August 2, 2018
Winnipeg Free Press article stirs up controversy
By Don Norman
The July 20 Winnipeg Free Press article “Living on the edge” that detailed the problems with drugs and crime in Pine Falls has given the town a black eye. None of this was news. We all knew this was happening. We have written about it in these pages extensively. It’s not like it was a secret.
But that doesn’t mean that the piece wasn’t damaging. In my opinion, the town is turning a corner. Real estate developers are showing interest in the area. It looks like the tech industry is interested in the infrastructure we have. The site where the paper mill once stood has now opened up for development. This is the narrative we should be exporting.
In the letter to the editor, that follows, Dess Trudell defends Gary Berthelette for speaking truth about the problems we face here. I respect Dess. She did my job on the very first newspaper in this area. Her opinion is valid. We should be talking about these things. But I would argue that we already were.
And I respect Gary as well. And he did speak truth. He didn’t say anything false. He didn’t misrepresent the situation we face. But he also didn’t do the town any favours. As a sitting member of council, I have to question whether he was really serving the best interests of the community he was elected to serve by helping to facilitate this hit-piece.
The reporter (Ryan Thorpe) who wrote the article also contacted the Advocate for comments. After a 15 to 20 minute conversation where we spoke about some of the positives in the community (such as the 43 graduates from Sagkeeng and Black River this year), it became clear that Thorpe was digging for dirt. It was then that we told him that we didn’t want to comment if all he wanted to do was paint us in a negative light. Turns out we were correct about his intentions. None of the positives we mentioned ended up in his article
And that leads me to suspect that the way the article turned out wasn’t exactly as Gary spelled it out to the reporter. I’m guessing here (an educated guess because I know a thing or two about how the media works), but I bet Gary walked out of that interview thinking he had painted an optimistic picture. But unfortunately, that narrative doesn’t sell papers. This is a common type of schadenfreude-inspired piece. A few years back a similar type of article appeared in Toronto-based MacLean’s Magazine that sensationally named Winnipeg as Canada’s most racist city. True or not, these bold claims sell papers (or in that case, magazines) because people want to see the problems of others to distract them from their own.
But like I said, I respect Gary. I know he wants the best for the town. Did he make a mistake? Not in everyone’s opinion. Dess Trudell makes a compelling argument on this page for his honest and straight forward approach. But in my opinion, yes he did make a mistake – albeit an honest one. And let’s face it; the reporter was on the scent of a story. He would have found someone in town to comment.
However, I think we should take a lesson from this and moving forward the Town of Powerview-Pine Falls should not air their dirty laundry in the Winnipeg, or national media. They won’t help us to solve our problems. They only want to point fingers and say “see, at least we’re not Pine Falls.”
Letters to the Editor
Box 11, St-Georges, MB R0E 1V0
To the editor:
This is not the time to ignore the facts of what our communities are facing. Meth is a serious problem: producing and selling this, and other drugs, has created some devastating human pain and problems. One councilor here, had the backbone to step up and say so, and I, for one, thank him.
There are some who are upset with him should realize this has been a problem that’s been going on close to home for some time. It’s being discussed in the coffee shops, and concerns about how many it may have been connected to the murders, and homes being vandalized – Having a woman say, “Now we can’t sell our houses” – is the least of our problems. Houses haven’t been selling for their value for over five years. Or more, because the one industry is gone.
Following Mr. Gary Berthelette’s open discussion to the Free Press that Saturday then on the following Monday, the Chief of police Mayor of Winnipeg, were from center saying exactly what our councilors said, that’s happening in the city and area. It is a crime to make and sell meth and the criminals should be brought to justice. Entire families are suffering.
– Dess Trudell