What was the Gazette “deeply sorry” for?

EDITORIAL

Let’s begin with the reason I am writing this nearly a month after a controversial editorial appeared in the Valley Gazette. It’s because in last week’s Gazette (Apr.28), it published an apology for incorrectly identifying someone in an article published the previous week. In fact, the words “We apologize” were used. It referenced the date and page number of the original article, and specified both the correct and incorrect names used. That’s evidence that when it chooses to, the Gazette can issue a genuine apology in a timely fashion. By way of contrast, consider how it dealt with the infamous, anonymous editorial it published on April 7.

That unattributed editorial expressed hate toward a number of groups but most blatantly towards LGBTQ people. I could only imagine how much it hurt the LGBTQ folks in our community (or their parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, colleagues and friends for that matter) when they read the editorialist’s view that LGBTQ people could not lead “happy, productive or civic-minded” lives.

The piece entitled “It’s for your own good!” warned readers that groups claiming to “hate hate” like “radical feminists, LGBTQ radicals and Marxists like Antifa” actually promote hatred and “Christianity is the primary object.” I was not alone in noting that this editorial appeared only three days after The Current had reported about an article published Apr.1 by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN). Since the CAHN article drew attention to links with three ultra-right conservative groups with a presence here in the Madawaska Valley, it was understandably assumed that the anonymous editorial was a reaction, not a coincidence. If so, the author should have had the courage to say so, and provide his/her name — as the CAHN author had done.

An anonymous editorial that makes outrageous and hateful comments which, according to guidelines published by the Human Rights Commission of Ontario, might qualify as a hate incident is a serious matter for a publisher, so I waited for the following week’s Gazette to see if any letters to the editor, a retraction, and an apology would appear. There was nothing. By that time, I had read a number of complaints on social media and also had learned that some residents had complained to the Gazette’s publisher or reached out to some of the writers. Some of them were told that their letter would be printed. However, no letters or reactions appeared.

The “apology” that dare not speak its name

Two weeks later a notice turned up in the Gazette addressed to “Dear valued readers, subscribers and advertisers.” It “sincerely” offered “regret for any discomfort or offence caused,” and it also stated that some “remarks made were derogatory and disrespectful and for that we are deeply sorry.”

Strangely, however, it did not provide any information about the subject matter of the “recent editorial” to which it referred or even its date of publication — a fundamental requirement for a genuine apology from a media outlet. Anybody reading it might have been hard pressed to understand what it related to. I understand some residents wondered if the subsequent editorial on April 14 about the late Prince Philip had offended some readers.

The notice did not express regret for having written and published the piece. Instead, there was regret expressed for any discomfort or offence caused, but an acknowledgement of responsibility is a key element of an effective apology. Surely as a minimum an unequivocal apology (using the word “apology”) should have been made to the targets of the unidentified author.

10 Comments

  1. Monica Bratley

    Did anyone at the Gazette go to a proper journalism school? It is NEVER acceptable to publish anonymously. It is also a worthy reminder that hate speech is not protected speech.

  2. Alfred G. Villeneuve

    Reading the local papers, The Gazette, Leader and Current leads one to realize that every paper has it’s own ‘agenda’.
    I am hardly surprised that these issues keep repeating themselves; it’s too bad that instead of grinding their own ‘personal’ axes politically/ religiously; perhaps they could focus on the overtaxing issues like ‘gentrification’ , the whole sale sell off of ‘public’ lands deemed by council as ‘surplus’ (hey I just found a parcel of land that we didn’t need..) and the continuing closing of public access to our lakes and rivers. THAT would be newsworthy.
    But then, it may crimp the style of some, having to ask our so called political leaders, locally, provincially and federally these pointed questions.

  3. Amy Rou

    Danielle Paul thank you for this thoughtful response to both the abysmal original editorial as well as the underwhelming pseudo-apology. No accountability and the ol’ classic bigot/bully response, “I’m sorry that you felt bad… (but not for my actions, and how you feel isn’t really my problem so I don’t really care.)” The only hint of care is in who the apology is addressed to, advertisers and buyers of the paper. The threat of loss of revenue is the only issue the owner cares about.
    Thank God the community has other options for media now.

  4. Laurie Wagner

    Now that I know what it was all about I will no longer buy the VG. Appalling. And reading that they ignore their writers and don’t pay them is another reason not to. Although the editorial was certainly enough.

  5. Sylvia Anne Hinrichsen

    I quit reading that paper when the owner did not pay me for the garden diary articles I was writing for them…I went in several times ..left messages with the desk…nothing ever happened…

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