W-Five, Paula Todd, and yellow journalism

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Wilf Day
W-Five, Paula Todd, and yellow journalism

CTV's WFIVE 20-minute hatchet job on Port Hope and the people who live here, What Lies Beneath, fits virtually every accepted definition of yellow journalism.

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If it bleeds, it leads. That's Rule No. 1 in journalism. Sensationalism sells. . .

Port Hope Mayor Linda Thompson was interviewed by CTV for two hours in her office and half an hour outdoors. Most of Linda Thompson, mayor of Port Hope, ended up on the cutting room floor. She was was seen on television for a grand total of 90 seconds.

Meanwhile, Sanford Haskill, an area farmer, stole the show with his hair-raising tales . . .

At one point, standing next to a rather nondescript, fenced-in field, Farmer Haskill described the location as "ground zero" -- as if it were Hiroshima or the site of the World Trade Center.

It was a rare moment of humour, albeit unintentional, I'm sure.

I suppose we should thank Farmer Haskill for sparing us any mutant chickens or three-headed Herefords.

Ah, but who cares? The damage is done and no one at CTV is ever going to admit they got sucked in royally by Port Hope's own version of The Flat Earth Society.

If it bleeds -- it leads. Rumour trumps facts every time. Sensationalism sells.

It's called "yellow journalism."

Mayor demands segment be removed from CTV website and from future airings as it contains blatantly inaccurate information. 

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You call into question the health of our residents and incredibly, the health of our school children in a manner that is irresponsible.

I am appalled that it clearly was not balanced or factual. I expected more from CTV. This was nothing less than a sensationalist piece.

"What lies beneath" in itself was a provocative misrepresentation of our community. I cannot understand why the program was rushed to air without taking the time to interview the appropriate agencies including the CNSC, Health Canada, PHAI and the Municipality's independent experts. This despite my offer to personally arrange for this to happen.

While I can disagree with the members of this very small group, I have always encouraged input regardless of position and I support their right to have an opportunity to voice their opinions in a news report.

However, as noted, the producer neglected to interview Port Hope Area Initiative (federal agency responsible for the cleanup in Port Hope) and include the independent public opinion survey results that show over 90% of residents are satisfied with living in Port Hope and 75% of residents are confident that the waste can be safely managed for the long term.

In another survey conducted for Cameco Corporation 79% of Port Hope residents supported the operations of Cameco in our community. The large majority (84%) of respondents to that survey agrees that Port Hope is a safe and healthy place to live; the majority (61%) strongly agrees.

The producers neglected to include that the Port Hope Area Initiative is moving forward. Port Hope has the commitment from the Minister of Natural Resources Canada along with a legally binding agreement with Canada to ensure that the cleanup of Port Hope will go ahead and that it will be done right, once and for all.

Now, the Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI) is leading the clean up and management of the historic low-level radioactive waste in our community. This clean-up process will enhance the quality of our environment and ensure public health in our community continues to be protected. The process is supported by the vast majority of residents who look forward to its completion in the coming years. This has been a long journey for the community but we are pleased with the progress. Throughout, the health and safety of our residents has been the first priority of the municipality and we are confident in the assessment of leading health and environmental officials, including independent peer review, that Port Hope is a safe and healthy community.

From CTV, as with all media, we only ask for the fairness and accuracy that we know is vital to both our residents and outside perceptions of our community. In this case CTV has failed badly. The segment is not an accurate picture of the health of our community, the future clean-up of our community, and community support in our Municipality for the federal government cleanup or for Cameco. CTV should at least take the responsible action and remove this piece from your website and future airings.

Linda Thompson, Mayor/ Port Hope

The Mayor offered to line up people for CTV to interview, said Port Hope Chief Administrative Officer Carl Cannon, but it was like talking to a wall. 

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The Municipality of Port Hope has already submitted a complaint to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council regarding the CTV W-FIVE segment on Port Hope entitled What Lies Beneath, said CAO Carl Cannon yesterday.

Tonight's editorial is not yet on the website. It's a heartfelt plea from a local journalist saying "I take it personally . . . as a journalist, the smear job done by W-FIVE . . . offends me on so many levels. . . it reflects badly on all of us.

". . . the CTV team, which professes to do investigative journalism, didn;t bother to learn the most basic and obvious facts. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

"People who remain living here in spite of all the worries they say they have lose all credibility with me. If I were worried, I'd move . . . Yet Paula Todd never asked that question.

Meanwhile, most of us, who just want to live in Port Hope . . . are the real victims."