Council candidate displeased with election coverage
Beach Metro News was founded to be a non-partisan community paper. Non-partisan does not mean apolitical. Inevitably, the few people running Beach Metro will have their own biases, but lately I have begun to wonder if the paper really is non-partisan and whose voice it really represents.
I have found coverage of planning and redevelopment to be biased towards developers, and the election coverage (mainly, the lack of it) of my campaign was terrible.
Take the In My Opinion column. I was told it is reserved for “community leaders.” This essentially means incumbent politicians, Beach Metro staff, and maybe the head of the BIA or one or two other local organizations, are the only ones who can get an op-ed published.
I was rebuffed when I proposed writing a piece. It seems there is no space for candidates running against incumbents, or wanting to write critical pieces about what incumbents say or do. The best average residents can hope for is a letter to the editor, which is shorter and lacks the same prominence.
I know of no other reputable publication that limits its op-eds only to incumbents or other “leaders” with some sort of formal position.
Isn’t the point of a non-profit community paper to be the voice of the community, to give voice to those who feel frustrated and lack other means of communicating or rallying the community, and not to be the voice only of elected officials wanting to spin things their way?
In the next 12 months, will candidates from the Liberals, Conservatives, or the Green Party get to write an In My Opinion piece? Current MPP Arthur Potts and other candidates in the provincial election weren’t given the same chance earlier this year, only MPP Prue was given space. [Michael Prue’s last In My Opinion column was more than a month before the provincial election was called – ed.]
MP Matthew Kellway has written several opinion pieces, but will candidates from other parties for next year’s federal election be given an equal opportunity to introduce themselves and their platforms in the coming months? Clearly it is not a level playing field.
This also applied to the municipal election. Mary-Margaret McMahon registered as a candidate on Jan. 2, and had several In My Opinion pieces in the following months. [McMahon’s last pre-election In My Opinion column was published five months before election day. -ed.]
With only one reporter, there is also an issue of Beach Metro’s coverage representing the biases of only one or two people. Beach Metro’s reporter never emailed me or interviewed me while I was a candidate. I sent out information on newsworthy issues like how a developer is trying to get $63,000 in costs from me at the OMB, and also made specific accusations about McMahon violating the city’s Code of Conduct, but this did not get any response, yet alone get covered.
The only time my name was mentioned in Beach Metro by a staff writer was a mere two sentences on the second last page of the Oct. 21 issue, which included nearly a full page devoted to the “Pet of the Month.”
I have been very active as a volunteer on planning issues since 2011, so my name appeared in Beach Metro more often when I was not a candidate than when I was one, and candidates who had never been mentioned in the paper prior to the election (Suttor, Sears) got more coverage than I did.
The Nov. 4 issue of Beach Metro provides a perfect example. McMahon was extensively quoted, and [former councillor and candidate Sandra] Bussin was mentioned only once. I came in third (the bronze medal, so to speak) but this was not mentioned at all, nor were any other candidates interviewed, yet a supporter of McMahon was named and quoted. The losers at tennis or hockey tournaments get more coverage. My name would not have appeared in that issue of Beach Metro except that the paper saw fit to publish a letter complaining about one of the ads I paid for!
And then on top of the news coverage in that issue, McMahon had yet another In My Opinion piece!
The headline on the front page said “Four more years of incumbents” – hardly surprising given the lack of equal space or fairness towards those willing to challenge an incumbent, of critical coverage of incumbents, or other viewpoints.