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Mayor out of line


It was nothing short of shocking to see Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Rex Barnes speak on Grand Central last week regarding David Kerr's letter that appeared in the Advertiser. The shocking part was not the fact that Mayor Barnes disagreed with what Mr. Kerr had written - in a democratic society, he is completely entitled to his opinion and can agree or disagree with whomever he wants.

It was nothing short of shocking to see Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Rex Barnes speak on Grand Central last week regarding David Kerr's letter that appeared in the Advertiser.

The shocking part was not the fact that Mayor Barnes disagreed with what Mr. Kerr had written - in a democratic society, he is completely entitled to his opinion and can agree or disagree with whomever he wants.

The shocking part was that Mayor Barnes called into question the integrity of the Advertiser and lambasted the newspaper, saying it was irresponsible for printing the letter.

There are two pillars of democracy that Mayor Barnes seemingly needs to be reminded of - freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Just like Mayor Barnes is entitled to disagree with Mr. Kerr, Mr. Kerr is equally entitled to his opinion with regards to the mill situation. And given that he has years of experience in the paper industry, including about 15 years at the Grand Falls-Windsor mill, it's not completely outside the realm of possibility that he may be able to offer some opinions with a little credibility.

Everyone has the right to have their voices heard in a public forum and it is very rare the Advertiser does not print a letter it receives that pertains to this region - we don't cherry-pick letters, as Mayor Barnes implied when on Grand Central.

The only reason we wouldn't run a letter is if there are potential legal ramifications with regards to a person being defamed, or if the Advertiser receives a constant influx of letters from one person. In that case, we will run the most pertinent ones related to issues that are important to the central region.

The newspaper is for the people and if any of those people have something they would like to publicly offer to provoke thought, we embrace that. The fact that we can provide people with a forum to share their thoughts and ideas is one of the most important characteristics of this, and many other, newspapers - not to mention democracy.

Just because a person no longer lives in central Newfoundland doesn't mean he/she does not have the right to use this forum or doesn't have the right to offer an opinion. We live in a global world and there are many people with connections to this part of the province that are not physically present here.

To call the medium in which the letter was printed irresponsible for printing it is, well...irresponsible.

What exactly did Mayor Barnes mean when he said this?

Did he mean the paper was irresponsible because it printed a person's letter to the editor, a practice I'm certain is common in newspapers the world over?

Or did he mean the paper was irresponsible because it printed a letter that was somewhat controversial, called into question the leadership in Grand Falls-Windsor, and managed to get some people's knickers all knotted up?

Or did he mean the people of Grand Falls-Windsor should be shielded from the suggestions and information Mr. Kerr presented in his letter - that everyone should remain silent about the AbitibiBowater situation in the hope that it solves itself?

If that's the case, then maybe Mayor Barnes needs to review the definition of freedom of the press.

Funny enough, most of what Mr. Kerr said in his letter is exactly what has been whispered around this town for God knows how many years. He was just the one with enough hutzpah to sign his name to the bottom of his written thoughts and offer them up for public scrutiny.

And obvious to most people is the fact that Mr. Kerr's letter was in fact newsworthy, even if they don't agree with what he said or how he said it. A simple definition of news is something that is current and means something to people. Mr. Kerr's letter was both of those things and therefore had a place in any local media. It was far from irresponsible to include it with the rest of the news.

There is also concern with the fact that Mayor Barnes chose to address this problem he had on Grand Central without evening attempting to broach it with the Advertiser.

He certainly had ample opportunity to bring his concerns to a member of the Advertiser's editorial team - one reporter covered Tuesday night's council meeting, another took a photograph of him signing a proclamation last Monday, and pretty much every office in the western world has a telephone.

Sure, what he did makes for great television, but it is disconcerting he would choose to blindside the Advertiser and air his grievances publicly without even discussing his concerns with the appropriate people first.

Why, the mayor could have even written a letter to the editor to express his concern! We certainly would have printed it.

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