Ryerson Review of Journalism: McHale & Vandermaas important news sources for Caledonia dispute

Ryerson Review of Journalism cites Vandermaas & McHale for Caledonia coverage in, 'Disputed Land, Failed Coverage' in their 25th Anniversary edition. Click on photo for PDF of cover, title page and final page of article. You'll need to purchase a copy in order to read the entire article. Check Chapters or other magazine news stands.

UPDATED 2141 EST July 26/08

DustmyBroom.com, July 25/08: Ryerson Review of Journalism Praises Bloggers, Slams MSM for Caledonia coverage

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I am pleased to say that the prestigious Ryerson Review of Journalism has recognized VoiceofCanada and CaledoniaWakeUpCall as valuable sources of information for Caledonia residents.

Mark Vandermaas and Gary McHale were both interviewed in late 2007 for the Summer 2008 issue which hit news stands yesterday and is distributed to journalism schools across Canada.

In her article, ‘Disputed Land, Failed Coverage,’ Emerald Austerberry examined the coverage of the Caledonia crisis by local media outlets such as The Sachem, Dunnville Chronicle, The Regional, The Tekawennake News, Ancaster News and the Haldimand Press.

Austerberry mentions the work of reporters such as Karen Best, Neil Dring, Katie Dawson, Jim Windle and Bill Jackson. She notes that Jackson and his editor Chris Pickup’s outspoken opinions against native protesters are due in part to a willingness to say what others won’t and due to an assault Jackson suffered at the hands of a native woman who scratched him while grabbing his camera while he was photographing native violence in June 2006.

Austerberry also uses the suffering of Dave Brown and Dana Chatwell to dramatize the fear that residents had of speaking to reporters, hindering their coverage of the crisis.

“When local media fail to cover important issues…”

Austerberry begins the conclusion on the final page of her story with this quote that includes praise from Caledonia reporter, Katie Dawson:

When local media fail to cover important issues, or cover only one side of them, readers inevitably have to look elsewhere. In Caledonia, many go to Caledoniawakeupcall.com, created by Gary McHale. Even some reporters are impressed. “I think he’s done a really, really good job of putting any information that he can get his hands on out there for people to read,” says [Sachem Lead Reporter Katie Dawson] Dawson. “Really, if people didn’t have that they’d be in the dark even more than they are.”

McHale and his friend Mark Vandermaas, who runs a site called Voiceofcanada.ca, don’t live in Caledonia, but are well known figures in the community. Both sites link to hundreds of stories about the conflict, and they are opposed to the way protesters behave and how the dispute is policed.”

But McHale is not just a citizen journalist. He has organized a number of protests, including the Remember Us March two days before the provincial election in October 2007. He and Vandermaas say they are fighting two-tier justice, not the Six Nations residents themselves, although some people have a hard time believing it. They also believe the OPP are treating the actions of the First Nations and locals differently.”

The site [CaledoniaWakeUpCall.com] attracts about 22,000 visitors [VoC note: these are ‘unique visitors’] a month…”

The best quote of the entire article drives home the point made by Austerberry’s title (‘Disputed Land, Failed Coverage): 

“I’m only involved because the media failed. That’s my fundamental statement I have made to the public many times,” says McHale. “I would not exist if the media had done their job. In a democracy, it’s the media that finally puts the pressure on governments – and it’s not happening in Caledonia.”

Gary McHale

VoC comment – the shame of Big Media

I have mixed feelings about the Ryerson article from our perspective as ‘activist-journalists’ (my term). Given the high price we paid to gather the evidence to expose and oppose OPP/Liberal race-based policing, and the thousands of hours of work involved in putting it to use, it’s nice to see our efforts recognized by a prestigious journalism school publication, and any examination of the media and its role in Caledonia is a good thing, but I think the group that truly deserved to be taken to task for its coverage of the crisis are the ‘Big Media’ – those closest to Caledonia like the Spectator and Brantford Expositor, and the Toronto media whose mission seems to be to shelter McGuinty and his ministers from bad PR.

