So What Does Don McCurdy of the Ontario Press Council Have Against Independent Media by Jamie Gilcig

So What Does Don McCurdy of the Ontario Press Council Have Against Independent Media by Jamie Gilcig

 

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OPC Exec Director Don McCurdy photo: Facebook

CFN – That gentleman on the left is Don McCurdy.  He’s the Executive Director  over at the Ontario Press Council.

My journey of journalism that now is in its sixth year has been an adventure.It really has.

This year Don entered “my movie” although he was supposed to enter last year.

During a council meeting our mayor, Bob Kilger, didn’t like a t shirt I was wearing.

MilkCartonHoodKilger2Our mayor lost his cool which is odd as he was a former NHL ref?

He actually hit the panic button beside his council chair and within 46 seconds 7 of Cornwall’s finest poured into the council chamber and yanked me out.

That was one weird incident.

I’d committed no crime.

I didn’t address the mayor.

I did respond to him, but only when he stopped the event and spoke directly to me by name.

Since when is responding a faux pas?

And why were those seven officers in the building….waiting.

I was told that if I removed or covered my shirt I could go back in and refused.   After being held out for nearly half an hour I said I’d cover up and they still refused to allow me back in thus keeping me from doing my job.

Irony?   The council was actually discussing our asking council to put our 100 letter campaign about how great Cornwall is on the City’s facebook page which the mayor suggested was  a security issue.

So the next day I started to google and found the Press Council.  I emailed and never heard back.  I phoned too and never got anywhere.  I also contacted the CAJ or Canadian Association of Journalists which even more ironically is now directed by the current editor of our local Quebecor owned, Standard Freeholder.

Now I should precursor this by saying that I have no criminal record; nor was there ever an instance of me being removed from any meeting prior, nor disturbing any meetings.

In the months that followed I ended up being charged for making threatening phone calls which my records clearly show I never made.

The mayor and his good friend Pat Finucan are on the police board.    The highest level of law in Ontario; the Attorney General is a political appointment.  Our recent request for info from the Office of the AG has met with a clear lack of transparency and cooperation.

Recently there was a facebook boycott group created against CFN.   Hey the Sun has one too.  I guess it’s a sign of something….

That group was taken down by Facebook for hate symbols and harassment.   There are now three lawsuits pending and counting.  The group was refounded the next day by the same founder and same motley crew whose leader communicated with Mr. McCurdy.

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Facebook Group Founder

Dear Kevin,

You seem to be on target, referring to this product as more of a personal blog. From what you described to me, that’s exactly what it is.

Sounds like the person who operates this has very little or no journalistic training or understanding of the community service aspect of a news organization. Also sounds like his understanding of ethical guidelines or acceptable journalistic practices is weak at best. His product is not a member of the Ontario Press Council and is therefore not subject to our guidelines, considerations or rulings.

The most effective way to deal with him is to avoid reading what he posts on line because he uses the visits to sell advertising. A second approach would be to start a boycott of any advertisers he has attracted and make sure any advertisers know that there is a boycott and, from what you have shared with me, it should grow. Also take your concerns to other media serving the community so that the word spreads. But be prepared to feel his counter attack.

If it gets personal and his rants use untrue statements and unfounded facts, make sure you get a lawyer to send him a letter threatening him with legal libel action.

You might ask others who feel unjustly targeted to share the costs of hiring a lawyer.

Hope that helps

Ontario Press Council

Now Mr. McCurdy is a news vet.   Was he familiar with CFN or myself?  Did he know we have more viewers than the Freeholder, Seaway News, or Corus; maybe more than all three together?  Why wouldn’t he respond to the video of our mayor and respond to this?   To suggest that we weren’t an online newspaper?  Why, because we didn’t belong to his Press Council?  Neither do the daily Standard Freeholder owned by Quebecor or the weekly TC Media Seaway News (according to the press council website).

Does that mean that those to periodicals aren’t newspapers too?    Mr. McCurdy didn’t contact me to get my version.  He didn’t check facts, yet there he is officially on behalf of the Ontario Press council recommending that this person organize a boycott against a legal newspaper or to incite a legal action.   CFN, which is in its sixth year, has never been sued.  How many newspapers can make that same claim?  The Freeholder here in Cornwall can’t.

Frankly it’s been disturbing that because of the politics of media that traditional media has dismissed new media like CFN which has the largest viewership in our market.

Journalism in general is dying if not dead.  The interests of advertisers seem to have completely over taken any ability to provide proper coverage and any true form of investigative journalism.    Add in politics and is it any wonder that the public distrusts traditional media and more and more people are relying on new media?    Can you imagine what would happen if say, an Ottawa Citizen writer was yanked out of a council meeting for wearing a t shirt that the mayor didn’t like?  I wonder if Mr. McCurdy would have responded in that situation?

It’s a scary and slippery slope.   In my opinion it always comes down to the truth.    If we in the media won’t disclose or cover the truth or even worse, if we participate in covering up or hiding the truth, then journalism is truly dead.

With media consolidation it gets even scarier.  Here in Canada media is generally owned by large companies with multiple platforms.  Bell owns its own internet ISP, cable channels, radio, and content.    They are not alone.    The day and age of a family owned single media outlets are becoming rare even though the cost of creating them isn’t that prohibitive.

The problem is revenue.   Traditional media face that especially as they try and retain the tried in true vs gains in online.  How many people have been laid off by Quebecor itself?

When we started our online radio station the President of our local Chamber of Commerce, who also was manager of the local Corus radio station,   told councilors we were a pirate station and he’d have us closed down.    We weren’t of course and were licensed by Socan even.    When the big fire hit Cornwall the radio station was locked out.   Our online radio station was there for the community, as we have been for countless issues.

But as we grew the relations between the politicians locally and the three big media created a storm where we were “face washed” and then the mayhem of the city’s boycott which was also followed by the Chamber of Commerce.

The impacts on our business; of trying to grow, sell ads, hire more people, expand our coverage, invest more locally; all were impacted by corruption.   As we truthfully exposed more we saw our income shrink to the point of where we barely are hanging on, and I’ve now been charged with a crime for the first time in my life that in most other locals would never have been laid.  IE I’ve been charged for making threatening phone calls without my phone or records being examined first.  ( My records clearly show I never made the calls period)

Likewise Le Journal de Cornwall also was doing investigative journalism before writer Greg Kielec was chopped by the paper.   According to a story shared at an event the outlet was sent a nasty letter from the city and Mr. Kielec was history.   He’d had his leash pulled a few times prior with warnings to lay off City Hall coverage.  He now is not working in journalism.

Sadly because of the boycott we were not in a position to hire the very talented journalist who most likely lost his job for doing his job.  It’s almost as though the public here in Cornwall doesn’t want to know about the corruption at City Hall?

It’s one thing for corrupt politicians or big business to lean on we journalists, but when the Executive Director of an agency that brands itself a defender of our trade as Mr. McCurdy has done, what has journalism come to?

Is the truth to be silenced, and will the public allow that to happen?   Clearly more revenue options are needed.   We have added Google ads for example which is something I’d refused to do as I didn’t want our local advertisers competing with outside advertising.  Now we have to have the ads  to help our survival.  Is that good for local business?

Good media is there for the community.   We are there to tell the truths of our communities; the good, the bad, the weird, and the wonderful.     If it all comes down to being paid hacks or being afraid to tell our stories for fear of being fired or destroyed what are we journalists really?

Maybe Mr. McCurdy can explain that?

 

Photo of Mr. McCurdy: Facebook

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