CORNWALL Ontario – There’s a lot of misinformation about myself and CFN out in the community and I thought I’d take this opportunity to clear some of it up.
When I first moved here my first job was with our local Habitat for Humanity outlet as their marketing manager. It was a total blast and I loved the Organization, and enjoyed the people I worked with at our affiliate. It was a great fit; but unfortunately they violated their own codes by allowing a politician to be involved; chiefly sitting MP Guy Lauzon.
At a crisis meeting I suggested that we sell the building in Bonville, clean up a lot of messes that occurred way before I started, and move into Cornwall.
I was suspended for suggesting that and terminated. Shortly thereafter it was agreed without cause. And during my suspension Mr. Lauzon, his friends and family, took over the board that was sitting while I was there. It turned out that he had sold the building to the charity after someone defaulted on their mortgage which either he or a family member was holding. He also owned the adjoining highway frontage lot.
It was stunning and what’s more two months before I was to be married. Welcome to the community! It got even weirder as I soon heard rumors that the reason I was fired because there was “stealing” going on at the affiliate, and there was. I uncovered it and in fact the secretary at the time sent an email to myself and the board stating that she would continue to take goods and cash for the time that she spent in the store on weekends.
The rumor was categorically cleared up after appearing in the Standard Freeholder under the comments section while I was a Green Party candidate ( I no longer belong to any party and have embraced the concept of hyper-non partisanship) when the former chair printed a very clear statement that I had not done any such thing.
I confronted the MP at an event once CFN started up. It was a critical factor in my decision to start this amazing online newspaper. Mr. Lauzon threatened me with the Minister of Justice for a non-governmental issue. On video.
And who was in that video with him but Councilor Syd Gardiner. Syd spread his own lie about CFN. He publicly stated at a council meeting and just about anywhere else he could at that time that I only endorsed those that bought advertising in the last election. Of course this is easily provable. Our endorsement story is still live. We clearly endorsed candidates that didn’t advertise with us during the election, and clearly did not endorse most that did advertise with us.
Again, another Porkie. Mr. Gardiner also was not charged by police for trying to destroy protest signs at a council meeting. Those signs went poof for a week and turned out to have been in the Mayor’s office all that time. Again, more lies and mistruth with the public.
Also in the Lauzon video was Councilor MacDonald, and frankly we’ve beat that dead horse to death. Ms MacDonald has to live with her words and petty actions; but she does get the vote of many for the most conflicted and corrupt on our city council after Mayor Kilger. Her antics of lobbying in council for agencies that she sits on the board of is epic, and that she defends her actions boggling…
Imagine trying to build a business in a community when one lie after another is spread about you?
Another whopper is that we write horrible things about people when they refuse to advertise with us? Can you imagine how much time and energy that would take? We have never done such a thing and of course the evidence is clear as you can search CFN easy enough. The running gag here at CFN is that we can’t get a sales rep. They actually get bullied by some in the community and good sales reps are a challenge at all the local media outlets. It’s a tough market and a tough economy. We have had clients actually stiff us on invoices and still not written about them. If we didn’t write about them why on earth would we write about clients that one day will?
The Traci Trottier Seaway Radio mess. One of the biggest indictments to the power of lies in this community. We reached out to Ms Trottier after she was dumped at about the same time as poobah Scott Armstrong who was also head of the Chamber of Commerce. There were allegations that they two of them were breaking some policies together, and Ms Trottier had been with the station a long time. We reached out to her and after several weeks signed a contract at the Farmer’s Market where we shot a video promo. Ms Trottier had two clauses which are standard in most media contracts; a non disclosure agreement, and a 90 day “no compete” clause.
She violated this the first week as news spread of her signing on with Seaway Radio she decided to grab a deal with Mix96 at the time to voice track a show in the same time slot as her gig with us. We pleaded, we cajoled; we’d already sold ads, but Ms Trottier refused to honour her contract and left us no option but to do what any company would do and legally try and protect our rights.
Also – if you want to get down to it…you won’t look very good sueing a single mother of two who’s ex-husband has mere months to live with ALS. Former OPP – lots of connections – not sure who would even want to work for you. Also keep in mind that I am extremely good friends with the Savards, the Pommiers, the Kilgers, boat with the Sabourins…shall I continue?? Come after me if you wish but at the end of the day – no one will win.
