I want to thank the editorial staff at MetrolandMedia (North Star and Beacon Star) for the laugh they provided me with on Friday and a smile all weekend with their editorial regarding McDougall Council’s refusal to allow them to record their open meetings. It brought together a few separate threads that have been floating around in my head for a few weeks now.

The first thread is a post by Seth Godin, one of my favourite authors and noted marketer and entrepreneur. He published a post on Thursday titled “Privilege” that stated:

We really don’t understand privilege until we’ve lost it. It’s pretty easy to criticize or misunderstand those that complain about privilege (of any kind), but in fact, we have no idea what it is to be in those shoes, not right this minute.”

The reason for part one of my chuckle? A couple of years ago I asked Parry Sound Council for media privileges to be able to, among other things, record open meetings of Council. My request was refused. The MetrolandMedia people never bothered to comment or support my request. I was just a little fish and they apparently never thought to defend the principle because they already had the privilege of recording the meetings. Silence often speaks louder than words.

The second reason concerns the reporting style of the paper. They don’t need to pay attention at council meetings because they can record the discussion and then review the recording to pick up on anything they later realized was important. At McDougall council meetings they will actually need to pay attention.

The third reason concerns content. Much of what gets printed in the two local newspapers, at least with respect to Parry Sound council meetings, is quotes from the discussion. I’d estimate about 40-50% of the words come from the mouths of Staff and Council. You don’t need to write what you can transcribe. This is common practice at Parry Sound Council meetings where the ‘official’ media is permitted to make recordings. In defense of Parry Sound Council I can, in theory at least, record a meeting as long as I ask for permission beforehand. I haven’t bothered to date; I pay attention and ask questions afterward in case I missed anything.

The Beacon Star’s editorial message is appropriate – why can’t the open meetings in McDougall be recorded to ensure statements and arguments are properly reported? Should people who can write more quickly have an advantage? Does it disadvantage the physically handicapped, the old, the young, the poor of hearing?

I guess there is an increasing lack of trust locally with the local printed media. This is something I share. The editorial page of our local newspaper is anonymous. I remember one personally painful editorial where I was figuratively taken to the woodshed. Was I ever contacted for background? No? When asked, they said they were reflecting the opinion of an individual in town. Wow, editorial page coverage of ‘your’ opinion and you get to stay anonymous. And there has been more to erode trust.

Trust is something that is hard to gain and easy to lose. It’s not a privilege that comes with the territory; it’s earned.

For the record I support MetrolandMedia’s request for the right to record open meetings of McDougall Council. I hope my support helps their cause. MetrolandMedia, I would be pleased to send a letter or make a deputation in support of your request. (Call me, you have my number if you are interested in taking me up on this. Full disclosure – I didn’t succeed last time in Parry Sound, but perhaps it will be different with the support of a major media conglomerate.)

So what’s worse: losing privilege, or never having it?

Teamwork. (Parry Sound, Night Crawling)