The release of an ongoing email exchange between Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams’ PR person, Elizabeth Matthews, and journalist Craig Westcott are all the buzz in St. John’s media circles this week. Westcott has been blackballed by the premiers offices for interviews for the past couple of years and now is being shut out of government advertising for his fledgling Business Post newspaper due to his “negative attitude” toward the premier and his government policies.
When all the spin and personalities are removed it seems to come down to the cruel realities of being an experienced self-employed journalist in a small town who must not only report news and events but is also called on to do SIGNED commentary and editorials… something the local daily does not.
Blackballing journalists and publications is not new in Newfoundland. Former premier Peckford withheld advertising to the now defunct Sunday Express for their reporting. The press and media in Newfoundland has always been divided into those who kiss the seat of power and those who don’t.
Is it possible for a journalist to separate reporting and commentary work in a small incestuous market?