CORNWALL Ontario – Since December 2011 The City of Cornwall, and in particular Mayor Kilger, has led a boycott that has impacted CFN. It was borne of a lie and has spread its tentacles wide and deep not only hurting our news outlet; but hurting the community and economy of our city.
CFN is an anomaly. It’s not normal in a city of our size for a small independent newspaper (yes, CFN is an online newspaper; not a “Blog” as certain haters like to label us) to have the largest market share.
The fact that we tackle stories traditional media refuse to makes us controversial. The fact that we have exposed some sacred cows has caused backlashes towards myself and those that have worked with CFN from our contractors to even those that supplied us to with services.
Heck one of our team is sworn me to secrecy for fear of losing their day job and they are not being paranoid.
Where did this boycott start? It started with a comment left that was removed that allegedly hurt the feelings of Ed Lumley, Bob Kilger, and Paul Fitzpatrick. It started from Gilles Latour losing his biscuit at Jim Brownell’s retirement engagement when he showed up late with John Earle to video tape the event and being stuck at the back of the room and screamed after that my “FAT ASS” blocked their shooting, when in fact I’d given up my seat to Mrs. Brownell and the Brownell family.
It spread one lie at a time including the statement in a city document that CFN and the Free Holder are filled with personal attacks and profanity. And when I; unlike so many others, stood up to the attacks; some would say too successfully; led to charges that somehow I was a bully.
One by one our clients with ties to the city were bulled down; all with the usual story of fear to say “who” did the bullying and regrets. Some of those are no longer in business. One was essentially bribed away with a bunch of work; but after a year the work dried up and they were left on the outside again.
The Chamber of Commerce joined in too with one former President telling a city councilor that our radio station was a pirate and that they’d do something about it. They left in scandal to Winnipeg. Team Cornwall’s former President and Mayor Kilger’s bagman in the last election, Gilles Latour, was arrested for fraud. He also uncannily, and a bit drunkenly, told me our last election poll before the 2010 election was crap and then gave me the exact list of winners in sequence…..two days before the election.
During this time of the boycott though our audience grew, and grew….and grew. There was a tragic irony that while our audience grew our revenues shrunk to the point where we literally are hanging on from month to month financially.
We finally had to ad google ads to CFN; something I was very proud not to have done when we started because I didn’t want local businesses competing with google ads. Now the irony is that local businesses using google ads that have historically boycotted CFN now grace our home page.
While the extremes of this situation are not common the theme is; that if media do their jobs they will pay a price in the loss of advertising revenue.
That this happens from tax payer dollars is wrong at every possible level. The purpose of any government agency advertising is to inform the public and the same conditions should apply as any other tender process; ie the best value for the rate payer with a consideration for local support. There have been issues with Mayor Kilger trashing CFN at a service club meeting; with Councilor Gardiner telling Seaway Tourism that the city boycotts us, and we won’t even start about the antics of Councilor Thibault.
In CFN’s case we have the largest audience in Cornwall and cost less to market or inform than either the Seaway News, Standard Freeholder, or Corus Radio. There simply is no mathematical or business argument to support the use of tax payer dollars to advertise in those outlets and boycott CFN.
Our MPP for example had refused to advertise on CFN because he said he doesn’t believe in online advertising (maybe that’s why Mr. Hudak lost?) but he also has refused to advertise with South Stormont News, the other newspaper I own which is non gonzo and traditional.
In 2011 the city confirmed that we sent the Choosecornwall.ca website more traffic than all the other media while only being #7 on their money list.
In 2012 we still were number one from old archived ads during the first year of the boycott. IE we sent the city more traffic while they refused to buy an ad from us than those that they were paying!
In 2013 we spent a year trying to get numbers from Maureen Adams from the City regarding the near $300K spent on advertising. A city councilor even tried to help. After numerous emails, phone calls, and chats at council I was emailed a freedom of information request by Ms Adams.
As we enter the 2014 municipal election this is definitely an issue. It’s not at the top of the list; but it’s on the list. Modesty prevents me from listing our many achievements and the list of issues that the people of Cornwall would not know about if not for CFN.
Those long time viewers know what we have accomplished; but a question that should be asked of anyone running for office this year is whether they would still support a boycott of CFN and frankly if that answer is yes they clearly are not putting the community first, and should not be elected to office.
What happened since 2011 should not happen in any community; especially to a local business. While I am a firm believer in a free marketplace those decisions should be made freely and not at the threat of punishment by corrupt groups or elected officials.
One business was too frightened for us to write a profile about them because they were worried about losing a city contract.
The list of shame is long, and I may just publish it one day; but voters do have a choice once every four years and it’s a chance to fix old mistakes and hopefully steer the city to a better future.
What do you think dear CFN viewers? You can post your comments below.
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