Difficult questions deserve complete answers and clear reportage

Earlier this summer, my friend Rick Conroy penned a brilliant column in the Wellington Times couched around the turmoil caused after hurtful language found in St. Gregory’s Parish online church bulletin concerning local Pride celebrations.

Mr. Conroy’s message was thought provoking and well measured and, whether you agree Ontario should have a single education system or not, I encourage you to read it.

In his opening, Mr. Conroy explained he was loath to “burn” his page on that particular subject which I found strange considering the admirable way he was able make the case that “Catholic school funding is an artifact from Confederation that bears no reflection of Canada today.”

But today I’m discovering what Mr. Conroy was meaning when he wrote of burning editorial space as we are forced to respond to last week’s statement from atop of Shire Hall (County Mayor dismayed with Gazette Coverage, Page 9).

First off, we acknowledge Communications person Mark Kerr told us the recent staffing changes made at H.J. McFarland Memorial Home were in no way related to sexual assault allegations detailed in a provincial inspector’s report published in late November of last year. That’s why our story (County announces changes at H.J. McFarland Home, The Picton Gazette, July 25, 2019) stated as much twice over – Once in the lede as well as in the body of the story.

And let it be said here this newspaper values the work that’s undertaken by Kerr everyday. Since being hired by the municipality Kerr has done good work for this community, delivering updates and notices on events that impact Prince Edward County residents in their day-to-day lives.

In terms of the relationship between Kerr and the Gazette, the County’s spokesperson has been professional, diligent, accessible and expedient while being cognizant of deadline ramifications.

In short, Kerr has never given the Gazette a reason to wonder if what he’s saying is accurate and, in his statement concerning the staffing changes, this paper believes him in as much as an outlet can trust a communications person who has never given reason for pause.

To provide a glimpse behind the journalistic process that led to last week’s story is not a task we normally undertake but in the effort of transparency and clear communication, we embark down that path.

Within a day of the municipality issuing a statement concerning the staffing changes at H.J. McFarland Home, a member of the public contacted our newsroom and wondered if what was contained in the provincial inspector’s report was related.

We asked the question and the County answered.

We reported our findings.

It can be safely assumed if one person was openly wondering about these two pieces of information to a news outlet and if the two were connected, there’s likely scores more in our community wondering the same thing.

Worse yet, there were likely some that assumed these events were connected. That assumption is put to rest in light of our reporting.

The Gazette understands what is in the report issued eight months ago, hardly historic, is difficult subject matter but questions were raised by the public and to not pose them to the municipality and report what we found would be a great failing of Canada’s Oldest Community Newspaper.

If there were an element of irresponsibility on this reporter’s part, it was not regularly examining the Long Term Care reports (publicreporting.ltchomes.net) since returning to cover municipal politics in Prince Edward County in September, 2018.

Simply put, after last covering Shire Hall in 2008, your humble scribe had forgotten such a function existed and pledges to monitor the website regularly moving forward.

We will try better to bring these reports forward to you, dear reader, as a form of public accountability.

We stand by our story and the way it was presented.

-Jason Parks