Big Media have the most resources at their disposal and yet, they have produced some of the worst Caledonia coverage of all thanks in large part to their arrogant refusal to listen to those of us who were closest to the action gathering evidence that would make any U.S. investigative reporter drool. Instead of using the knowledge, evidence and sources we uncovered to inform their readers however, they often did their best to ‘shoot the messenger’ by insulting us or ignoring our evidence as they deliberately refused to speak the truth about native crime and OPP civil rights violations. 

When they aren’t being cruel or wilfully blind to the ‘citizen-journalists’ (Ryerson’s description of us) doing their jobs for them, Big Media seems content to write ‘drive-by’ stories that reveal a complete lack of interest in exposing the dangers to democracy posed by OPP civil rights violations; the awful legacy of the Ipperwash Inquiry cover-up that ensured no residents were able to testify about the two tier justice they experienced; the outright abandonment of children living on the Sixth Line to the whims of native criminals; and many other stories from which they could have effortlessly spun a hundred more.  

Even a politically-incorrect media type you think would be eager to help stop the violence and police abuses wasn’t interested. We appealed to Michael Coren of CTS TV directly and through a well-connected journalist who has appeared on his show – to no avail. Coren will do endless shows about Islamic terrorism, but he has devoted almost zero discussion to the suffering of thousands of people who live within 1 hour of CTS headquarters in Burlington, Ontario due to landclaim lawlessness. In one comical bit of irony, he and his guests were lamenting the poor job journalists were doing, not realizing they were talking about themselves! After the show was over, both Gary McHale and I contacted the guests and encouraged them to help. One did listen and pitched a story idea to both Coren and the Toronto Sun, but nothing ever came of it.

When the story of Caledonia is finally told, it will be Big Media who deserve much of the blame for allowing Canada to slip so dangerously close to civil war while they were running their politically-correct advertising businesses. The only mitigating factor I can offer in the defence of Big Media is that, for the most part, they tacitly allowed us to reprint their stories so that we could provide a repository of evidence and historical documentation of the coverage they did provide. For this I thank them.

Haldimand’s local media outperformed Big Media by huge margin

In sharp contrast to the refusal of Big Media (with some occasional and notable exceptions) to speak out for the victims of landclaim lawlessness, I believe that, in proportion to their resources, the local non-native media in the Caledonia area such as The Regional, The Sachem and Dunnville Chronicle have outperformed their bigger rivals by a huge margin.  

People like Bill Jackson (Regional), Katie Dawson, Carie Walker (both of the Sachem) and Karen Best (Chronicle) deserve a lot of credit for their work on this issue.

It was Katie Dawson who was the first and only journalist to actually write about Dancer’s story following her speech at our Oct 08/07 Remember Us March.

Carie Walker was the first Ontario journalist ever to write about our Ipperwash Papers project. I spent several hours on the phone with her as she tried to understand why I was involved in the Caledonia situation in a way that no journalist has ever done before or since. Her professionalism showed in the resulting article about the protest at Fantino’s home when she eloquently stated our motivations thusly: “If past injustice legitimizes future injustices, then injustice will eventually become legitimate. This was the rationale behind the actions of protesters who took their case to the home of OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino last weekend.”

The ubiquitous Karen Best has covered many angles on the story and it shows. As the article states, she gets in the action. I remember her freezing with us at Chris Syrie’s property on Jan 20/07 during our 2nd attempt to raise Canadian flags across from DCE, and riding the bus with us to cover our Queen’s Park ‘2nd Anniversary of Anarchy’ protest on April 20/08. She is, indeed – almost – everywhere when it comes to the Caledonia story.

The journalist who has made the single greatest difference in fostering a solution to the Caledonia crisis based on a consistent search for truth, justice and respect for the rights of all citizens – native and non-native – has been Bill Jackson and The Regional.

