Tag Archives: Metroland Publishing

That media corporate giant sucking sound has changed Guelph forever

By Gerry Barker

Posted February 2, 2016

When the Guelph Mercury closed its doors forever last week, as a result of a TorStar corporate decision by subsidiary MetroLand Publishing, the impact has changed the sources of news of a city of more than 122,000, to rely on a remaining handful of professional journalists.

With a single twice a week newspaper remaining with a full-time editorial staff of three, it takes no imagination to discover the huge vacuum of real news that has been created.

On the periphery of news coverage, there is the Rogers Community TV whose chief source of “news” is televising the Guelph council meetings. For those of us in the city that do not subscribe to Rogers services, that’s about as useful as a news source as horns on an ant.

Then we have the Kitchener CTV TV station. Its news coverage consists of 60-second video spots, using an on-camera reporter who does a toss-back to the anchor. This is real news? This outfit is now bereft because one of it’s chief sources was the Guelph Mercury that employed a staff of 10 editors and reporters who spent those long hours digesting and reporting civic affairs, community events, crime and interesting profiles of people.

That essential material coverage is now gone.

I must confess that I will truly miss the Mercury. I am, generally speaking, a one-man band. I do not have the personnel, time or energy to replace the Mercury and its former team of editors and reporters.

What I am most concerned about is that this news vacuum will further give the city administration, unfettered control of the corporation news, and the slant that it has been practising since 2007.

But what I do possess, for the past nine years, is a huge library of material that is mostly critical of the city’s administration.

Since the Mercury’s closing, the number of daily visitors to my blog, guelphspeaks.ca, has tripled. The reason was that I recognized the actions of the five members of council who literally defected from their responsibilities, Monday, January 25, when they walked out.

Then, when challenged to explain their action, I’d call it a strike, because they refused to answer. Instead, Coun. Phil Allt, one of the strikers, said it was “to defend the integrity of the corporation and staff.”

This all occurred during the week of the Mercury’s death throes.

Well, what’s new about this development?

There is a plethora of rumours and calls for the five councillors to resign.

This is a serious problem with the Ontario Municipal Act. The only way a councillor can be dismissed is for overt criminal activity, stealing public money and misrepresenting their credentials.

Even if there were charges relating to any of these fault lines, the councillor charged would still be in office by the next election, because of the time the courts could allocate court time to adjudicate the case. Usually it’s two years.

The provincial government must review and change these ironbound securities that municipal elected representatives are protected. What is needed is a mechanism to recall elected officials for malfeasance, failure to meet their fiduciary responsibilities and not turning up for official public meetings.

This outrageous political coitis interruptous must be met with public reaction and action. The greatest weapon the electors have is installing fear into their elected representatives. They do it by sending messages in many forms to the offending councillors, expressing their rejection of the way the defecting councillor has misbehaved in the people’s interest.

Make no mistake, a steady response complaining to these offending councillors who have stopped the city’s business, will have a telling effect in 2018, if they decide to run again.

If you need any evidence of this kind of political action, look no further than to see what happened in 2014 to council incumbents Karen Farbridge, Maggie Laidlaw, Ian Findlay, Todd Dennis, and Lise Burcher.

They were defeated or quit because of public pressure. It had little to do with the Guelph Mercury or Guelph Tribune; it was a quiet revolution by the people who protested the action of the previous administration.

It is time now to act against this group who have accomplished the continuation of the Farbridge administration that has seen large tax and user fee increases in just one year in office.

It’s now up to we the people to act.

Reminder: The Letter Box is now open for letters to the editor. Send you letter to gerrybarker76@gmail.com for publication.

 

 

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Introducing the Letter Box, now open for your Letters to the Editor

By Gerry Barker

Editor guelphspeaks.ca

Posted January 31, 2016

Say hello to a new feature that allows Letters to the Editor, to be published in the exclusive Letter Box in guelphspeaks.ca, (GS), Guelph’s most popular news commentary blog.

It’s popular because it’s non-profit and not beholden to any political party, cause or individual. With the help and support of a wide variety of citizens, GS digs beneath the surface of those events and stories that affect all citizens.

The results are obvious. In a number of cases, GS scooped the Guelph print media chiefly because of publishing deadlines and frequency of editions. On GS, your letter can be read at anytime because the blog never closes.

Guelph Speaks was born, oddly enough, as a column published in the Mercury from 2007 to 2011 in a column titled, “Between the Lines.” Guelph resident, GS editor Gerry Barker, was the author and commentator. Now the Mercury is gone and leaves a number of traditional departments without your access or exposure.

These include letters to the editor, opinion columns, editorials, obituaries, death notices, classified ads, advertising, provincial, federal and world news, comics. Puzzles, real estate news, weather, social notices such as birthday, wedding and anniversary greetings, sports and entertainment news, and city government news and analysis.

This has left an enormous vaccum of iformation that thousands of residents relied upon.

The death of this newspaper marks the revolution for news and commentary to be instantly transmitted online. GS has been doing that for five years and has influenced major changes at City Hall and commented on events at the provincial and federal level that affect Guelph and its citizens.

