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Here’s how it works (Pt 2)…

January 8, 2017

When I previously blogged that our local newspaper (a paper for which I wrote a bi-weekly op-ed piece and occasionally freelanced for) did not  want to cover the fact that the OPP sent two special officers from its Smith Falls surveillance unit to cover a small anti-Kinder Morgan pipeline protest held in our small town (less than 25 people participated), and then followed that up with a phone call to the organizer of the protest when Prime Minister Trudeau okay’d the new pipeline, wanting to know what her “intentions” were – when I blogged about it, certain feathers were ruffled and noses went out of joint at the newspaper, and so they now have no more work for me.

I did not get fired, but they told me that they did not need my bi-weekly column nor my freelance pieces as it is now the “slow season” at the paper.

Thank you very much and goodbye.

~~~~~~~~~~

A couple of years ago I wrote an op-ed piece for a Halifax weekly about the overt racism that was about to be implemented in the new planning for the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market. (http://www.thecoast.ca/halifax/the-seaport-market-and-the-problem-of-authentic-maritime-culture/Content?oid=4597145)

It was the paper’s most read op-ed piece of the year and when it went viral the Market Committee was forced to delay and publicly review their re-design plans. The piece created a huge buzz throughout the city (and was picked up by the press in Toronto and Vancouver), and became part of the larger discussion about racism problems in Halifax.

However, the piece also pissed off important Halifax people who sat on the Market Board and had been involved in the re-design. They put pressure on the paper demanding to know who my source for the story was.

Rather than refuse the request – you know, freedom of the press and such things – the paper caved and wanted to expose my sources. I refused.

It was the last op-ed piece I ever wrote for them.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Freedom of the press has always been one of the great illusions of liberal democracies. Because we don’t live under a dictator with overt censorship laws, or in a South American country where journalists die when they try to expose the truth, we think the press is free to cover what it likes or feels is important.

The illusion is right up there with Equality and Justice for all.

Newspapers don’t want to upset their advertisers (especially now with rapidly dwindling advert money coming in as everyone moves to the internet). That’s why you almost never see the Toronto Star take on developers, suburban sprawl, or the shitty state of new condo construction in the Toronto.

And you expect a big national paper like the Globe and Mail to be pro-free trade, pro-pipeline, low minimum wage, and such, as it is owned by one of the wealthiest families in Canada who has a lot to gain from maintaining the economic status quo.

When a popular local town councilor asked me if he could re-post my Kinder Morgan blog on his Facebook page we discussed what the probable outcome would be. We knew it would upset the paper for it called them out into the sunlight on a potentially huge issue. (There is a growing rift of fascism happening in the lands, the police are increasingly being called upon to keep the populace under surveillance, there is even talk in America of criminalizing the very act of protesting (“economic terrorism”).)

But we felt it can’t be ignored. This is how fascism wins. It creeps in slowly. We ignore it, or dismiss it, and before you know it, the police has files on anyone who speaks out, and then all sorts of nasty shit starts to happen.

Sadly we were prophetic.

It didn’t matter that the re-post immediately caused a lot of discussion in town, or that the newspaper editor started getting calls from around the province wanting to know if the story was true and what the newspaper was going to do about it. The story itself was unimportant. That feathers had been ruffled was the issue. Get rid of the messenger – ignore the message.

It is always disappointing when people live down to our expectations, rather than up to the challenge laid out before them.

But then maintaining the status quo – in the face of climate change, massive economic inequalities, and growing social unrest, is like that – it can only ever be propped up by our lesser angels.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Douglas Smith permalink
    January 23, 2017 6:35 pm

    I just sent the following email to my network in Haliburton and beyond:

    Greetings ~

    I regret to say that I have not kept abreast of recent events in Bancroft.

    On December 09, 2016 Mr. S.J. Hines via his personal blog publicly questioned the local paper, Bancroft This Week, (for which he wrote a biweekly column as well as freelance articles) for its failure to report an incidence of police intimidation that took place in connection with a local anti-pipeline protest.

    The upshot was that Mr. Hines, in his words, “did not get fired, but they told me that they did not need my bi-weekly column nor my freelance pieces as it is now the ‘slow season’ at the paper.” (https://sisyphusblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/heres-how-it-works-pt-2/)

    By “they” I presume Mr Hines refers among others to the paper’s managing editor, Ms. Jenn Watt, who also happens to be the publisher of the Haliburton Echo.

    I am copying this communication to Ms. Watt so that she may correct the record if she sees fit. But it is important to remember in any case that citizens have every right to withdraw their support from a publication that turns its back on struggles for justice within its community.

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