The federal Conservative candidate in Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock has decided to boycott his local paper, The County Voice, after the Liberal Party named the managing editor as its candidate.
Barry Devolin publicly announced his decision during an interview on radio station Moose FM, saying he wouldn’t take any questions from, release any information to, or, really, have any contact with Voice staff at all for the duration of the campaign.
“How can a candidate reasonably expect to have a chance for fair treatment when the managing editor is a Liberal candidate?” Devolin told Globe and Mail reporter Ladurantaye. “I decided to take a pass. Quite frankly, I did it to sidestep controversy — I didn’t want to get into a situation where I’m mad at them for not covering me fairly.”
It should be noted the managing editor in question, Laura Redman, is currently on an unpaid leave of absence. However, Redman did not step down until the election was called, even though she has said she made the decision to run in January.
When asked why, Redman told the Globe:
“I was conscientious and didn’t have anything to do with coverage of the Conservatives. But I make $500 a week — I need that job to feed my kids. I’ve been a social issues reporter for a long time, so I would think by now people know where my sensibilities lie anyway.”
Either way, Redman has the support of Voice publisher/editor Stephen Patrick who used the Voice‘s editorial space to slam Devolin’s decision:
“In one fell swoop Mr. Devolin has managed to defy the freedom of the press, to abrogate his responsibility to all the voters, and to threaten the very existence of The Voice,” he wrote, “It’s virtually unprecedented in the history of Canadian journalism for a powerful federal party to use its power to deny a small independent paper’s employees their right to work, their right to pursue their craft.”
“It’s important to note that we are the only independent media outlet in this county. So Devolin and the Harperites are not only removing our right and ability to work, they are attempting to ensure that the voters of Haliburton County will be denied its unique and independent voice throughout the campaign.
“Devolin’s decision to refuse to place any advertising in The Voice has one clear and undeniable motive: to drive this newspaper out of business.”
While this isn’t the first time a journalist has run for office, many media organizations have policies limiting (and sometimes forbidding) employees’ political activities. Indeed, the whole issue of journalists seeking public office is so mired in landmines, the Canadian Association of Journalists recently put out a report discussing the issue.
“If journalists accept that the ‘objective method’ contributes to the public trust, and that ‘impartiality’ is not just a noble ambition but a relevant goal to honour our democratic responsibility, then it is important to strive to preserve the integrity of the ideal — even if it may sometimes mean voluntarily surrendering some personal freedoms.”
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