December 9, 2011 - VOCM Open Line can be a bit of a snake pit sometimes. And yesterday morning, a well-known fishery advocate took a bite out of a local media personality.
Gus Etchegary, self-appointed saviour of our fishery, was on again about the state of the industry (he never mentions the role he played decades ago, at Fishery Products, in helping to decimate cod stocks).
Etchegary told host Randy Simms that Martin Sullivan is engaging in a “boondoggle” public relations campaign, to convince the province to allow the export of groundfish to plants in China that are hungry for the work, and have the cheap labour to do it. And, of course, the province is going to capitulate, etc. All fair comment, I suppose.
But then, Etchegary said that the Fisheries Broadcast is part of the problem; that for the last few days John Furlong has been “spewing out biased information like it's going out of style.”
This was something of a shock to me. I have a lot of time for Furlong, who is the best host the Broadcast has ever seen. He is not afraid to ask the tough questions, and is as informed about the fishery as any journalist in the province. Accusing him of “spewing out biased information” is a direct attack on Furlong’s integrity as a journalist.
Randy Simms let the comment roll by – he didn’t touch it all – but I’ll bite. I sent Furlong a message, asking for his reaction.
“Gus thinks OCI is lying about its reasons to send fish outside the province for processing,” Furlong said, “He says I'm perpetuating it because I allow Martin Sullivan to state his case on the Broadcast. But I've also had Allan Moulton of the Union in Marystown respond, and Jim Dalton of the FFAW in Port Union respond. I've had the Minister of Fisheries on, the Opposition fisheries critic, The Town Manager in Port Union, fish plant workers from Marystown, the Mayor of Marystown. I always pride myself on my journalistic integrity, and fairness and balance are the pillars.”
Then what is Gus on about?
“Gus Etchegary has a lot of knowledge of the fishing industry, unfortunately much of it is rooted in the past. The industry has moved on from square riggers sailing the Seven Seas, and young boys cutting out cod tongues on the wharf in Witless Bay (I did that as a young fella!). I think some critics see the feds and the province and processors and crab/shrimp fishermen as being in cahoots to destroy the fishery they want to return to. It ain't gonna be like that!”
This is not a first. In 2009, Earle McCurdy of the FFAW complained to the CBC Ombudsman, accusing Furlong of showing “bias” and “distortion” in his coverage of fishery issues. The complaint was dismissed.
We should dismiss Etchegary’s accusation as well. If we are going to put Furlong’s credibility up against Etchegary’s, I say no contest: Furlong wins.
Etchegary is wrong. He made a numbskull comment. And I think he owes Furlong an apology.