Last Wednesday’s edition of the Valley Gazette carried an opinion piece (although it is not described as such) by its publisher, Michel Lavigne. It contained a rant against community online “blogs” in general, but left little doubt that its main purpose was to attack The Current. It is worth noting that recently local social media trolls have invited people to disbelieve some of our articles because, they say, The Current is a “blog.” Lavigne appears to have jumped on that bandwagon. This is silly because surely the test of whether an article should be disbelieved is not how or where it is published, but what it says and what it relies on to corroborate what it says.
The Current is not a newspaper — seriously?
After talking with numerous publishers, it would seem that a huge number of small communities such as the Madawaska Valley have a number of small groups that start up blogs and call themselves newspapers.
The suggestion that The Current is not entitled to call itself a “newspaper” is misguided and insulting. I would hope that most, if not all, the regular readers of both the online and print versions of The Current (now averaging more than four thousand a month) will have no difficulty rejecting this out of hand. This applies especially to the many who have, over the past year, made a point of complimenting us for bringing what they describe as a “proper newspaper” to the community. Some take pains to explain that this is because we practise investigative journalism.
Also for Lavigne’s information it is the case that MadValley Media, the publisher of The Current, is provincially registered as a business carrying out “online news service.” Also the name “The Madawaska Valley Current” has been registered in Ontario to “publish community newspaper.”
Other Ottawa Valley publishers who use their websites to carry news include the Whitewater News, the Pembroke Observer & News, Inside Ottawa Valley and the Eganville Leader. Like The Current, and indeed the Valley Gazette itself, they are staffed by small teams. Did Lavigne intend his comments to refer to these newspapers as well?
“Opinions are masked as facts”
The most serious of Lavigne’s comments, which follow his specific reference to “blogs” in “Madawaska Valley,” is that The Current misleads people by publishing opinions “masked as facts.” He says, “To the unaided eye (whatever that means) those opinions could be misinterpreted as truth.”
I must confess to failing to comprehend just exactly what he means by those words. However, one thing is clear: that it is intended as a slur and implies that The Current has published articles which are untruthful.
The Current has no objection to being described as a “blog” as that puts it in good company with other newspapers who have 24/7 online versions. Wikipedia describes how in recent years “multi-author blogs” (MABs) have emerged. It uses as examples “MABs from newspapers, other media outlets, universities, think tanks, advocacy groups and similar institutions, now accounting for an increasing quantity of blog traffic.” The Current uses the same “blog creation platform” (WordPress) as many of the large circulation newspapers.
The Current has written to Lavigne asking him to explain and clarify his arguably libelous comments impugning The Current’s ethics. He has been requested to identify the articles published by The Current that he alludes to, including the facts he relies on imputing untruthfulness. Also to explain his allegation that these articles constitute pursuing “personal agendas.” This should not present a difficulty for him because every one of the articles The Current has published since it began remains on our website for him to read.