Friday, July 12, 2024

In Search of False Information

By Stephen Vance, Editor

We’ve been very concerned at The Meaford Independent about a comment made by Councillor Deborah Young at the October 24 meeting of council. Concerned because we care.


At that meeting, Councillor Young stated that false information had been given to the public about the proposed waste-to-energy facility that was being considered by council.


Councillor Young did not provide any details as to what false information had been passed along to the public, or who provided the false information.


A comment such as this is a concern for us at The Independent because our primary objective is to provide our readers with accurate, relevant, and timely information.  So if a member of council states publicly that false information has found its way to the public, we want to know what errors have been made, and if the errors were present in an article in our publication, it would be irresponsible of us to not seek out the truth and correct the record.

Since Councillor Young provided no details, we have been trying to contact her all week in order to ask her where we can find the false information.


After more than 15 phone calls made to Young’s phone number which is published on the municipal website, and two messages left on her voice mail over the course of three days, we have not received any reply from Young, which is unfortunate.


We even went so far as to leave a message on Councillor Young’s facebook page to let her know that we have been trying to contact her, and that we had left messages on her voice mail. Young is an active facebook user and makes several updates to her facebook page daily.


Given the fact that we have received no communication from any member of council or municipal staff to let us know that we have made erroneous statements in our articles on this topic, we can only assume that the false information wasn’t contained in the two articles about the proposal that The Independent had published prior to Young making this claim.


If the errors were in an article in our publication though, we want to know so that we can offer a public correction.


A broad-stroke statement, such as that made by Councillor Young, with no details to back up her claim, only serves to cast a suspicious light upon all media outlets that have reported on this story.


Equally concerning for us is that this isn’t the first time that Councillor Young has used a wide brush when offering her thoughts on the media.


During discussion about the branding of the municipality, and whether the new “The Other Big Apple” slogan should be included on municipal signage at a council meeting on September 12, Councillor Young stated emphatically that “the media hates it,” referring to the new municipal branding.


During that meeting of council I immediately sent an email to both Councillor Young, and to Meaford’s CAO Frank Miele asking for clarification of her comment, since we were not aware of any opinion piece in any local media outlet that had been critical of the new branding.


I asked Councillor Young in that email to direct me to a story in any publication that indicated that the media had expressed a hatred for the new branding initiative.


Councillor Young never responded to that email, just as she hasn’t returned our phone calls this week.


In a discussion with the CAO after that September 12 meeting, the CAO agreed that he had never seen anything in the media that indicated any negative opinion about the branding.


Councillor Young would certainly be perturbed if a media publication reported that she hated cats without any facts or references to back up such a claim.


The media likewise is less than thrilled when a broad statement about false information being communicated is made with no facts or references offered to back-up such a claim.


It isn’t that Councillor Young doesn’t know how to contact us if we have made an error.


Since becoming a councillor we have received three email messages from her – one in December of last year, and two on the same day in February of this year.


All three of the email messages sent to us by Councillor Young were to offer praise and thanks for two editorial pieces and one cartoon that had appeared in our publication.


So when she has been pleased about something we’ve published, Councillor Young has known how to contact us, so if there is something that she isn’t pleased about, we can only assume that she knows how to contact us as well.


We have never received an email or phone call from Councillor Young to let us know that either she was unhappy with something we’ve written, or that we have made an error.


Since Councillor Young seems unwilling to answer or return our phone calls, we have decided to ask her publicly about her comment on October 24, just as she made her comment about false information publicly.


Councillor Young, we at The Meaford Independent take our role to communicate accurate information very seriously. That said, every now and then people – including those in the media – make mistakes.


You have claimed that false information about the proposed waste-to-energy facility has been provided to the public.


Please let us know what the false information is, and where it was published, so that if we inadvertently reported false information, it can be corrected.


If Councillor Young cannot direct us to the false information she claimed had been given to the public, then we request, on behalf of all media outlets, that she discontinue her practice of making broad stroke claims about what the media has reported.


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