Two Brunswick News careers at an end after ethics probe
After investigation findings, Times & Transcript assistant managing editor has resigned and managing editor is no longer employed by Brunswick News.
By Patricia Graham, for the Telegraph-Journal
An investigation commenced 11 days ago by senior management at Brunswick News has uncovered the following: Murray Guy, assistant managing editor at the Times & Transcript, was the guest of Danny Allain, then-president and CEO of NB Liquor, at Larry’s Gulch fishing lodge in 2013.
Mr. Guy misled Brunswick News in 2013 by asserting that he had not in fact gone to the lodge.
On their own initiative and without disclosing to senior management, Al Hogan, the managing editor at the Times & Transcript, and Mr. Guy sought to have Darell Fowlie, then deputy minister of communications in former premier David Alward’s government, alter the guest list before releasing it to other media.
Mr. Hogan was not forthcoming with Brunswick News’s senior managers either in 2013 or during the recent investigation about his knowledge of or involvement in the matter.
As a result of the findings of the investigation, Mr. Guy has resigned and Mr. Hogan is no longer employed by Brunswick News. John Wishart is no longer editor of the Telegraph-Journal and is now editor of its editorial and opinion pages.
The newsroom investigation was led by Patrick Brethour, current editor-in-chief of Brunswick News, with the assistance of the human resources department and legal counsel. To date they have conducted eight interviews and reviewed numerous emails.
Brunswick News publishes the Telegraph-Journal, Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Moncton Times & Transcript and a number of other, smaller newspapers.
Trust is an essential element of the relationship between a newspaper and its readers. In an effort to be transparent and accountable to the customers of these newspapers, we are sharing all of the information we can about what transpired in 2013 as well as in recent days.
My account of these events is based on emails and information provided to me by individuals involved in the investigation, as well as a review of the electronic database of stories going back to 1985.
The events of 2013
In October 2013 Shawn Berry—at the time a legislative bureau reporter for the Telegraph-Journal and now a press secretary in Liberal Premier Brian Gallant’s office—obtained a copy of that year’s guest list for Larry’s Gulch.
Over the years the Telegraph-Journal has published stories about the guests and/or their hosts at Larry’s Gulch, a fishing lodge on the Restigouche River owned by the provincial government. Between 1999 and 2013, according to my research, it published six such stories.
Mr. Berry obtained the guest list for the 2013 season in October 2013. He started working on a story, putting out requests to interview ministers and officials. He also alerted then Brunswick News editor-in-chief John Wishart that Mr. Guy’s name appeared on the list.
Mr. Wishart promptly emailed Mr. Hogan on Oct. 10, 2013, asking him to look into whether his employee Mr. Guy had gone to the lodge as a guest of Mr. Allain. Attending such a trip would have been ethically problematic.
Mr. Guy was not assigned by management to go to the fishing lodge in 2013 for work purposes. He did not ask management if it would be acceptable for him to go. The company did not pay the costs of his stay.
It is contrary to journalistic standards to accept a gift from government or any government agency. It would bring into question Mr. Guy’s impartiality and also the credibility of the newspaper in covering either NB Liquor or the government.
Mr. Hogan told Mr. Wishart that Mr. Guy’s inclusion on the list was a mistake and he had not in fact gone to the lodge.
Mr. Berry subsequently went back to government to ascertain whether the list contained the names of invitees or attendees. As a result, he learned that Mr. Guy had indeed gone to the lodge: he had signed a waiver consenting to the release of information saying so.
Mr. Berry communicated his findings to Mr. Wishart on Nov. 13. A day or two after receiving this information from Mr. Berry, Mr. Wishart advised Mr. Jamie C. Irving, the vice-president and publisher of Brunswick News, about Mr. Guy’s name appearing on the list.[node:related]
The two of them discussed two issues: discipline and whether to write a story. On the latter, they agreed that if the guest list at the lodge in 2013 included newsworthy individuals, the Telegraph-Journal should publish a story as it usually did under such circumstances, and include Mr. Guy’s name. If it did not include such individuals, the newspaper would, as it had done in the past, not publish a story.
They agreed that disciplinary action should be taken against Mr. Guy. Mr. Wishart had been told by Mr. Hogan that Mr. Guy had attended the lodge previously with the approval of Brunswick News’s senior management at the time, which did not include either Mr. Wishart or Mr. Jamie C. Irving. Mindful of this, they concluded that the appropriate discipline would be a verbal reprimand to be delivered by Mr. Hogan.
Mr. Wishart says he instructed Mr. Hogan to discipline Mr. Guy and assumed that it had been done. Mr. Hogan says he received no such instruction. Mr. Guy says he did not receive a reprimand.
Mr. Jamie C. Irving asked Mr. Wishart to exercise his judgment as editorial lead about whether a news story was appropriate. No news story was published.
About a week later, in response to inquiries made to him by Mr. Jamie C. Irving, Mr. Wishart told him the matter had been taken care of.
(Disclosure: At this time I had just begun work as Brunswick News’ ombudswoman and was on the premises, but this matter was not discussed with me.)
It is easy to be critical of decisions with the benefit of hindsight. I cannot say that the editorial decision in 2013 to not publish a story was wrong, especially in light of the fact that stories were not routinely published every year and that even for the year when Brunswick News fought to get the list, the names of guests were not published.
I can, however, say that the decision was misguided: it would have been better to publish a story about the guests of Larry’s Gulch that year, including Murray Guy. This is especially so because in 2012 Brunswick News had successfully appealed to the right to information commissioner to force the government to release the list. It had published an editorial urging the government to release the list. Its fight to get the information should have been a significant deciding factor into whether or not to run a story on the 2013 guest list.
Returning again to the benefit of hindsight, it would have been better had Mr. Jamie C. Irving or Mr. Wishart consulted me at the time. It would have been better had Mr. Wishart created a written record of the disciplinary decision. And it would have been better had Mr. Jamie C. Irving ensured that this written record was in place.
This article originally appeared on the Telegraph-Journal’s website.