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.