Accountability in the press, in the community
The last two weeks have seen a massive issue brought forward in this city and on the pages of this newspaper.
Since running the original letter written by the organizers of the Saskatchewan Festival of Words last Thursday in support of author Dawn Dumont and her account of racism in this community, we received answering letters both supporting the original letter and questioning it. On Saturday, we ran two very similar letters, one of which exceeded our own stated guidelines that submissions should aim to be around 300 words or less. This meant that one view was given more real estate in the paper than we usually allow for letters. This was our decision and one that has resulted in a learning experience for this team, and we apologize for any offence or harm this may have caused.
As much as we pride ourselves on being the voice of the underdog and the recourse for people facing down powerful institutions and governments, the reality is that media in this country have historically done more than almost anyone to prop up those oppressive institutions and governments while leaving marginalized people, very much including Indigenous peoples, to fight alone. At the Times-Herald, we aim to break away from that cowardly tradition.
As we have recently opined, this newspaper should function as a forum where all views are aired, with the hope that they will then be discussed in the wider community. Our role is to make sure everyone is being heard fairly.
That does not mean that we as people and journalists agree with every word in the opinion pages. It does not mean that this paper espouses every stance taken by a columnist or letter-writer. We provide the platform for debate and make sure no one is using hate-speech.
As such, we firmly and deeply believe that there is value in publishing opinions from all points on the spectrum on any given issue, heinous though some might be to some of our readers. We are not going to get anywhere as a community if we are not exposed to views that differ – sometimes greatly – from our own. We are not going to get anywhere as a community if we only talk to people who agree with us already, often in the dark and from behind screens.
The best way to effect change is with vigorous, civil debate. When it comes to societal ills at least, there is no better antiseptic than sunshine.
Summer is usually when politics are forgotten as people head outdoors, but as the heat wave has intensified, so too has the anger of more than a few Moose Javians about what’s happening with their trash.
We have witnessed Moose Javians attempt to express their concerns at public meetings. Meetings where many thought they would be consulted and their concerns heard, but were politely told meetings were for informational purposes only. Many residents left frustrated. The consultation many envisioned after Coun. Don Mitchell’s speeches at council are just not happening. It’s like something has drowned out Citizen Don.
I admit I’ve spoken to residents who appreciated the meetings because they finally got questions answered. It’s a good news result for the city, but the bad news for a minority.
Despite their best efforts, the city is stuck in a groove when it comes to curb side conversion as the Great Garbage Garbungle digs itself into even deeper ruts. As an exercise in PR it serves as a lesson to budding public relations professionals what not to do.
It’s also a demonstration of what can happen when the PR manager is not there. With the position now officially vacant here’s hoping it can be filled quickly with the right person. Two more managers also resigning at the same time is bad news, very bad news indeed.
I realize people will say this is Moose Jaw and the same people always complain, they always hold up progress, but for me this time it’s different.
“People here do not like change and will soon accept it,” I was told by a city worker weeks ago, so far he’s been wrong. Problem is, people are still upset and talking about it. There is no Summer holiday for the people at the corner of Fairford and Main. As the city comes out with a PR offensive and more reasons why they should complete the process, to get it done, the more resistance I am hearing. It’s just not working.
Using recent garbage truck suspension breakdowns due to back alley potholes to justify and accelerate the curb side conversion has also drawn collateral ire the city may not have anticipated.