It was shocking in the fall when I and CFN were blind sided by Bob Peters and the City of Cornwall with the announcement of a very silly policy attacking online advertising.
Essentially it was the CFN policy as it attacked us for independent coverage of Lift Off which a few naive souls around City Hall reacted to emotionally instead of digging for the facts as we did.
The City of Cornwall started advertising with us in 2010. In 2011 we had increased our traffic to the Choose Cornwall website by 18% year over year and in numbers provided by the city were the sixth on the local money charts even though we provided more web referrals than all of the local media combined.
The report, urged on by Councilor Denis Thibault stated the following slanderous comment against the Free Holder and CFN.
A review of local news websites show that only two allow anonymous posts: the Standard-Freeholderand the Cornwall Free News. Both sites have some moderation of comments, but a review of activity over the past several months have led staff to concur with the generalized assessment of the practice by the American Journalism Review: “Comment sections are often packed with profanity, and vicious personal attacks.”
When I contacted Mr. Peters, council, the mayor, and the CAO before this report came out publicly clearly stating that it was erroneous and damaging to CFN I was rebuffed. I have been refused three times to date to repudiate this claim before council including two requests from the CFIB (Canadian Federation of Independent Business) as well.
In the above bizarre video shot at council you have Councilor Elaine MacDonald (1:09 into the video) essentially revoking freedom of the press stating that if any media outlet didn’t want to “conform” then they wouldn’t have ad dollars from the city. Councilor Syd Gardiner actually utters a profane term at the 2:35 mark of the video himself while condemning CFN!
The fact that CFN clearly is not “OFTEN” full of profanity of vicious personal attacks and is fully moderated clearly did not register with her or most of council; most of whom read it and actually advertised it during the election!
The city itself denied terminating our advertising even though all ads ended on December 31, 2012. It was only after the discovery that they spent more money having their new lawyer monitoring CFN than they spent advertising with us in 2011 that the following was disclosed via email. LINK
I have for a number of months tracked a series of stories that you have written and published as well as a series of emails that you have sent to Mr. Peters and others. These materials reveal an unmistakable, hostile and aggressive pattern of communications which began immediately following the City of Cornwall’s decision to terminate its advertising with your on-line publication. Since Mr. Peters was involved in that process, it is perhaps no surprise that he has been singled out personally, among others, by you for repeated attack.
Of course that email, labelled “With Prejudice” did not include examples of such claims. Surely when a polite email request for information is tendered to a city official working on the public purse terms like “aggressive pattern of communications” should not be bandied around frivolously as was the utterly ridiculous quote above?
Today another simple question was asked of Mr. Peters and after eight emails the following was confirmed:
Of this group, there are no “local media websites” that referred more traffic than CFN for the time period under discussion.
The question coming from CFN being
“Was there any media from the list you provided to council at the online media report of local media that referred more visitors to Choose Cornwall than CFN during this period.”
So in other words, that simply from Archived stories with city banners in them CFN sent more traffic to the City of Cornwall’s Choose Cornwall website than the ones they currently are paying. An example being that Kevin Lajoie’s former gig at Our Home Town did not beat our traffic for January 1, 2012 through May2012 in spite of having a live cover banner. Nor any other media.
The City did lose 67% of our traffic from the same period in 2011 because of no active banners. More actually as our overall traffic has spiked and with the presence of the choosecornwall.ca banner it would have received more traffic exponentially. A huge loss for Cornwall.
A city promotes itself via different media for different reasons. The big questions here are why the witch hunt? Was it simply because of our exposing basic truths about Lift Off and certain politicians, and is that a reason to terminate advertising with the number one media source in the region? Should any city be a media censor?
At what point should those at City Hall who pushed for this silliness be held accountable? I’ve actually had lawyers offer to sue the city on CFN’s behalf, but that would only punish the innocent. Why should taxpayers yet again have to pay because of petty and ignorant politicians and bureaucrats? And I could not do my job properly while years went by to resolve such a suit which I have no interest in pursuing.
Should Madame Clerk be allowed to refuse me to speak to council to repudiate the statement in the report which council voted to support including the mayor who voted in spite of there being no tie? As a taxpayer of Cornwall; unlike many city management should I not have my day in Council?
Should not any business be entitled to gain custom from the city without prejudice and some sort of “control” over media content?
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