Is the sun setting on The Valley Gazette?

OPINION

One thing I’ve learned about journalism in my 20-or-so years in the business is that reporting real news, important news, is both exhausting and paramount.

And try not to get too cosy with those you are tasked to write about. That’s the mission, if you choose to accept it.

The Valley Gazette publisher, Michel Lavigne, appears to be on a mission of his own – to unshackle us from what he has dubbed “the worst invention ever.” Wow, that is quite a statement, and delivered with such gusto that he must be talking about nuclear weapons, fentanyl, or the cigarettes, right? Well, no. What this “newsman” is referring to is the evil invention known as (cue scary music) ”the internet.”

That’s right folks, our local media competitor, who has never seen an important story he wanted to publish, is offering the sage advice of being even less informed than you would be after reading his advertisement booklet, I mean his newspaper. Oh don’t worry, Lavigne can take a joke. I mean, right there in his Sept.1st thought-provoking editorial he tells us that we can shoot him or hang him, a sloppily-crafted-if-not-bizarre, self-congratulatory answer to a question nobody asked him in the first place.

Jokes aside, which is difficult when the guy lecturing other media outlets once published an opinion piece equating being gay with being a drug addict, not to mention an editorial that questioned the criticism levelled against residential schools (because everyone working there was a “caring” person), this communiqué from Lavigne is actually a great case study for what it looks like when you are becoming irrelevant.

And I hate to break it to his readers, but I think he knows it.

Why else would Lavigne state the following: “Here is the big problem in our area. We are the media capital of the Ottawa Valley. We have every keyboard warrior out there trying to give advice to anyone who will like their post.” I’m sorry, what? Why is having the ability to go online and communicate with others a bad thing? And why does he seem to be implying that having a more robust choice in where to get our local news a bad thing?

Oh, I know! It’s because when your number one priority is to garner ad dollars instead of reporting the sometimes-controversial antics of elected officials, you tend to hit said elected officials with kid gloves, if you hit them at all.

Have you ever rolled your eyes when someone started pontificating about how rural communities are badly run because everyone knows each other? Well, the reason that opinion exists is because of the quid pro quo relationship small town outlets have with public officials. That relationship, a sort of wink and nod scenario especially where the paper’s advertising revenue is at stake, and so the local outlet resists reporting on any stories that make the cash cow look bad. Lavigne’s meandering rant reveals not just a profound lack of understanding of how the internet works, but what journalism is and how it can benefit the community it serves.

Either that, or he just doesn’t believe that elected officials should be scrutinized, especially by what he calls “keyboard warriors.” He even chastised the existence of an online MV COVID discussion group, asking “where the flip do these people get off,” as if keeping ourselves informed about a pandemic and how it is impacting our community is somehow a bad thing.

There is an obvious pattern taking place over at The Valley Gazette, and it isn’t about being a source of good information for the community. Rather, it seems obvious that his main mission is to shield the community from important information, to keep us less informed. What else would you call it when a publisher inexplicably criticizes residents for agreeing to be interviewed by a national newspaper about their COVID concerns, as well as members of our community who seek COVID information online, or encourages us to not use the internet itself, or simply refuses to inform his readers about the taxpayer-funded foibles of some of the less-than-stellar elected representatives in Madawaska Valley?

Does anyone really believe it is just a coincidence that the Township and its Council wants to muzzle the only outlet in the area that actually provides readers with investigative reporting, but not the outlet that consistently keeps its readers in the dark about wasted taxpayer dollars and other scandals?

Of course it is not a coincidence.

I am usually not one for predictions, but I will end this piece with the following; Lavigne will continue to ignore any stories that make public officials look bad. That’s it. That’s the prediction. Also, the sun will come up tomorrow.

Madawaska Valley sunset. Photo Harrison Haines.

