Monday, March 12, 2007

Ritchie should clean up editorial house

More evidence the editorial pages crew at the FreeP needs a major overhaul came to surface this past week with an odd piece by commentary editor Gerald Flood, recounting his recent public speaking experience in Miami.

In it he painted a picture of himself speaking to the denizens of Dantes Inferno -- specifically Southern Manitoba producers facing some unspecified growing "tyranny" of urban (read: NDP) Manitoba.

Just to give you all a taste of the piece, here are a couple of snippets:

"The next morning I drove, very slowly, through the worsening weather to Miami (Miami, Manitoba, alas)..."

"The meeting was held in the Miami Community Centre, a building of about 35 metres by 35 metres with a five-metre ceiling. It's not an attractive building; utility clearly was the guiding principle of its construction."

Kind of makes you want to slash your wrists, doesn't it?

However, a few days later, Flood tacked on this apology to the end of his next, rather forgettable, piece.

"I did not mean to offend people in Miami, Man., last week by suggesting that their community centre was unattractive nor by failing to learn that its furnace is geothermal and therefore not as wasteful of energy as I implied. My apologies."

Flood went on in the original column to describe more obstacles to the members of the
Deerwood Soil and Management Association, saying the NDP was going to be responsible for the closure of the local rail line:

"They were told [by Flood] that Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Steve Ashton said recently that he would not stand in the path of progress and block the abandonment of a local rail line even though it would increase by 35,000 the number of diesel trucks using local highways to haul grain each year."

Today, Ashton has a letter, rightfully pointing out this is hogwash:

"...[O]ur government has a track record of working to maintain rail lines by bringing all key stakeholders together."

That Flood would contort so much to paint the picture he wants, without bothering to check facts, is a sign of the increasing irrelevance of the editorial and comment section of the Free Press. It has come a long way since the John Dafoe years, and not in a good way. Once was the words on the FreeP editorial section had some weight, regardless of whether we agreed with it or not.

It brings to mind an incident we only recently heard about, where a couple of Fridays ago the same pages carried verbatim a very long letter Huey McFadyen and Jon McGerrard sent to the Premier demanding Greg Selinger's resignation, outlining a litany of Crocus complaints. The headline was a screaming "Selinger should resign", or something like that.

Only thing is, the published letter omitted the passages that by that time had already been proven conclusively 100% wrong by the Auditor General.

In short, the Free Press conspired with the opposition to censor their own letter for maximum one-sided advantage, conveniently cutting out the parts that made them look completely foolish.

Newish publisher Andy Ritchie would do well to clean house in the editorial section, inject some fresh blood and attempt to return some credibility to what's become little more than an untalented corner of the paper fixated on tangential hobby horses.