It has often been said a community newspaper is a reflection of the community it serves.
Roles reversed this past weekend and the community reflected on its community newspaper in unflattering and sometimes hateful ways. As odd as it sounds, each post and message provided clarity to me on just how special this community is and how deserving it is of nothing but the finest in its publication of record.
The ill feelings were about a political cartoon published in last week’s Advertiser that many readers found offensive. With a stance far too similar to that used in the George Floyd killing, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is depicted kneeling atop a beaver representing taxpayers facing the costs of COVID-19.
This misappropriation of a haunting image of a killing was hurtful and not necessary.
Reaction began as the newspaper landed on doorsteps. An email early in the afternoon expressing dismay was followed by one from a dear friend in Elora greatly saddened by the cartoon.
By Friday night, a tsunami of social media activity ensued, ranging from constructive criticism to calls for termination of numerous employees and the cartoonist. Anger was palpable and the hurt was clear.
There will be no effort made here to defend the indefensible, nor excuses made. Instead, I offer an unequivocal apology to our readers for publishing this cartoon and the needless anguish it caused in our community.
The question remains: what happens next?
Drawing on advice dispensed in voicemails left over the weekend, we have already started to make this tragic situation a teachable moment as requested.
Before getting into that, I would like to thank both of those women for their sincerity and measured language. It certainly helped and encouraged a time of personal reflection that was long overdue.
The sense of mystery for them and other writers since, was how we could have dedicated so much time and effort in previous weeks to giving voice to the issue of Black Lives Matter and in a second, destroy those gains.
It is confounding and equally disappointing to me, but we will carry on and make every effort to continue providing an opportunity for people to see their community in a positive light.
We actually had our first face-to-face editorial meeting since mid-March this past Monday to talk about their work, current events and gather insight on how we can avoid missing shortcomings in our work.
It was productive and I am confident in what we can accomplish moving forward.
This week Kelly Waterhouse generously offered up her space in the newspaper so others can speak through their letters. While we can’t publish every letter due to space limitations, our editor has pulled together a good cross section, representative of submissions we received. More can be found online on our letters page.
The point has been made in the past, but our editorial pages continue to be the envy of fellow publishers across Ontario, thanks to our engaged citizenry.
I will be working with our editor to establish a new column called First Person. We all have stories and issues worth sharing. Yes, letters and submissions have always been welcome, but this will be a chance for a larger say on issues ranging from societal woes to great accomplishments.
More on that will follow and I certainly hope, based on the level of citizen engagement this past week, to hear from people and organizations interested in participating and contributing to community awareness.