10 Comments

  1. Bernadine Roslyn

    I find this rant to be offensive and totally unworthy of The Current. Readers of The Current are reasonable and intelligent people, and can see through any nonsense in Mr. Lavigne’s statements – without the help of Mr. di Fiore. There is no need for The Current to stoop to such malice and spite.
    Please continue to give us responsible journalism and hold to the high standards we have come to expect from you.
    Thanks for all you contribute to our community.

  2. The Current

    In reply to Frank Mallany:

    Thank you for your comment and for your compliments about The Current. We do not disagree, of course, with the principle you espouse about freedom of choice. However, it is unfortunate that the Valley Gazette appears to have allowed itself to be dictated to by local municipal officials about what it does or does not print. A recent example of this — and the final motivation for James Di Fiore’s opinion piece — was information we received that it was instructed not to publish anything about the court hearing resulting in the recent judgment of Justice Doyle. Briefly, it was a Zoom hearing which Lavigne and his reporter, Katrina Boguski, observed having been invited to do so by the township. When no report of the hearing appeared in the Gazette, subsequent enquiries revealed that Lavigne had bowed to pressure to not report it. He was later sent a copy of the decision, but that as well turned out to be something he chose not to report on.

  3. Frank Mallany

    I don’t buy the Valley Gazette anymore but when I did, other than the odd controversial editorial, it had nothing more to offer than fluffy articles aimed at seasonal residents and local senior citizens. There’s nothing wrong with that model if it attracts enough advertising to keep afloat. I find it a little odd that you’re criticizing a competitor because they have a different business model. Having said that, we do need to keep our local politicians accountable and to be made aware of issues affecting residents in the area. Thankfully we have the Current for that, at least for Madawaska Valley residents. Residents in Hastings Highlands would be lucky to have such a credible, unbiased source of information specific to our municipality.

  4. Rand Dyck

    I rather like the community news in the Valley Gazette, but I have never understood anything that Lavigne, himself, has written. I thought the worst thing about him is that he is not able to write a legible sentence, but I guess I was wrong: his opinions are offensive! I did request the email addresses of his columnists so that I could engage with them personally, but I never heard back.

  5. James Di Fiore

    In reply to Gerry Beanish:

    Actually, what I said was we needed to see it first, Gerry. You just came in and said you had something at home.

    We have a local history section, and I informed you that we could consider putting it in the library, but not without seeing it first.

    Have a nice day.

  6. Gerry Beanish

    When reading an article, you should first investigate the source. I am not impressed by this writer’s track record. He has flipped all over the spectrum of opinions depending on who he is writing for.
    Recently, I attempted to endow community history from the 1920s which had been preserved by my mother at the local library. Unfortunately, the librarian was away and I had to deal with James. He turned me away, declaring that local history was of no importance. Typical, he prefers to re-write history using his own limited scope.

  7. Alecia O'Brien

    Nailed it! Now next week can you update this with an approximate amount of how much money the rake in from township advertising because this BLR taxpayer has better things to spend her money on than firer starter and last I checked when a meeting is cancelled or events are happening it would be cheaper to advertise with the free Bancroft this week or your free paper. So why does my twp council or staff choose not to? Btw love your work James we need more “real” journalist like you all over our country! We are lucky to have you and Danielle and Roger 😊

    Facebook/Sept.8

  8. Barb Cardwell

    I always tell new people in our community that if they want to find a local contractor, read the Gazette. But if they want to know what’s going on in the community, read the Current.

    Facebook/Sept.8

  9. Lesley Betts

    Yesss! I could not love this piece more! Thank you, MV Current, for being willing to do the real work of investigating and reporting. The Gazette lost me long ago, but the editorials mentioned above were the nails in the coffin.

    Facebook/Sept.8

  10. Luanne Hilderbrandt

    The valley gazette lost my interest as soon as it published it’s sickening editorials about gay people and residential schools , they will be happy to know I also deleted them on my social media

    Facebook/Sept.8

Leave a Reply

You have to agree to the comment policy.

Back to Top