Critical, independent thinking is alive and well at some of our community newspapers, despite the presence of a Quebec-based monopoly,' as some have described Transcontinental.
And it seems the provincial Tories would like to snuff that out.
This week, in The Advertiser, reporter David Newell wrote an editorial that was critical of regional MHAs for failing to show up at the rally in Grand Falls-Windsor to support physicians.
Here's an excerpt from Newell's editorial:
Often, politicians only show up for good news. You can't blame them, since no one likes to have to defend something they have done wrong or something which is really beyond their power to fix immediately. It takes a very thick skin to stand at a podium in front of a throng, some of whom are ready to pounce, and say, "We are trying our best."
The only one who did that on Thursday was Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans MHA Susan Sullivan.
No one else showed up.
There are at least two other elected members of the House of Assembly who were not there to demonstrate their support for their government's efforts, the health authority's hard work or even their colleague.
Exploits MHA Clayton Forsey was not standing with the dignitaries. Neither was Grand Falls-Windsor Green Bay South representative Ray Hunter. Both were in meetings with Health Minister Ross Wiseman, about 200 metres away from the rally.
That's what I call fair comment, based on accepted facts. You can read the rest of the editorial here.
However, Brian Tremblett of the Exploits District PC Association cried foul. In a letter to the editor, he raked Newell over the coals for having the audacity to criticize Conservative MHAs.
"I used to think David was a fair reporter but I guess his article this week and one last week has me beginning to doubt my original belief," Tremblett said, adding that this is a "common trait of the reporting style" at The Advertiser.
"All one has to do is read the numerous articles condemning the present day government since they took office, while the vast majority of the province has been very supportive," Tremblett writes, as if high polling numbers for the premier means the media should shut up and behave.
What a load of crap.
He then repeats that Forsey and Hunter were in the meeting with the Minister. He writes: "I don't suppose David was suggesting that if Clayton and Ray were at the rally that he or the Advertiser would have taken the time to interview them... nah."
He objects to the insinuation that the rally was not important to the MHAs, pointing out that the mayors of Botwood and Grand Falls-Windsor weren't at the rally either.
As if that was in any way relevant. The rally was for the benefit of those responsible and accountable for health care in this province. The system is in a mess, and that's not the mayors' fault.
Yes, it's difficult to stand in front of a crowd and defend a health care system that's in tatters. However, Wiseman could have pulled it off with some straight talk about what he is doing to recruit physicians and specialists. And don't suggest it was a scheduling thing all it would have taken is 15 minutes from Wiseman's agenda.
You can read the full text of Tremblett's letter here. But the final three paragraphs are so galling, so insulting, that I include them here in their entirety:
"This type of journalism or lack thereof has been very common with the Advertiser. They all too often hide many of the facts and paint a picture of something other than what it really is. It is too bad that this type of journalism has to prevail in our paper because many of us look forward to fair and credible journalism and not the low ball, demeaning and unwarranted reporting of some of the Advertiser's articles.
"It strikes me strange that nobody on the editorial staff thought of any of the points I mentioned in this letter and it is even stranger that David Newell would allow himself to print such a disheartening commentary after all of the positives that existed because of the rally and meeting with the minister.
"I find it very disheartening as well that a reporter such as David Newell for two weeks in a row has taken public swipes at PC politicians. All politics aside, it is not fair reporting and we the readers of this paper deserve much more. Not sure why this attitude exists at the Advertiser, even though I have my thoughts, but I certainly hope this letter might open some eyes and get the reporting back to being credible, responsible, accountable and most importantly, fair."
Such bullshit, eh?
I spoke briefly with David Newell on Thursday. He said he was bothered only briefly by the letter journalists always take pause when someone accuses them of being less than professional but he recovered quickly. (I am not sure that Tremblett realizes how serious such an allegation is for a journalist.) Newell said he has the support of his managing editor, Jenn Pelley, and the overall editor of the papers, Ron Ennis. (Ennis has been in this position since I worked there 20 years ago, and is the person for whom the term long-suffering' has been coined. God luv ya, Ron.)
For the benefit of Mr. Tremblett, most people in this province who saw news coverage of the rally that day thought, That's typical. The premier and two ministers will show up for a good news event, like Danny Cleary, but for a controversial issue like health care, there's not a minister to be seen.'
Mr. Tremblett can spin it any way he wants. That's the reality of it.
And he can write me a nasty letter if he likes, though it will have about as much consequence as a fart on Signal Hill.
The simple fact is, free speech is alive and well in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Apologies to Sue Hickey, who I mistakenly identified earlier as the editor of The Advertiser.