeingly Green had gone into receivership, or that Pretty River Academy had formed this great partnership to run the dome… uh, sorry about that — forget that last one as it doesn’t play into the narrative.

Now, to address the rest of the content of Mr. Gallinger’s letter, as published on Mr. Berman’s blog, the newspaper has not fired its editor; I’m the editor. Doreen Sykes was the publisher, and was not fired; anyone familiar with the news business will know Sun Media — our parent company — announced a restructuring in mid-November, which resulted in the elimination of a number of publisher positions, including that of the E-B’s publisher. As to revenue, I have little to do with that end of the business. As far as I know, the Enterprise-Bulletin remains a going concern.

“You would need to be a fool to enrol your children in our school after reading the Enterprise-Bulletin articles. How sad in a small town to have a local newspaper be so unsupportive, so destructive, and so unkind. What pleasure do they get if we fail?”

Aside from the comment about the town, which I have addressed above, one thing concerns me about this paragraph: the idea that as an advertiser, an entity can be guaranteed editorial coverage, or at least be guaranteed immunity from what could be perceived as “bad press.” Editorial and advertising are completely separate entities.

The same went for Mr. Will’s comment to me on Facebook to the weekend, in which he accused me and the E-B of being shills for the municipality, and suggested I write a story about the school with a “positive spin.” OK, I’m accused of bias in reporting about the layoffs, but you want me to write a story that’s biased in favour of the school? I’m not even sure where the bias in the layoff story lay, given school officials were given ample opportunity to comment, and it ends with the quote from the school’s principal, “The overall consensus being with everyone working together, we will have a successful school.”

By the way, Mr. Will’s comment was in response to me clarifying the rezoning process for the school; the comment thread was started by Robert Henry with “How is a zoning change going to happen? Can the public prevent the dismantling?” I guess I made a mistake when I suggested town council would make its decision based on planning principles, not ‘likes’ for a Facebook page — as if the town could use that as a defense if the issue was ever taken to the Ontario Municipal Board. Truth be known, behind the scenes, the municipality is bending over backward to try and help the school through this rezoning process — and that’s not ‘spin’ for the town, that’s just the facts.

Mr. Will’s blog post also takes some pointed shots at me for “fanning the flames” back when the school received the grant from the federal government (BTW, not once did I mention ‘ponies’ or make reference to ‘grants for rich people’ – that was Lorne Kenney)… which I evidently did here and here. Ah, dammit… that’s not so much fanning the flames as it was critical of how the school was being singled out in media coverage (please note one of those posts also includes a response from Mr. Wills, thanking me for pointing out the issue, and noting that it was “big of you” to write the article).

And here’s an editorial we wrote at the time saying the school shouldn’t be targeted for receiving the grant. So much for the narrative…

I admit it; I was pretty pissed when I read Mr. Will’s post on the Pretty River Academy Dome Facebook page (his comment now deleted after I demanded an apology) on the weekend, and then his blog post last night (note to self: stay off the Innernets at 3:30 a.m. when you’ve got up to let the dogs out). This morning, the whole thing just leaves me perplexed.

When I write a story, I do so based on interviewing individuals, and gathering documentation. I am held to a standard; heck, I hold myself to a standard of accountability to the stories I publish — regardless of whether it is in the pages of the Enterprise-Bulletin, or here on the East-End Underground. I am obligated to publish reports in a fair and balanced way, without fear or favour. I have done so for more than 20 years. When I err, I own up to it — regardless of whether it’s brought to my attention, or I realize it of my own accord.

I guess the issue is I’m not keeping up a constant stream of criticism against the Town of Collingwood — but that’s not my job. I just calls ‘em as I sees ‘em…