By AmbrÖse Bierce. I expect politicians and businesses to want to control their message as much as possible in order to a) make themselves look as good as possible, or, b) subliminally sell me something I was unaware I was buying.
The one place most people don’t believe we should expect that kind of talk is from the media.
We’re pretty straight-talkers at Today Media. And we’ve got the bruises to show for it. But we were founded on the belief that if people can talk openly and honestly with one another in the town square of public discussion and debate, then, although it won’t guarantee good decisions, we will at least all know why we made a bad one.
Last week Black Press published an editorial in the Chilliwack Progress (accompanied by a story five pages before and five pages after the editorial) on the BC government’s attempts to reduce the amount of environmental waste which business produces by nudging for-profit companies towards an environmentally less damaging footprint – Multi Material BC (MMBC).
The story described the difficulties that Van Belle Nursery is going to go through adapting its business model to the new reality it faces once it is forced, beginning May 19, to pay a recycling charge on each and every environmentally unfriendly pot it uses to grow and sell it plants to the public.
Now this is a serious concern for Van Belle because, according to Dave Van Belle, president of the Van Belle Nursery quoted in the story, “We have to have a pot to produce a plant. It’s not just extra packaging.”
Well; not entirely true. Plants do grow without pots. Perhaps they can’t be as easily or cost-effectively shipped or sold without pots but they will do fine without being in a pot. What I believe he means is that his company will have to change their business plan to adapt to a different political and business environment which demands some environmental accountability on the part of business owners in their pursuit of profits.
If he is going to find that change too difficult to manage in the short run, then it can be argued that he may require some time, funding, or even some low interest loans in order to adapt. The plan may even have to be phased in so as to allow industry to adapt.
If protecting the environment creates difficulties for individual businesses or industries, they have every right and opportunity to talk to government and make their case. If the nursery industry failed to do that, or if the government hasn’t heard their argument, then they should make every effort to see the appropriate minister(s) and make their case.
Why the writer at the Progress felt the need to add the newspaper industry’s business model to the editorial is a mystery. The newspaper business and the nursery business are hardly similar and the writer’s purpose in using the newspaper industry to bolster the case of the nursery is dubious at best.
In addition, a whole new argument is brought into the mix:
“Take community newspapers for example. We manage to compete in a modern media environment. Amid the tweets and text messages flying around, there’s a place for local news in our community’s consciousness and on its coffee tables. Call us old-fashioned, but we still like words on paper, and if our packaging becomes prohibitively expensive, newspapers will crumple and fold,” says the editorial writer.
The argument seems now to have shifted to a newly stated and completely unproven statement that, in and of themselves newspapers represent an important value to the communities in which they operate.
Then why are so many of them being shut down by … newspaper companies.
It seems that, when push comes to shove, the industry’s inability to make enough money with an outdated business model is enough for them to take that value away by shutting down their apparently valuable newspapers.
The newspaper industry’s business plan involves cutting down trees, turning them into paper, shipping the paper to the printing plant, covering it with ink, words and images, folding it and stuffing it with flyers from big out-of-town corporations and taking it door-to-door to every house in the community, whether they want it or not.
The difficulties faced by the newspaper industry in maintaining its outdated business model should not be used in an argument against government policy on the environment because doing so does not allow for open, honest and meaningful discussion of the topic.
If Black Press thinks the government should not be introducing a plan to clean up the environment, then they should make a cogent argument to that effect. Neither their story nor their editorial seem to have made that argument and the nurseries’ position ends up weakened by its equation with the newspaper’s difficulties.
It might have been better for Black Press to dispense with the polemics and focus on valid arguments for stopping or slowing down our efforts to clean up the environment. If such arguments don’t exist, putting forth a spurious one isn’t helping.
When making a point it is always wise to avoid using yourself as one of the main reasons you are right.
AmbrÖse Bierce is Today’s writer in residence who occasionally gives voice to the concerns of individual citizens and taxpayers who, for a variety of reasons, are unable or unwilling to take a public stand on issues of relevance to the rest of the community. Reasons may include possible loss of job, injury to their business, or any number of quite legitimate reasons to keep their mouths shut.
While all columns and letters on Today are signed by their authors, we have decided to provide this venue for those with legitimate opinions, based on fact, with something to contribute to the public debate in the city. This is not a place for wild venting or personal attacks. AmbrÖse requires you identify yourself to him and explain why you need to keep your identity secure.
To Write AmbrÖse Simply Email Him At: AmbrÖse@Today.ca