By Rick Hiebert. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission
I can’t add much to Bene D’s excellent coverage of what has been happening at the Prairie Bible Institute, but I would like to make a small point in passing.
I’ve noticed that Bene D has mentioned that the Calgary Herald has been reporting on the abuse scandal at the school. I wondered to myself, “Does Three Hills, Alberta have a newspaper, and how has the newspaper been covering this?” And what I see confirms the impression that I got when I applied to work at a small town newspaper in BC many years ago.
If you look at the Three Hills Wikipedia page, you see that it is a really small town and that the PBI is a central party of the town’s historical identitity. It’s probably one of the town’s biggest employers.
The town newspaper is the Three Hills Capital and I did a quick seach of their website. I found a story on PBI’s new Islamic studies major and four items related to the abuse scandal. There are three letters, which tend to complain about the “attacks ” on the school and a news story.
The story‘s headline states that PBI is “dealing” with the abuse problems and quotes President Mark Maxwell almost exclusively.
The penny drops when the mayor of Three Hills, at least at that time, is quoted at the end of the story:
In his comments, Three Hills Mayor Tim Shearlaw said, “I regret there is a cloud over Prairie at this time because of these allegations. It affects the school and it affects the town. We must defend Prairie and Three Hills.”
It affects the town, perhaps, but why does the city need to defend the school? What happened at the school is surely not the entire town’s responsibilty and one would hope that there were people in Three Hills who tried to do the right thing and should not have to take responsibility.
But the mayor’s comment is very honest. You know that in a town of this size where PBI must be influential that this would happen. That might explain why no “other side” appeared in this news story.
I once applied to work at a paper in a virtual one industry B.C. town. I was asked, during the interview, how I would cover a scandal at X. I replied that of course I would cover it extensively.
I didn’t get the job, for what was quoted as other reasons, and afterwards I was thinking about why. I won’t name where I applied, in case I guessed wrong and I am being unfair to my interviewers, but I came to think that a scandal at X would have to be handled with kid gloves, if at all. X would be a major advertiser, or would be able to talk to advertisers and say–if they were really unethical which I am not saying– “If you want to do business with us, you might want to think about…” Angry subscribers would cancel the paper, or spur efforts to start a more docile competing newspaper.
I can’t really blame the Three Hills paper. They have to live there, while reporters from the Calgary Herald do not.
But, I think this shows why alternative sources of getting out information–and I am thinking of what Bene D and social media have been able to do–are becoming increasingly important and useful. Shouldn’t have to be that way, one would hope, but it is.
UPDATE: Linda Fossen points out that mayor Shearlaw is not only mayor but editor/publisher of the newspaper too. Quite cozy, eh? I could argue that I work at my day job Saturdays on not much sleep…but it reinforces my point about working together.