Whatever the reason, with de Adder gone, Brunswick News readers lose
I can’t remember the last time I saw a story cause so much stir on social media as the decision at the start of the long weekend by the Irving newspapers to severe ties with political cartoonist Michael de Adder.
De Adder tweeted that he had received word that Brunswick News would no longer be publishing his work. He said they failed to state a reason. The timing though, is suspect, the decision coming within hours of the political cartoon of his shown above, going viral.
The story, picked up by NBC and various other American media, linked the cancelling of de Adder’s freelance contract with the Irving papers to this cartoon. The conclusions drawn by many is that it was because the Irving group of companies was fearful of finding itself on Trump’s bad side.
If you haven’t been following this issue on social media, just use your imagination and you will have a sense of the commentary. Pretty much all of it, and there has been a ton, is in praise of de Adder’s work and full of condemnation of the Irving papers for everything from a disdain for freedom of speech, to cowardice, to an unfair silencing of the cartoonist for nothing more than doing his job of presenting a powerful image of a political reality in a way that is uncomfortable and forces a reader to think.
Social media activity continued to build through Saturday, and yesterday, Sunday, in an obvious effort at damage control, Brunswick News issued a statement that says, in so many words, that everybody got it wrong, that his freelance contract wasn’t cancelled because of the cartoon, but because they wanted to use someone else’s political cartoons instead.
Who knows which is true? Certainly not me. What I do know is that de Adder’s work is consistently solid and he is a national award winning political cartoonist so it is hard to imagine it was about quality. And that timing thing does kind of jump out as Exhibit A. And even though the cartoon at the centre of this wasn’t even used by the Irving papers, de Adder apparently was given a number of subjects that would be out of bounds, and that list included Trump. So despite de Adder doing numerous excellent cartoons showing various aspects of Trump over the years, the management of Brunswick News made the decision that their readers would never be allowed to see any of them in their pages. Some would call that undue censorship.
Whatever the reason, it is unfortunate that readers will be deprived of not just de Adder’s Trump depictions, but from here on, any of his work. Because he is good, whether it is capturing the sense of compassion Canadians shared over what happened with the Humboldt Broncos tragedy, to Canadian politics – and he bashes leaders of all parties – to Trump with his golf cart, capturing the complete indifference the US President has toward the plight of refugees in a way no amount of writing could.
It is important social commentary, and the Irving papers will be all the poorer for depriving their readers of it. If Brunswick News was looking to give readers one more reason to cancel their subscriptions, this decision could be it. Did I mention there is considerable talk of a boycott on social media?
And that’s sad because actually, the paper has been doing some pretty solid journalism of late, as evidenced by the well-deserved international award the Telegraph Journal received for exposing, through a series of stories last year, the serious shortcomings in our ambulance service.
But at the same time the local journalism is getting better, there have been moves that diminish the papers overall. Cancelling de Adder ‘s contract is but the latest. Before that it was dumping Canadian Press so readers get far fewer stories from the rest of the Maritimes. There was the firing of their professional photographers. And the dumping of several good local columnists. And what happened to top level, solid, thought-provoking international columnists like Gwynne Dyer who are no longer published in the Irving papers, replaced by the redundant and predictable drone of the Fraser Institute and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
I could go on but the bottom line is that it seems for every step forward, the Irving papers take two steps back. It’s unfortunate because they have some solid journalists doing good work, but with what appears to be little support from upper management. Could it be death by a thousand cuts? Self-inflicted.
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