The new Letter Box platform allows you to publish your ideas, suggestions, concerns and opinions. Naked plugs for publicity by commercial interests are not welcome.

Remember GS’s mission statement that has not changed: “For the people by the people.”

GS cannot replace the entire Mercury package overnight. What we are planning to do is offer citizens the opportunity to send their letters for publishing in the Letter Box section of the GS blog.

The Letter Box is open and available 24-7. Of course, there are some restrictions such as use of profanity, libelous copy, copy limitation of up to 300 words and light editing for clarity purposes. We will not publish anonymous letters.

The Letter Box is opened every morning and the new contents are posted. Your letter stays in the box for five days then is moved to the Letter Box archive where it may be accessed. We ask that you include your name, address and telephone number. This information is private and will not be transferred or sold to any individual, company or political organization. The information is secure, period. Only your name and municipality will be published.

And it’s free. Send your letter to gerrybarker76@gmail.com. Please ensure the words: “Letter Box” is at the top of your letter. This is to differentiate the letters from the comment section of guelphspeaks.ca.

So, all you Mercury letter writers, you now have the opportunity to run your letters on the online guelphspeaks.ca site. The huge guelphspeaks.ca audience will read your letters; the most followed blog in Guelph.

Former Mercury Community Editorial Board authors and columnists are invited to make submissions for publishing articles or commentary in guelphspeaks.ca. If you require additional information send your questions to: gerrybarker76@gmail.com.

Welcome to the online world that never sleeps.

 

 

 

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Fallout from the Mercury closing reverberates through the community

By Gerry Barker

Editor of guelphspeaks.ca

Posted January 26, 2016

The impact of the closing of Guelph’s daily newspaper flies in the face of the city’s claims that Guelph is Number One in Canada for jobs. It bolsters the argument that Guelph’s large number of civil servants who depend on the public purse, skews the claims that the city is number one in terms of jobs.

The Mercury was a leading supporter of the Farbridge administration. The orders to support the administration came from the Kitchener- Waterloo Record. More specifically, it was the Record’s and Mercury’s Editor in Chief, Lynn Haddrell, who no longer holds the job.

The 2014 election result spawned changes in the operation of the Mercury. Monitoring the diminishing advertising linage over a few months, it was apparent that the newspaper was financially hurting. A basic problem was the lack of local advertising that was placed in the twice-a week Guelph Tribune.

Guelphspeaks wrote a post that predicted the reduction of the Mercury operations following the removal of the printing operations to Hamilton.

The Mercury office site on MacDonnell Street will probably be sold to a developer for another downtown hi-rise condo.

The guardian of the public trust is dead and the torch is handed to the Internet and social media to maintain.

More on the public service jobs

These public-funded jobs have salaries, wages and benefits that are guaranteed by the citizens forever. For example, take the two Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) locals working for the city of Guelph. Their contracts contain a rigid, no-contracting out clause of their jobs after two years.

If city council decides to consider contracting waste collection out to private industry, this clause prevents it from doing so. This is a hangover from the Farbridge administration that was very generous to those unions that contributed to the former mayor’s three election campaigns and those supporters elected on council.

Remember that the former mayor did not do this alone. She relied on key senior staff to make nice with her union supporters by settling weetheart contracts over the eight years she held office. These senior staffers included Mark Amorosi, hired as head of Human Resources in 2008 and in charge of union negotiations. The mayor also relied on two Chief Administration Officers, the current occupant of the job, Ann Pappert, and her predecessor, Hans Loewig.

Today, both Pappert and Amorosi are still running the city with the support of the seven members of council who are consistently voting as a bloc to ensure the Farbridge agenda is continued.

This is the intolerable situation that Mayor Cam Guthrie and five independent members of council face every day.

So, how serious is this situation? In council’s first year in office, the bloc of seven councillors voted to raise property taxes in the city by 11.62 per cent. This is composed of a property tax increase for 2015 of 3.96 per cent, approved last March, and a 2.99 per cent increase for 2016, in December. Add the 4.67 per cent that transferred a portion of operational and capital costs to debt.

The taxpayers have to service the debt and in Guelph the debt is out of control. The city’s appointed consultants whenreviewing operations, warned that reserves were “red flagged” as being seriously underfunded.

All you have to consider is the $8.96 million settlement with Urbacon Buildings Group for wrongful dismissal of the company chosen to build the new City Hall. That money was taken from three reserve funds.

The parties involved in this decision were former mayor Farbridge, CAO Ann Pappert and former Chief Financial Officer Al Horsman. Horsman was replaced by Mark Amorosi, a resixdent of Hamilton, a senior manager who never seems far from the action at Guelph City Hall.

We’ll miss the Merc, a paper that reported and commented on the life of our city six days a week.

There is a giant newshole that will be gone by this weekend.

                                                  Introducing The Letter Box

Please note that following the demise of the Mercury, guelphspeaks.ca will accept Letters to the Editor in its new feature: The Letter Box.

The usual rules of decorum apply and all points of view will be welcomed and considered. Please leave a contact name and telephone or email address with each submission. Only your name will be published. Letters are limited to 300 words or less. Send your letter to guelphspeaks.ca marked comments – letter box.

 

 

 

 

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