legal action looms

I was sort of expecting it, so it wasn’t a complete surprise to be threatened with a lawsuit today.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t the councillor – Metroland Media will be “forced to take legal action” if I don’t immediately comply with their wishes by altering the content of this blog.

I don’t blame them for being upset – providing us with dribs and drabs of Bells Corners news is how OttawaThisWeek gets us to turn the pages and look at their ads. And if they can’t sell ads, how can they pay the reporter’s wages, paltry though they may be, and still make a nice profit?

So if I give away some of their Bells Corners news for free you can’t expect them to be happy.

I still look forward to reading the community papers, but they are usually very thin in Bells Corners news. Wasn’t it better in past years? I remember when Lesley Goudge even had a Bells Corners column every week.

On the rare occasions that you see a little tidbit of Bells Corners news, it’s usually something that’s been fed to the reporter by the councillor himself. It’s a mutually profitable relationship – she gets little ‘scoops’ and ideas for her stories, while he gets to put his own self-congratulatory spin on whatever’s in the paper.

Last week there were only three photos of Rick Chiarelli in OttawaThisWeek, so it must have been a slow week for photo ops. His buddies Pierre Poivrière, Lisa MacLeod and Rusty Baird also make regular photo appearances in the small papers, usually to take credit for spending some of our taxes. Not that it has has anything to do with those expensive front page ads that the Conservatives love to purchase with our tax dollars!

Sometimes the relationship between the newspaper and the politician is way too cozy. For example, I noticed a particularly fawning piece in the Sun about what a wonderful councillor we have here in Bells Corners. At first I thought it was a parody! I checked to see which journalist had written it, expecting to see the name of Rick’s Bells Corners amigo Doug Hempstead.

But no! The byline on the article was Nancy Cairns.

The average reader would assume that she’s a journalist, but in reality she’s one of the councillor’s employees, her salary paid for by your taxes.

Shouldn’t she have been identified as such by the Sun? You can’t just ask political aides to write news stories and then pass them off as the work of a journalist.

Reporters for small community papers, if they’re good, often escape poverty by moving up to the big leagues – getting hired by the politician as office staff, often a stepping stone to an even more lucrative position, like BIA executive director or even politician. Perhaps that’s one reason why many of the stories they write about politicians are sometimes sorely lacking in balance.

I’d like to show you some examples of what I mean, but I don’t want to get another threatening letter from a lawyer!

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4 Responses to legal action looms

  1. wanderer says:

    Surprise, surprise!! Nothing surprises me any more. The fact that one of RC’s employees wrote a ‘news story’ about how wonderful he is, is not ethical.

    – I think that there’s an ethical issue here that warrants discussion.

    But, to be fair, there WAS a genuine news story involved – whining at the absence of fireworks on New Year’s Eve. All these poor people (mostly tourists) huddling on Parliament Hill waiting for fireworks that never happened.

    The Citizen sent senior journalist Don Butler to investigate and an early web version even included some quotes from RC near the end of the story. He got to toot his own horn a bit, e.g.:

    “If I were to decide not to run again, it probably wouldn’t happen,” Chiarelli says.

    Did he mean to say “If I were to decide not to run it again (the IKEA Centrepointe Non-alcoholic Candyfest Fireworks New Year’s Eve Party?), the event probably wouldn’t happen.”

    Or is he thinking of retiring?

    His employee’s Sun piece was understandably quite different – I described it as “fawning.”

    It was well-written and interesting to read, but Nancy should have been identified in the byline as the councillor’s employee. It’s sloppy journalism to pass off a press release as a news story.

    Here’s a sample from the two news different approaches to the New Year’s Eve fireworks story:

    Ottawa: The city that forgot to ring in 2011

    As the new year drew close, 1,500 people gathered on the Hill, expecting fireworks at the stroke of midnight.

    Don Butler explains why there was no pyrotechnics.

    Don Butler, Ottawa Citizen Jan. 9, 2011

    It never even occurred to Judith Di Chio that there wouldn’t be some sort of New Year’s Eve celebration on Parliament Hill.

    “Everywhere I’ve lived, we’ve always had fireworks,” says Di Chio, a native of Britain who now lives in Gatineau. “I just presumed that Ottawa, being the capital city, would have had something.”

    Di Chio wasn’t alone. As 2011 drew nigh, more than 1,500 people gathered on the Hill, most expecting pyrotechnics at the stroke of midnight.

    They left disappointed. “There were a lot of people saying not very nice things when they left,” says Di Chio, whose letter bemoaning the absence of celebration was published in the Citizen last week. . .

    The Citizen used Chiarelli’s press release in Ken Gray’s blog.

  2. ottawaowl says:

    There seems to be a never ending stream of local government people in Canada waging war against blogs that criticize them.

  3. ottawaowl says:

    Wow, another threat – second day in a row!

    A police officer phoned this morning to suggest that I may want to be more careful about what I post, and reflect upon the “ramifications.”

    The threat was not from the officer – he seemed a bit apologetic, explaining that he was just doing his job – a City bureaucrat asked him to “investigate” this post.

    I guess the City’s logic is that if you inform the community about vandalism then you’re encouraging vandalism. Don’t they think people want to know? Aren’t they really trying to cover up their mismanagement of the Lynwood Park file?

    The officer stressed that he WASN’T asking me to change anything on the site. He asked for the date I took the photos (Jan. 30) and I told him that after I discovered the dangerous situation (building and furnace room left unlocked and unsupervised) I called 311 to report, even if it was a Sunday.

    The City is trying to spin the subtext that I’M the reason the 2010-2011 rink season has been so disastrous – way less service service for way more money. Destroying instead of building. They should have just resisted the political pressures by firing me from volunteer job without cause.

    I’m only a wee bit intimidated. At least he phoned instead of showing up in my driveway with the lights flashing! I feel like a shifty character in a bad American police t.v. show and this guy was Colombo.

  4. ottawaowl says:

    Got my Nepean/Barrhaven EMC News last night.

    Typical issue: NO Bells Corners news, FOUR photos of Rick Chiarelli and his sidekick, journalist/political aide Nancy Cairns.

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