Metroland Media Group are upset with the North Grenville Times, and me in particular. Metroland, as you may know, is owned by Torstar, who own the Toronto Star newspaper. They, in turn, own around twenty smaller newspapers and a couple of larger ones too. It’s hard to be accurate, as they have been closing papers and laying off staff recently. The Kemptville Advance is owned by Metroland, who moved that operation out of North Grenville some time ago, and it is now located in Smith’s Falls.
However, Metroland keeps an eye on the Times and what we are doing, and perhaps find some inspiration in it, as they have generally increased their local coverage in the past couple of years. But, when I wrote about their recent collaborative effort with the NG Chamber of Commerce, their Guide to North Grenville, Metroland took offense, and now want me to publicly apologise for what they call “highly inaccurate and defamatory” statements made in that article. I stated that “it is a pity that neither the Chamber nor Metroland bothered to credit the photographer, or, indeed, ask their permission to use the shot, which they used a second time inside the publication”.
Metroland now insist that they didn’t know they did not have permission to use the shot (twice), believing that, having acquired it from the Kemptville BIA, they had permission to do so. I completely accept that, though it does not make my comment either inaccurate or defamatory. The fact is that Metroland used the shot without permission, albeit unwittingly, and did not credit the photographer. Nor did they credit the BIA. I assume that, now they know the facts, they will print an apology to both the photographer and the BIA and reprint the Guide with the appropriate credit.
They also claim that the headline of the article: “Chamber exploits local business” accuses Metroland of exploitation, and is therefore “false and defamatory”. This is hard to understand, as the headline mentions only the Chamber, not Metroland. Nor is it false. The picture in question was a cover photograph in the Times, and was therefore already known and used in the media in North Grenville. Note the definition of “exploit”: 1. Make full use of and derive benefit from (a resource); 2. Make use of (a situation) in a way considered unfair or underhand. 2.1 Benefit unfairly from the work of (someone), typically by overworking or underpaying them. Are any of these applicable here?
The final complaint by Metroland Media Group is that my comments on their “Local History” section were inaccurate. I noted that the section “was found to be unchanged from the past two years, and contains out of date information and inaccurate history”. They rather wittily note that “the history of the municipality, by its nature of recounting past events, would not have changed”, meaning that they had no need to make changes to that section from year to year. As a professional historian, I find this an interesting argument, but it has a flaw. It is fine not to change your history, as long as your facts are correct. When they are not, it seems lazy not to do the research to correct the errors. The inaccuracies I noted in my article remain inaccurate.
One thing that does change is an e-mail address. Metroland claims I was, once again, incorrect in stating that they had not consulted the NG Historical Society before publishing their history section. They claim they e-mailed the Society, and me by name, twice, but received no answer. That may be because that e-mail address has been inoperative for a number of years, something they might have checked. Getting no reply means two things: the first is that they should have then checked that they had the right contact information. The second is that they did not, in fact, consult the Society, as they never managed to get in touch with it.
Finally, Metroland state that “if the inaccuracies in the Article are not corrected immediately, MMG will have no choice but to seriously consider its legal options”. I trust all inaccuracies have been dealt with now. Perhaps the Chamber will see what kind of treatment local businesses receive from their preferred partners.