Ac­count­abil­ity in the press, in the com­mu­nity

Moose Jaw Times Herald - - OPINION -

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.

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