Traci was right in a sense as she spread lies about what happened. We were totally torched including in the end she telling people that she had beat us in court. The radio station was a no show and she faced the music alone. In the end, after literally a shower of tears we let her off the hook with a minor settlement. She bragged about how low it was on Facebook where someone pointed out that when you win a case in court you don’t pay money, you receive it. Again, more lies. With Traci though it got weirder in that she actually phoned police not once, but twice claiming I was in front of her home threatening her.
Luckily on both occasions I was in a public place and was not warned or charged. The police refused to file harassment charges on her both times even though if I hadn’t had a clear alibi I most likely would have been charged and left with huge legal bills.
Again, the culture of lies and bullying in this community raised its ugly head at city hall not long after.
CFN had to fight for every ad dollar we got for the city and in some cases took deals that paid 10% what the other media were getting even though we clearly were gleaning better results.
The city decided in 2011 to create a new bylaw that they have used to boycott us.
That resulted in this statement written by Bob Peters.
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.”
The city to this day has refused us our ten minutes in council to provide information that clearly would show that this statement is in fact grossly false. Actually reading the Freeholder’s comments section you can clearly see abusive and false statements. The Free holder post moderates and is constantly removing comments that have been made.
The problem the city was having was the we were showing such strong results that they clearly couldn’t justify the financial inequalities being done with tax dollars. In fact in 2012, the city admitted that CFN was still providing more web traffic from old archived stories and banners than from the advertisers that they had been paying. They also spent more in legal dollars “monitoring” us in 2012 than they paid us in advertising in 2011.
Again, you can’t make crazy stuff like this up.
They mayor trashed us at a Lion’s club meeting. Councilor Gardiner squished advertising with Seaway Tourism. It was and has been a full court press that has only been amplified as we’ve exposed one scandal after another.
The T Shirt Incident. Living in a free and you would think Democratic country I choose to make occasional statements via t shirt.
I wore a t shirt with that image on it. Political satire is not something new, but Mayor Kilger was offended and demanded that I remove the shirt or cover it. I refused and responded to him that he was corrupt and suggested he admit his conflict of interest.
He hit the actual panic button in council which is there for dangerous emergencies. Again, I was seated in front of my camera preparing for a council meeting and he addressed me directly by name. I had not caused any disturbance. I had not spoken out or addressed him.
Seven police officers including a CERT member jumped into council and pulled me out. There was an eight year old boy present and another trauma victim in the room. Imagine in a small space seeing that happen? It was frightening for many, but mostly it was an immoral and indecent act against a free society and our Charter of rights.
And it was all on camera.
The lies spread from there. I of course was never charged. The police removed and kept me from returning to council that night without charges as I’d done nothing wrong. In fact they acted on the mayor’s behalf wrongly. They refused to view the video. I contacted the Press Council of Ontario with the video, but they refused to respond. I subsequently issued suit against the mayor and City. So far in our one court meeting, a settlement hearing, they spent thousands of dollars preparing a document and sent two litigators who acted like they were in a bad tv show. The JP at one point stated that he hadn’t read their document and did they have an offer to make?
That trial will be coming up soon, and it should be interesting to see Mayor Kilger answer some questions on the stand including whether he could even actually see the t shirt in question and how police could get into the chamber in 46 seconds on a panic button call with most not wearing over clothes (it was in February with heavy snow showers outside.) or being wet?
Subsequently the rumors were that I had been charged that night and even today have been spread.
The boycott has devastated us financially as any conspiratorial event of this nature would ultimately do. Some of our clients have actually been bullied into pulling their ads, and some are so fearful and dependent on city contracts they don’t even want us to write stories about them.
Living in lies is not a way to build a community. Frankly some of my consultants have asked why I stick it out and how this community and market is clearly not worth the energy. Looking around over the last five years of CFN’s existence we’ve seen Corus radio shut down one station; the Seaway News shrink in page count and we’ve heard they about to shrink their office space down to less than 1,000 square feet when their lease is up. The Freeholder has cut staff dramatically as they struggle with the realities of print and le Journal after letting go of their writer that was exposing some of the scandal at City Hall has been as low as 8 pages. All during this time we’ve kept growing audience going from 14.2 million to 29.5 million page views from 2012 to 2013.
