Posted October 13, 2013
The Thursday launching of http://www.GrassRootsGuelph.com has stunned us with the numbers of people who dropped into the site in just two days. Compared to the recent launching of the Guelph Civic League’s new website, is like comparing Dion Phaneuf to Wayne Gretsky.
On top of that the Guelph Mercury covered the League’s re-launch with a long article and story about the new direction the League is taking to “educate” people. When that description is used in that context, it brings back memories of brainwashing of Allied soldiers by the North Koreans during the Korean War.
The Mercury did not report the formation of the GrassRoots Guelph, although the Tribune carried a story. The papers received full data on Thursday, October 10 around 9 a.m. including a copy of the petition delivered to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Again, there was no report or commentary in the Mercury’s Friday or Saturday editions of the petition presentation or its content.
Having been an editor on the biggest paper in the country, there are always reasons why a story is not published: Checking the facts is one … the material is not well written and deemed unusable … attribution is another … efforts to make the copy readable and accurate are often defeated because of deadline restraints.
The Mercury editorial department’s efforts to report a well-documented story produced by a bonafide citizen’s group in its circulation catchment area, failed all these tests.
Instead the managing editor mentioned the news story in his blog. That hardly reaches the total circulation of the newspaper. Just speculating, it is probably read by his corporate babysitter and some of Mayor Farbridge’s flying circus of supporters.
This leaves the Mercury’s image in the community in tatters. It is broadly recognized as being biased against any criticism of the Farbridge administration.
Let’s review an example.
The recent production of a six-part series on the Guelph waste management program dropped the ball revealing the organics plant’s operating costs. The Mayor being quoted as saying that the waste management system would not be an issue in the 2014 election … she wishes!
The series lauded the $15 million cart/bin system as being the next best thing since sliced bread. Trouble is the system will not collect waste from 6,400 condominium households. Yet the waste management chiefs claim they are saving $500,000 a year in collection costs. The orphan households must pay for garbage pick-up through their property taxes but also must pay an additional amount for private contractor pick-up.
At todays per household waste cost of $465 per household, the city gets a bonus of $2,976,000 in collection taxes for a service that 6.400 households do not receive.
This fact was never included in the Mercury series.
The list goes on how the Mercury rewrites city press releases without critical comment or response from the readers. Save for the occasional letter to the editor. Another sham is the community editorial board that is laced with Farbridge supporters. An example is Ben Bennett, the former chief spokesman for the anti-Wal-Mart forces that delayed the arrival of the market for 10 years.
All columnists have a point of view. That’s fine but when a panel that the Mercury assembles annually is predominantly pro-Farbridge, it bolsters the image of the paper being biased and locked into a point of view that has infiltrated its news columns.
The readers are not fooled. Perhaps a more balanced coverage should be adopted to recover the respect and credibility you have lost as the paper of record in Guelph.