Michael de Adder, the Irving Media, and collateral damage
So it turns out Brunswick News was right about the Trump cartoon not being the reason they cancelled Michael de Adder’s freelance contract. His would be replacement Greg Perry, in stating he no longer wants the job, confirms that the company did indeed reach out to him before the Trump cartoon surfaced.
Turns out pulling the plug on de Adder, after 17 years, within hours of his biting Trump political cartoon going viral, was indeed, mere coincidence.
And here in New Brunswick we can certainly understand that coincidences happen. After all, just this week we learned that in all of New Brunswick, of the six lawyers most qualified for and appointed to federal judgeships over the past year, five of them were either family, friend or neighbour of Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc. What are the odds of that? They have to be absolutely astronomical. So we shouldn’t harbour any delusions that coincidences don’t happen. What could be more proof than this?
But back to the de Adder cartoon. While it wasn’t the trigger for his contract being cancelled, details that have surfaced around this incident have exposed a bigger picture of Brunswick News. And it’s not a pretty one.
On the front page of yesterday’s Irving-owned dailies, in copy that elaborates on the damage control statement Brunswick News issued on social media over the long weekend, the company states, in part, “BNI’s opinion page remains a place of balanced debate”.
If that were true, and given that editorial cartoons would be part of that balance, when is the last time they published a political cartoon the least little bit critical or making fun of Premier Higgs? De Adder says the answer to that would be never. He says while he was never given explicit instructions to avoid cartoons of certain politicians the paper routinely rejected any cartoons he submitted featuring Higgs, Andrew Scheer, or Trump.
We can speculate on why this is, but Trump aside, it should be a concern to anyone who cares about fair reporting that political cartoonists be given free rein within the bounds of good taste to draw whatever they want as long as it is politically relevant. Political cartoons can be powerful, and by the Irving media deciding its viewers can only see cartoons that skewer certain politicians of certain parties, but never their political foes, that would amount to the opposite of their pages being a “place of balanced debate”. It would be more a place of biased debate.
This isn’t new. Many may remember Josh Beutel. For him this is déjà vu all over again. As the political cartoonist with the Irving papers for more than 20 years, he can relate to de Adder’s position. He says the decisions of which of his cartoons would make it to their pages were predictable – nothing that showed any Irving company in a critical light, but he tells me politicians of all parties were fair game. So, it appears it has gotten worse since he was fired.
Meantime, late last evening Brunswick News issued a new statement on its Facebook page on the heels of Greg Perry’s comment that he’s no longer interested in working for them. The Irvings say they support him, and take issue with those on social media who maligned Perry.
It is indeed unfortunate that people on social media who were upset that de Adder is gone, disparaged Perry as Brunswick News “safe” choice because he would never be controversal. Perry is an excellent political cartoonist in his own right. He didn’t ask for this, and it is on Brunswick News for using him in their damage control statement, calling him a reader favourite, implying de Adder wasn’t. In essence, Brunswick News threw him under the bus in an effort to save their own reputation. Nevertheless, the social media response says something ugly about how social media jumping to the wrong conclusion then piling on can result in people being victimized when they don’t deserve it. Perry did not deserve the fallout he has received.
And the icing on the cake - Perry asked Brunswick News not to use any cartoons he submitted Friday, before this whole thing blew up and he decided not to take the job. Brunswick News used his work anyway.
Just through my small circles I have heard of people cancelling their Brunswick News subscriptions over this fiasco. True people may have jumped to the wrong conclusion on de Adder’s departure, but not completely. A source close to the Irving papers tells me de Adder had his contract cancelled for one simple reason - he rocked the boat.
All of this shines a light on something of which many New Brunswickers are quite aware. That the newspaper monopoly in this province does not serve us well.
As always, thanks for reading. Shares are appreciated.