I recently interviewed Shannon Trudeau whose family fell in love with Cornwall and invested nearly $100,000 in the business they opened on 2nd Street near Pitt. That business is closing today, and her family are moving away. In the video below she talks about the lack of support from the DBIA and Chamber and how the City not clearing snow banks and garbage aggravated the struggles she was having trying to build her business.
There are far too many other instances of lying and deception ruling the day in our business community. This is a core factor in why so we have so many empty storefronts, and why so many of our local businesses struggle to survive.
I may get fed up one day and say enough. I’ve had several offers this year to work on other newspapers. I’ve had a few offers for CFN. Nobody should ever go through what we have or what some other businesses in this community have, from waiting 12-18 months for permits to being told to pull ads down or they wouldn’t get a permit.
The problem isn’t so much the liar or corrupt person, but people not having the testicular fortitude to stand up to them. Business people are afraid or simply don’t have the skills or confidence to stand up for themselves. There have been instances that if one of our clients had simply outed those who were bullying them that the House of Cards would fall; but fear ruled the day which is probably why they were targeted.
What they don’t realize is that each time the bad guys seem to get away with one of their hollow victories we all lose.
I just started a brand new newspaper; The South Stormont News. It’s been an interesting lesson in how people think. CFN as many know is a Gonzo style newspaper and one of the reason I think it’s pulled in so much traffic, 29.5 million page views in 2013, is because it’s frank, it’s not pretty sometimes, but it’s always honest. We stick to facts which is why in over 5 years and 8,000 stories we’ve never been sued. By contrast the Free Holder over Claude McIntosh alone was sued at least three times in the last five years.
One of the attitudes we’re encountering, even though we’ve clearly told people that SSN will be traditional journalism and not Gonzo; that it will have much less opinion and has the most stringent opinion section short of not having one; is some of the comments that some businesses have communicated to us. It’s also not owned by the same company as CFN and is a local South Stormont Company.
Advertising after all is about gaining clients and exposure. To do that you need the widest audience possible generally or one focused on your demographics. For example if you want to sell ballet slippers a hockey magazine might not be the best choice even if they have a lot of viewers.
What we’re hearing is one, a lot of the lies that were spread have saturated into the community sadly; but clearly many older business people would rather have an ad in media that clearly have less market share and cost more than media that have larger market share and cost less, but might have content that upsets them or their neighbors.
That’s an interesting and scary dynamic. It puts a financial stick over the head of any truly independent media. Should we be afraid to report a truthful story because it might upset a sponsor? Real media can’t play into that. We know after all these years what people click on and what they don’t. It’s the magic of internet media. We don’t extrapolate numbers like radio ratings. We don’t give away 36,000 papers in a week without knowing how many are read or which parts are. We get a count on every single page.
So what we know is people click on the very types of stories that they as business people don’t want to support. Frankly I’m not sure what to do with that conundrum?
What I do know and honestly believe is that we need to be much more honest in Cornwall; especially in business. This culture of dishonesty and accepting lies is something that is holding our community back. It touches every issue from youth retention to business growth. It scares a lot of people.
And this “don’t talk about something and hope it goes away” thing also doesn’t help. Sometimes you have to face an issue and do the best you can to make it better. It’s not fun and sometimes the results aren’t great either way.
We all should be judged fairly and held accountable based on our words and actions; not by lies, rumor, and gossip.
I’ve lived in this city for ten years now. There’s good and bad as there is in any place. The good is actually really good, but sadly the bad is really bad. We have the ingredients to be an amazing community. We really do; but only if we do so together and stop excluding those who have so much to contribute.
Cornwall can do better and needs to do better. We need to stand up for each other and build a great community that will attract people rather than watch people move away as I’m doing this Spring with no less than nearly a dozen friends leaving. It’s sad.
While some are hoping the next election will change things I think the issue is deeper than that. Changing a bobble head will not fix these type of ills and they will not change quickly either. But every great journey takes a first step and that’s something that nearly 46,000 people in this fair city need to decide to do.
Jamie Gilcig – Editor – The Cornwall Free News
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