Chiseling truth out of Portapique
by Eddie Corwallis
Ladies and gentleman of the jury, Frank Magazine is under attack.
This fact will please many people. It will surely displease others.
But what's at stake here is larger than Frank. It's larger than editor Andrew Douglas. Larger than investigative reporter Paul Palango.
In these insufferable post-truth, sensitive times newsroom suits (and pantsuits!-ed.) must decide whether or not they are going to report the news, or continue to stand on the sidelines acting as amateur grief counselors.
Like it or not Frank is not in the grief counseling business. We are in the news business.
The same business in which Nancy Waugh's CBC Nova Scotia, Dan Appleby's CTV Atlantic and Rhonda Brown's Global Halifax used to dabble. And still do, on occasion.
But not nearly often enough.
Frank is not the enemy. Big-boy (and big-girl!-ed.) journalists practicing big-boy (and big- girl!-ed.) journalism are a friend to anyone who values openness and transparency in society.
Portapique has left a painful scar which will not go away anytime soon.
There is no closure. Closure is a media-created myth. It is a springboard designed to spin more mainstream media snot & bawl stories. And it goes on.
But getting answers to Portapique is hard work. It's not as easy as throwing together a teary-eyed Elizabeth Chiu story or a Heidi Petracek outrage story.
The fact is you can, if you choose, and apparently a lot of you have chosen to do just that, cobble together a list of criticisms to be laid at the feet of Frank. But not seeking the truth will never appear on that list. The day it does appear on that list is the day I bail.
So, it's an uphill battle. It's tough sledding. And it's mind-numbingly frustrating, chiseling truth out of Portapique.
Frank and Paul Palango are not only up against the Queen's Cowboys, this country's notoriously resourceful national police force let me remind you, but also up against the misplaced self-righteous indignation so commonplace in the age of the send button.
Frank Magazine was founded 34 years ago, long before the age of the send button.
Frank has never demanded the acquiescence of readers. We've only ever attempted to inform, and to make them think.
As for our critics?
Let me say that at times, we may have the tendency to overestimate the intelligence of the average Nova Scotian. It sometimes feels that for every sentient being among us, there are three Tom Taggarts lurking in our midst.
Time, and history, will tell.
The cold, hard truth of the matter is that RCMP, incompetence, inaction, call it what you will, cost lives in this province. Whether it be 10 or 12, 15 or 16, pick a number, go up and down the list for yourself. There are people who did not have to be murdered.
It's what investigative reporter Paul Palango has been saying for many months. RCMP negligence and incompetence cost the lives of Nova Scotians who should be with us today. It's that simple.
The evidence, as unearthed by Palango and published by Frank, proves overwhelmingly that the RCMP has been lying not only to the victims' family but to all Canadians since the get-go.
So, Frank Magazine, by way of 911 calls, and gas station video, puts the best evidence forward. It's what you would do in a court of law. It's what you do in the court of public opinion. Put your best evidence on the table.
The backlash is as misguided as it is predictable.
"Sensationalism!" come the great cries from the heart. From those who wouldn't know true sensationalism if it jumped up and bit their noses off.
Let me say, having been in the room, I assure you that nothing was thrown up on the Frank website on a whim. And the decision, Frank's editor will never make a better one, by the way, wasn't made in a day.
But in this contemporary Theatre of the Absurd, imagine what's playing:
Bank robbers rob bank/Bank tellers chase bank robbers across street/Bad guys get away/Bank tellers hung in public square for jaywalking.
Paul Palango wants to know why Nick Beaton's pregnant wife, Kristen, their unborn child, and many others had to die, and who precisely is responsible for a cavalcade of blunders, oversights and negligence.
Palango, who doesn't operate by press release, is kicking over the rocks looking for the truth. If families want a legacy for their loved ones, let truth be that legacy.
And guess what?
Palango, Frank, et al are dragged off to Calvary for crucifixion by the indignant mob dressed in their self-righteous, virtue-signaling jammies.
And the news media is only too happy to provide the nails.
Reporters who may have forgotten, if they were ever taught, how journalism is supposed to work outside the comfort of their low stress, Oprah Winfrey softball newsrooms.