On Friday, August 8th, we received a letter from Const. Ian MacDonald of the Abbotsford police department severing ties with the Today Media Group because of five instances of what MacDonald described as evidence that Abbotsford Today is not part of the “real media.”
We weren’t surprised by his unprofessional outburst. We were only surprised that it took so long for Const. MacDonald to snap under the pressure of having others than himself and the old newspaper media report what is actually going on on the streets of Abbotsford.
We replied to him Saturday morning and we are sharing our letter so that our readers and the citizens of Abbotsford can gain some insight into exactly how ‘APD journalism’ is practiced in Abbotsford.
We will continue to cover the APD in the same manner we always have. For the APD version of reality, citizens will hereafter need to rely on the newspaper.
August 9, 2014
Cst. Ian MacDonald
Public Information Officer
Abbotsford Police Department
With reference to your August 7 letter; I will try and remember that you are under an extreme amount of strain defending the actions of your department. Your letter contains five lies, which are actionable. I suggest, in the strongest possible terms, that you retract them.
Following is a detailed response to your falsehoods:
1) Your first allegation simply never occurred. I will gladly sit down before a judge and go over with you and the witnesses I call, which will include, City of Abbotsford City Manager George Murray, Deputy City Manager Jake Rudolph, DWS founder and head Barry Shantz, and Pivot Legal Society’s DJ Larkin as to the complete lack of veracity in your statements.
To whit: I offered my services as an intermediary, a communications link between City administrators and Mr. Shantz during a time when he was unable to see due to extensive eye surgery, away from Abborsford for healing and recuperation, and had no access to a computer. You will recall this was also a time of extreme tension between the City, the APD and the DWS. The City and the DWS used the back channel communications option repeatedly over a period of weeks in order to de-escalate what City and APD tactics had turned into a dangerous situation. We promised never to reveal any of the contents of the communications made through that back channel. nor even reveal its existence. You have forced us to reveal its existence but we will not reveal the contents.
To say that I represented myself as the “alternate leader of the BC and Yukon Drug War Survivors Group” is a malicious lie and attempts to twist an honest attempt to de-escalate an enormous problem which was made worse by the APD’s tactics at the time.
2) In terms of your statement that Abbotsford Today used a “convicted fraud artist” as an expert on the use of force in the APD’s shooting of Roy Roberts:
- We were unaware of Mr. Charles Parent’ background when he approached us with his comments on the video so, before we published them, we had two independent experts verify his comments and they agreed with them. On that basis we published the comments.
- As soon as Mr Parent was charged by the APD with impersonating an officer, we withdrew his comments and published a statement explaining to our readers why we were doing so, We did not remove the video itself.
- If you would like to go over the video before a judge with expert witnesses on the APD’s conduct we will certainly be glad to do that and cover it for our readers.
3) Our news story published on July 4th did indeed come from two eyewitnesses and we immediately sent you an email asking whether or not it was true. When you responded we corrected the story immediately based on your comments. Welcome to the Internet. If you think that journalism today involves not publishing the truth – two witnesses did tell Abbotsford Today a body had been taken out of the house – until the police tell us what did and didn’t happen, I think you are demonstrating one of the reasons Abbotsford has suffered from having such a weak and ineffectual media and just how backward and far removed from actual journalism, as practiced by ‘real media’ the APD actually is..
4) We emailed the Vancouver media, as we regularly do on matters of importance in Abbotsford, to tell them that the APD had warned homeless people to leave (true), that eyewitnesses had told us that APD officers were taunting the homeless (true) and that evictions were planned for homeless camps on Gladys (true). If that isn’t “real” journalism I’m not sure what is. The fact that the APD chose to station its officers far away from the resulting media coverage, after being contacted by the Vancouver media, was your own decision. We even congratulated you for your judgement! If Abbotsford Today publishing the truth makes your job more difficult then you should find another job.
5) Your statement that Abbotsford Today threatened to publish comments made by a Salvation Army worker, reported to us by eyewitnesses, is libel. We never published nor threatened anything of the sort. We approached you to ask about what we had been told and, based purely on your assurances that you couldn’t imagine such a thing happening, we didn’t publish the story specifically in order to avoid inflaming an already difficult situation. To pull one sentence out of several paragraphs in an email exchange, which was entered into in good faith in order to avoid publishing anything incorrect in a tense situation, and make such a blatantly false accusation is unprofessional in the extreme and would cause the dismissal of a PR cop in any ‘real police force.’
As for your press releases we will learn to do without them.
Today Media will henceforth rely on eyewitness accounts to report on the actions of you and your colleagues and whatever accounts we can share from other media. The APD’s version of the truth in Abbotsford has been so at-odds with the reality on our streets, especially the reality experienced by those of our citizens forced to live on our streets, for so long, we would no longer be doing a service to our readers if we were to slavishly continue publishing what you seem to think is journalism.
Ian; your extensive comments about journalism, journalistic standards and being a proper member of the media betray either a lack of education or a frightening misunderstanding of your job. If you think a PR officer in Abbotsford is entitled to decide what journalists he will talk to and what journalists he won’t talk to, based soley on whether or not individual journalists or organizations behave according the police departments’ understanding of the rules of journalism, you are demonstrating a singular lack of respect for the public role you play and the crucial importance of the police conducting themselves in a way which demonstrates at least a semblance of understanding of the fact that you report to the public. You and your colleagues are responsible for the lion’s share of the taxes the people of this city pay every year.
The fact that you felt it was acceptable to contort the truth, misquote me and threaten Abbotsford Today with a media blackout is just one more example of why a BC Supreme Court Justice described the APD as living in “A land before time.”
If you have legitimate complaints about the way Abbotsford Today covers the news, you have yet to raise them.
We will be publishing this letter and, if you would like, we will publish yours for context.
Mike Archer & Vince Dimanno
Managing Editor and Co-owner (s)
The Today Media Group
Editor’s note: Because we respect the notice at the bottom of emails which warns against unintended publication of contents we have decided not to publish Const. MacDonald’s letter to Today Media. As indicated in our response to him we have offered to do so but the decision lies entirely with Const. MacDonald. If you would like to read Const. MacDonald’s letter as part of the public record we urge you to email him and encourage him to allow us to publish it. email@example.com