Bill Jackson & The Regional – ‘Watchdogs of Democracy’ in every sense of the word

From the perspective of those of us who believe that journalists are the watchdogs of democracy, there is no better friend to Canada and the people of Caledonia than the Regional’s Bill Jackson and editor/publishers Chris & Kevan Pickup. They have recognized that there is more to journalism than merely reporting what each side has to say. Journalists have to take a stand and take a side when the rule of law is being undermined, and Jackson/The Regional have done just that. Their BS detectors can smell the difference between legitimate, peaceful demonstrations in support of native grievances and violent, sociopathic, criminal behaviour that has victimized thousands of innocents. They feel no obligation to print – under the guise of being unbiased – the nonsense from those who would justify the use of violence as a remedy to past injustice.

I wrote to Bill a while back asking him if he had any comments he’d like to pass on for an article I was planning to write about him. Here is his take on the role of journalists and the news (emphasis is Bill’s):

Aside from simply stating that we’ve tried to tell stories to best serve the Haldimand/Caledonia community – our readership catchment – I have a couple points to make.
 
First, I never thought of our paper as a “record” or a comprehensive historical encyclopedia on all of the aboriginal-related issues. With myself as the only full-time reporter, the issues are often too many and too complex to cover in their entirety.
 
Second, that being said, I believe that journalism requires a certain amount of objectivity. Some say that there is no such thing as objectivity and that a balanced story from a spectator’s perspective is the only way to present the news accurately.  Yet newspapers constantly use objectivity to justify ignoring certain issues entirely. Otherwise, newspapers would chronicle everything that happens in life – an impossible and mostly frivolous task.
 
I believe that it’s fair to publish opinion of any individual when it comes to crime, history or land claims, if it adds to a news item or simply makes for good feature reading. But the ink and credence we give to such items needs to be more closely scrutinized.
 
News should be used not only to serve and inform the readership – a task that any peice of Grub street can accomplish –  but it should also tell what’s relevant and true. This is what reporters and newspapers are for.
 
Bill Jackson, Reporter/Photographer
The Regional, May 20/08
Bill was also kind enough to pass on some compliments about an in-depth op-ed article we authored regarding the awful legacy of the Ipperwash Inquiry’s suppression of evidence. He has promised to publish it when the paper has some space.
I appreciate your article and the work you do too, and I’m sure we’ll be talking in the days, months, years and maybe even decades ahead. 
Not only has he done his best to cover important developments in the Caledonia case, Bill Jackson has taken a clear and consistent stand on behalf of the victims of landclaim lawlessness and on the side of those who have stood against it. When the politicians and police finally realize that no realistic landclaim solution is possible if they continue to ignore the innocent victims of landclaim lawlessness it will be due in no small part because one courageous newspaper and a gutsy reporter held true to the highest and finest ideals of journalism in a town where fear has silenced so many.
 
180px-martin_luther_king_-_march_on_washington.jpgBill Jackson and The Regional seem to have taken to heart the words of a great man who, long ago, wrote so eloquently about the importance of exposing the truth no matter how ugly and painful it may be:
Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail,’ April 16/63

Well done, Bill Jackson. Well done, Chris & Kevan Pickup. Well done, The Regional. I think Dr. King would be proud of you. I know I am.
 
Did local media fail Caledonia?
 
So, was the coverage of local media good enough by traditional journalistic standards? Did all or some of it fail the people of Caledonia as Ms. Austerberry suggests? From the perspective of an objective scholar of the craft, she may well be right – I don’t have the benefit of her education or research. From the perspective of someone who has risked my safety, reputation, freedom and financial security to keep native thugs, corrupt police and politicians from destroying everything I value about my country I’ll take one Bill Jackson and The Regional over the Spectator, Expositor, Toronto Star, Toronto Sun and CBC combined.
 
