A lot of attention has been on John Law’s recent article “Holer’s Neighhours Angry at Protest.” Demonstrators and organizers have been posting comments on social media sites and on the article providing the context that they felt was lacking - that these neighbours represented two households of dozens, that many neighbours were supportive and some actually joined the demonstration, that this “incident” occurred far from the demonstration and also that it lasted a total of 20 minutes of 5 hour demonstration (among other points). The article’s author, John Law, has also responded in the comments section of the article and on our social media sites - claiming that our representations are not balanced. John felt as though he had presented “both sides” and that his focus was justified. We cautioned that his headline was misleading - he responded that because there were two families of people - that neighbour”s” plural was justified (in a community of dozens of homes). We cautioned that others would pick up on this article and continue to present these distortions and without fail, 610 CKTB stepped in to provide the service. Within 24 hours 610 CKTB ran an article on their site with the headline, “Neighbours say they want peace after Marineland demonstration.” Although Law acknowledged and confirmed that their article had no merit and that 610 CKTB were not on site, he also refused to acknowledge that it was his misleading article which created the space for this article. As it stands, John Law and his editors feel justified in the story they wrote - even after dozens of comments disputing the content of the article - including comments from neighbours who have pointed out factual issues with the article. From our perspective, these demonstrations have keep the spotlight on John Holer and also brought out information about his killing of deer kept in a pen across from his property, as well as the shooting of neighbourhood dogs and the treatment of others in his community. Home demonstrations are meant to force accountability and shame - and both have made Holer’s community safer than it was previously. His neighbours now know that they have support inside and outside of their community - and that their issues with Holer’s influence and power has an outlet.
In order to understand our relationship with John Law, Sun Media and 610 CKTB we need to provide a lot more context. First off, the Niagara Falls Review, St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Fort Erie Times are all owned by Sun Media - which together forms a corporate media conglomerate known as QMI or Quebecor Media Incorporated. The amount of market control these papers have in the Niagara Region is near complete - with Niagara News This Week offering some competition and many other small independent shoppers/news blog sites rounding out coverage for print media. When it comes to radio broadcasting, Astral Media carries a similar share of corporate market control with their stations, 97.7 HTZ FM, 610 CKTB and 105.7 EZ Rock. These two corporate run media sources, Astral Media and Sun Media (QMI) absolutely dominate the news/media market in the Region. This did not happen over night - decades of gutting of news departments, labour disputes and the sale of private papers to corporate sources have necessitated this shift to the point where many of the old guard journalists in the area are now stuck trying to hack it out with online independent news sites (Niagara At Large, Bullet News Niagara, etc.) This corporate dominance ensures two things a) a complete lack of accountability and transparency b) the strict reliance on advertising budgets to drive content. In both instances grassroots campaigns - no matter what the cause - are doomed within these structures. Unless they can offer a real ad budget threat, they are at the whims of journalists who are encouraged to dismiss, downplay and ignore outrage. Some journalists who work for these papers will privately talk about their struggles to keep content relevant and balance these work places, however, many now accept the situation as a reality and are acritical as to their role in the process. It is what it is.
For months - well before the investigative report broke with the Toronto Star - the M.A.D. campaign had received this treatment from Sun Media and Astral Media. Press releases were ignored, or when followed up on were merely covered as take down pieces ridiculing those who attempted to shine a light on one of Niagara’s largest tourist attractions. As the story broke, this process continued with both of these sources intentionally under reporting the issue and/or aiding Marineland press strategy, (controlled tours), running one source stories, etc. This has culminated lately with the John Law article as well as tonight with the disgusting 610 CKTB op-ed admonishing whistleblowing ex-employees - “Marineland - A Bunch of Quitters.” As a result of coverage with 610 CKTB over the last year M.A.D. made the decision to no longer answer press requests from Astral Media. We made them aware of this on the morning of the August 18th. Shortly after 1010 called us with a request of their own - another Astral station - to which we denied as well. We returned to a comment from 610 CKTB employee Jak Priftis sarcastically saying, “good luck with your crusade…” Similar comments have now come from John Law as a result of his article. Even though their content is so clearly skewed when set against coverage from outside Sun Media/the Niagara Region, the problem is with us and not them. Issues are intentionally misstated and the underlying issue - that our campaign offers no advertising dollars set against a Goliath of Niagara Industry - is completely glossed over. There is a very obvious reason why allegations broke outside of the region, and outside of Sun Media and this needs to be kept in mind when reading the corporate news/media sources here.
These corporate media sources have a horrible weak point though. It is the problem of social media. Traditional media is no longer the source it was and these papers have been forced to compete in the world of social media in order to continue to pull in the advertising dollars needed to operate. If people do not visit these sites they are done. It is for this reason why local coverage has verged on trolling on this issue. It is the reason for endless polls on each story - forcing sides to drive traffic - as well as the reason for extremely misleading and inflammatory stories that force sides to comment in order to provide context. There comes a certain point however, wherein individuals have to recognize that they actually hold the power in this game. That these corporate news/media sources can and will write whatever they want and that at the end of the day their reach is not the be all end all that it once may have been (and still nowhere near the reach of the Toronto Star and other National outlets that are covering this story with a critical eye). We encourage members to keep this in mind and move forward with us with a black out. No comments, no shares, no poll votes, no letters to the editor. If you are going to share anything, share your reasons for joining the black out with your social network. If you advertise in these papers and can pull/move your money - join the black out and let Sun Media know why you are doing it. We will continue to create our own media, build our own community, and work with press sources that are both interested in developing a relationship and genuinely interested in our message. The rest to us is now background noise.
Marineland Animal Defense