What were we thinking?
We know. Our front-page photo and story about the trucker protest will earn us some backlash.
We thought we owed it to our readers to share our newsroom discussion regarding the decision to run the front-page photo and story about Wakefield native Bethan Nodwell in her role as a lead organizer of a group supporting the trucker convoy protest in downtown Ottawa.
Some readers will appreciate a feature story on a local dedicated to an event of huge national importance. Many, however, will be asking, “Why would the Low Down give a mob of unruly anti-vaxxers a platform? Why is my local paper glorifying this controversial movement that’s turned into an ugly occupation?”
Those are good questions — ones the editorial team asked ourselves many times before we accepted Nodwell’s invitation to get a backstage pass to her Adopt-A-Trucker’s events and supply-support organizing hub. We asked ourselves the same questions as we did a mockup of the front page with Nodwell – a known spreader of conspiracy theories on social media – looking like a rock star on stage in front of a huge crowd of cheering fans.
What were we thinking?
We were thinking what we always think when pursue a news story: is it newsworthy? Is it local? Do readers want to know about the people who are behind the events – big or small – that affect their lives? The answer is yes to all these questions.
We also did our utmost to write a balanced piece about an incredibly controversial and polarizing event that shows both sides of the issue.
It should be noted that Adopt-A-Trucker is not doing media interviews with mainstream media organizations like the CBC, CTV or the Ottawa Citizen, but is opening its doors for alternative media outlets. Nodwell said she invited the Low Down in on an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look as a favour and because she is a Wakefield local.
Full disclosure: the Low Down did receive this special treatment likely because of a long-standing social connection through Nodwell— both the editor and publisher Nikki Mantell (who went to high school with Nodwell) have known her personally for years.
But this connection, and this story, does not mean the Low Down endorses what the truckers are doing — far from it.
Nodwell was on stage at the largest rally Ottawa has ever seen and we had unprecedented, front-row access to the biggest news story in the country, possibly North America. So we took it.
We did our best to remain neutral in our coverage and reported only what we saw, heard and what those on the ground told us. That is our duty. That is our job. That is the expectation as a local newspaper. We will continue to strive for this type of journalism excellence every week. It’s what you deserve as readers.
And for the record, it is – and remains – this paper’s position that the way out of this devastating pandemic is through vaccination. It is crucial that we all do our part to protect the vulnerable, and our healthcare system. So please, if you haven’t already, go get the shot.