Maple Key Media is now 0 for 3 with New Highlander and New Echo… emaciated coverage and no direction

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SEAMUS O’BRADAIGH – MEDIA EDITOR

Last week we reported that the New Minden Times did not pass the sniff test.

Unless the sniff you were looking for was the sweet fermentation emanating from a hot steamy pile of cow manure.

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What Me Worry? I can Haz papers. I can haz papers. I can haz papers.

Several people have reached out to me asking what my thoughts were regarding this new monopoly in the Highlands. It calls itself, or more specifically Bram Lebo calls it: Maple Key Media, but I’m going to call it Maple Key. When it shows even the barest hint of media, I may relent. But as newspapers – even first runs – go, these pages with words and pictures pasted on top are simply and implausibly weak renderings of tabloid news. Chihuahuas growling at a Doberman.

The content is weak. The coverage is weak. The writing is weak. The direction? Well… that would imply that there is… a direction. At present we see none. A Bassett Hound chasing its own tail. Charlie Chaplin twirling his cane. George Bush pondering a crisis.

Chad Ingram and Jenn Watt are both gone from the Times and the Echo. Instead of bargaining with the only two writers of merit on the Echo and Times roster Mr. Lebo decided that he could run the new monopoly with people he knew. Wee men with fragile egos like to surround themselves with obsequies. With scared as jackrabbit sycophants. Just sayin’ and just an observation. Because I am not sure why Mr. Lebo, in promising jobs would allow two of the best journalists in Haliburton County walk. More on that later. I have my own ideas about why Mr. Lebo prefers to dump seasoned journalists. Some lesser pundits would call it small man syndrome. But that would be mean and possibly peremptory.  I will say that short man syndrome is a trope and a pejorative. And I would not (being less than 6 foot myself) stoop to such levels of digress. But to the point. Surely there is enough shopworn, trite and hackneyed content in the first three editions of Maple Key to make a case for the two journalists in question.

To wit: Chad Ingram and Jenn Watt. They will be missed and I take with the de rigueur ocean of salt that Mr. Lebo offered them anything close to what they wanted or needed to stay. In large takeovers (and this Maple Key nut is just a pinprick on an elephant) the invading monopoly usually diddles around with what my lawyer friends call constructive dismissal. It happens at Microsoft and it happens at Apple. Offer the old CEO a job as Vice President of Market Gardening. Usually that’s enough. To convince the old guard to get the hell out of Dodge. It would have been interesting to see what Ms. Watt and Mr. Ingram had to say after decades of service? But Maple Key did not offer even a whiff of recompense to his two departing editors. No farewell editorials. Just a chicken-scratch from the new guard and director, a mute and carefully worded eulogy saying that staff had been offered a place in the warm loving arms of Maple Key. Meh!

So no one will ever know what happened. Monopolies prefer this type of grand gesture grandeloquence in favor of the real nut. But we digress. And that’s low hangin’ fruit in the grand scheme. Where were we? Ah yes. I promised a definition I believe.

Napoleon complex, or “short man syndrome”, is a pejorative slang term describing a type of psychological phenomenon which is said to exist in people, usually men, of short stature. It is characterized by overly-aggressive or domineering social behaviour, and carries the implication that such behaviour is compensatory for the subjects’ stature. The term is also used more generally to describe people who are driven by a perceived handicap to overcompensate in other aspects of their lives. Other names for the term include Napoleon syndrome and Short Man syndrome. (Wikipedia, because it’s the kindest pejorative I could find.)

Napoleon Bonaparte did not wear plaid and shaved occasionally, so I am in no way offering this up as an explanation. Just sayin’ that some people have a hard time dealing in an atmosphere of collegiality. And what’s wrong with overreaching narcissists like Napoleon? Anyway…? It works for Donald Trump. They get things done? Don’t they? Well, yes… they do.

Which is great if you’re building the pyramids or the Great Wall of China or even the Canadian Pacific Railroad. But it ain’t so hot when you’re dealing with paid staffers. The natives tend to get restless and uneasy. A newsroom is a place where stories are discussed, collegiality is fostered and news is generated. Collectively and with abandon.

Judging from the smoldering rhetoric and ooh-la-la generated in Maple Key’s first editions? Abandon will take a back seat to careful agglomeration of safe, soft, sans grit, sycophantic and utterly boring news!

Maple Key at present seems directionless and is not providing the citizens of Haliburton County with the one nut that the County Voice, The Echo and the Times delivered.

News without curry or favor. Period. Biting, gritty, hard-hitting and sometimes inflammatory coverage of council and news in general. Papers that were not afraid to take chances. I think the Voice topped the charts there. Am I right retiring MP Barry Devolin? (Yes we talk. We both graduated with Political Science degrees. We get each other.) A collegian place where stories were discussed without curry or favor to the guy what signs the checks. (In some cases. My line of credit is still reeling from a collision with a few publishers.)

The editor of this online rag, Terrance Gavan, has been bombarded of late with requests for opinions re Maple Key. I will tell you what I have heard. Politicians are not happy (But meh? Who cares? Am I right?) with the coverage. More important people are not happy with the shallow and shopworn ruminations emanating from all three Highland papers. Safe ponderous stuff. High school editorials. A big black hole of news.

I am so depressed re the thin gruel installed on those pages that I have promised not to look at the Barry’s Bay or Bancroft nuts, lest I let my editorial emotions take hold, and find myself weeping as Romeo for journalism in the Highlands. But I digress. The front page of the SHINY NEW Highlander last week contained a house fire and Matt Duchene. The Duchene story was late, outdated and repeated the same story that ran in the NEW Minden Times. Thin, thin gruel Maple Key. If that front page was a dime of heroin?… it would be 99.99 percent baking soda. And the house fire begged for a story. Not a cutline.

My oh my oh my oh my oh my. Oh my, oh my, oh my. Where’s the Meat????? Cos’ I got a beef!

It doesn’t take a Pulitzer laureate to put together a sensible front page. All it takes is two years in a news room. A real news room. And some tutelage regarding what does and what does not constitute a front page. That’s all it takes. So Maple Key let go of the one person, Jenn Watt, who might have made sense of this pig’s breakfast. So they get what they get. And unfortunately Haliburton County? You get it too.

And advertisers get a monopoly. I believe Mr. Lebo stood his ground on that point. You used to have a choice. Once you could swing the carrot between the Echo-Times and County Voice.

Now? Well, now you can figure out your choices. Mr. Lebo said you could go to radio. That’s what he said Advertisers. I’d take that as a challenge if I owned a business.

If I was you? I’d take him at his word. I’d advertise there. Pop some bucks into Canoe’s pockets. Or pop some bread to The Moose. Why not? You got the go ahead from the guy in charge.

I intimated that I have been asked my opinion on the quality of the current state of the rag trade. Actually I have received comments which mask as interrogatories.

Here’s one:

“Dear Seamus: Where’s the fucking news?”

Not my words… for once.

My answer?

“The Globe and Mail… the National Post… The Star… CBC… The Moose… Canoe… and The Shrike.

Note from the ed… Okay so don’t read the Shrike for your latest news. Please! Do Not! Jeezuz. Seamus writes his columns from Colorado now… you can google the rest. He’s a little freer with his rhetoric. Medicinal my butt!

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