White Rock’s election was seconds old last month, when I got a feeling it could go off the rails.
Judging from the rhetoric between Oct. 10 and when the polls closed last Saturday, my gut wasn’t far off.
Peace Arch News had just gone to press as the nomination deadline hit at 4 p.m. on the Friday before Thanksgiving, when I returned voicemails from a tense week.
Call 1 went to resident David Bradshaw. His message said he wanted to discuss “the issues.” No answer. Tag, he was it.
Call 2. Former MLA Ken Jones also wanted to talk. Turns out, he’d planned to run for mayor but decided not to when I didn’t print his letter. How could Jones captivate the electorate if he can’t even get the attention of a newspaper editor? he asked.
I suggested it was an odd reason not to run – and ruminated on my new superpower: the ability to control others.
Regardless, Jones was content, saying he had a preferred choice among candidates.
Fast forward to my first day back after the long weekend, when Bradshaw and I finally connected. Bradshaw, who’d filed mayoral nomination papers, was angry we had yet to interview him. But he wasn’t surprised. He’d only lived in the city two years but had been told that PAN was in the pocket of the mayor.
The next few minutes shocked me. Not because I think everybody loves this paper; not because of the accusations; and not because I couldn’t complete a thought without being interrupted.
No, I was shocked anyone would risk alienating a stranger in a new community where one hopes to hold public office – especially if the stranger has a superpower to control others merely by doing nothing.
Bradshaw made many points: we always quote the mayor, we censor and we take sides.
“There is something known as journalism integrity, but (it’s) obviously not alive and well in White Rock,” he said, noting The Now already interviewed him.
“Maybe The Now is more professional… maybe they have better reporters.”
When he said the vote boiled down to two camps – the mayor and a slate versus all independents – I asked if that was true.
“Are you that naive? Really? Wow.”
When I said candidates tend to send us platforms rather than wait for our call, he asked: “Your paper has no initiative?”
And he was suspicious of my guarded response as he talked over me.
“News people can be devious and misquote you… I’ve had experience with that before, my friend.”
I asked for a second to talk without interruption, and he agreed – kind of.
“That’s not very long. If you ask someone to listen for one second, that’s hardly a tick of a clock, right? If you want me to listen for a minute, I’ll listen for a minute. You want me to listen for two…”
Finally, he granted my request, but only if I “say please.” I explained we don’t promote select candidates and suggested he peruse past years’ articles.
“We don’t care if you win, we don’t care if (incumbent Wayne) Baldwin wins. All we care about is providing our readers with enough information to make the right decisions,” I said.
Bradshaw said if I proved him wrong, he would apologize.
Given his derision, I didn’t expect one.
In hindsight, the election brought us highs and too many lows – including a well-documented one following a CBC report on Bradshaw’s work history, for which I thought both mayoral candidates lowered the calibre of debate.
Along the way, I hope readers think we tried to report objectively, without unduly trying to sway the outcome.
Of course, even journalists have personal views. I form opinions every election on who I would like to see run my hometown. And as a newspaper editor, that often conflicts with who would make the best headlines.
Sigh… what might have been.
In the end, Bradshaw got a third of the votes – not bad for a relative newcomer with designs on the city’s highest office.
But judging from his comments to us after his defeat – “I think your paper is totally devoted (to) and influenced by the powers that be… I have nothing to say to you” – I’m guessing my gut feeling on any forthcoming apology is not far off, too.
Lance Peverley is editor of the Peace Arch News.