To Emerald Austerberry and the Ryerson Review of Journalism: Thank you for taking on a tough issue and for helping journalistic circles understand that citizen-journalist-activists have an important role to play in helping professional journalists do a better job of informing their readers. We are profoundly grateful for your recognition, and for opening the door to a much wider examination of the role of media in Canada. You have made an important contribution to Canadian journalism.
To the people of Haldimand
Thank you for sending us your stories and trusting us to tell them for you. Thank you to the confidential sources and all those who have supported the work publicly and quietly in the background. 
 
Mark Vandermaas, Editor
VoiceofCanada
Director of Research
CANACE (Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality)
www.CANACE.ca
References
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6 responses to “Ryerson Review of Journalism: McHale & Vandermaas important news sources for Caledonia dispute

  1. WL Mackenzie Redux

    The CaledoniaWakeupcall and VOC blogging were the only source for most of the important information on the Caledonia occupation and extortion scheme.

    MSM should hang their heads in same….or at least become as sensate as the dinosaurs who looked skyward to see the asteroid coming….they could not escape their fate but at least they saw what was the cause of their demise.

    Similarly MSM should see that it is THIS kind of political/partisan/PC censorship thay engage in and their monolithic way of stiffling dissenting voices in their media that will make the blogospere the new 4th estate and the new media which will doom the corporate tree-killer media and TV info-tainment industry.

    People have to go to net sources for instant news, instant public feedback and full uncensored stories on current affairs…complete with the diverse opinion stifled by the establishment sycophant MSM.

    Congrats to Gary and yourself on this media tribute, you both deserve it.

    VoC REPLY: Thanks so much for the comment, WL. You’ve been watching and commenting consistently for a loooong time, and I know you’re very well read, especially on the net, so we appreciate your observations. Thanks again. Regards, Mark

  2. Congratulations to all of you at CWUC and CANACE. You deserve the mention in the article.

    VoC REPLY: Thank you, Mary Lou. One day I hope you, too, will be recognized for your work on behalf of the people of Ipperwash. Regards, Mark

  3. Dear Mark,

    I do not expect recognition for anything.

    Many residents of Ipperwash suffered during several incidents and were not heard and acknowledged by the authorities. We all tried in so many ways together to get the message out.
    I am eternally grateful that VoiceofCanada and CWUC exposed the traumas of Ipperwash that I had documented for a decade. You, Jeff, Gary, Merlyn and others took the torch and carried it farther than any at Ipperwash including myself were able to accomplish.

    Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and fear of reprisal from native activists prevented a lot of evidence coming to the forefront. These same reasons today permeate the environment in Caledonia and Brantford. When fear is removed, people will tell the truth of their suffering due to native militant activity. Fear can only be removed when the law is restored and justice is equal for all irregardless of race. CANACE is on the right path. I pray the day of true equality under the law will come soon. That will be the reward for all of us. That will be enough.

    VoC REPLY: Mary-Lou is one of the courageous people who has stood up against landclaim lawlessness and she has been doing it for more than than a decade. She was instrumental in making The Ipperwash Papers project a reality. Be sure to read, ‘The Strength of a Woman’ -Mary-Lou Lapratte:Ipperwash hero

    Dear Mary-Lou:

    I will never forget the very emotional moment we shared as we sorted through documents in the lawyer’s office that day in Sarnia when I was suddenly struck by the awful realization that everything you told me about the horrors of Ipperwash and the Inquiry was true, and that more innocent people were destined to suffer because of the Inquiry’s refusal to hear the truth.

    I’m so very proud of you for making the Ipperwash Papers possible. Gary consoled me when I was angry because the media refused to tell the Ipperwash Papers story after our news conference – he correctly told me that the Ipperwash Papers would serve as an important reference in the days to come and become more important as time passed. He was right.

    Whatever successes we have had, they were only possible because we stood on the shoulders of a giant named Mary-Lou LaPratte. You and Roland have left a legacy that is already beginning to change the course of Canadian history for the better. I hope both of you live to see the day when that legacy is recognized by your country. Love, Mark

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