By Stephen Vance, Editor
I had an unexpected and unpleasant visit at my home on Friday, and I thought it would be worthwhile to share the story of this visit for the benefit of all candidates who might be wondering about boundaries in this campaign.
First let me set the scene. I was sorting laundry in my basement when I heard a loud knock at my front door. By the time I had made it upstairs, the campaign manager for one of the candidates in the upcoming municipal election was already standing inside my house in the front hallway.
The campaign manager then began to aggressively berate me about an article that I had written for our August 29 print edition that the candidate and campaign manager weren’t overly thrilled with – though it was conceded that there was nothing untrue in the article. They did however quibble about semantics and nuances. What they didn’t approve of was how I portrayed the candidate.
So, their approach, it would seem, when upset with something written in the media, is to go to the home of the reporter, step into their house uninvited, use raised voices and profanity on the front lawn of the reporter’s house while onlooking neighbours tended to their gardens – and yes, the neighbours most certainly knew who was at my door, so I’m sure that story will be shared with their friends in town.
Classy, isn’t it? But here’s the real kicker.
In the midst of informing me of my failure to portray the candidate as they wished, the campaign manager said the following: “You know when we’re elected we’re planning to have full page municipal ads in The Independent.” That’s when I put up my hand, looked at the candidate and expressed my shock at such a brash, obvious carrot: should I play along, or perhaps it was intended as a guilt trip tactic, or perhaps it was even a mild threat. No matter what it was, it was a disgusting display of dishonourable campaign strategy.
It turns out that the concern wasn’t really with the words I wrote or the facts I touched on. The concern was all about how the candidate was portrayed – portrayals of people are always subject to various opinions, and if this early in a municipal campaign you’re going to get testy over an article which contains no untruths, and march over to the reporter’s door to yell at him on his front lawn, do you really have a thick enough skin for politics?
The entire ordeal was disturbing, and I was certainly glad that none of the kids were home, or that we weren’t entertaining company.
So a note to all candidates – Candidates don’t have to agree with what the media writes, and they have every right to request the record be corrected should an inaccuracy be published, however normally, civil people would have sent an email requesting a meeting, or they would have stopped by the office.
But to come to my home, step into my home uninvited, bark at me in raised voices on my porch and front lawn, attempt to guilt, or possibly attempt to bribe me into portraying the candidate as per the candidate’s desires is unacceptable, it is unprofessional, and it is disrespectful. While I will let this incident pass, another incident like this and I will have to report about it rather than write an opinion piece with the names of those involved omitted.
I’m a journalist, not a publicist, and my job is to report in an unbiased fashion, to analyze, and to communicate my views through editorials and candidate analysis articles. My job isn’t to ensure that my articles portray candidates in the way that they desire – I put much more stock in reality.
As I said to the candidate: what I gleaned from this experience was that should this particular candidate be elected, and they do or say something in their job on council that I don’t like, would they be comfortable with me knocking on their door at home, stepping inside before the candidate is even on the main floor, and then berating and arguing in a loud voice for the neighbourhood to hear? Though perhaps I could entice the candidate by saying, “You know, I was planning to write some nice things about you… so how about that pothole on my street…”
TMI Publisher Susanne Wussow spoke t0 the candidate later that same day, and suggested that an apology was in order for the spectacle at my home. At the time of publication, no such apology had been received.
Classy start to your campaign, Candidate X. If you’re treating the media like this, I can only imagine how you will treat your opponents.