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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Edward R. Murrow was right. Journalists have thin skins.



I'm a happy guy. I'm retired. Nice home. Fine wife and partner. My health could be better but I am confident I'll celebrate my 70th birthday come summer. I'm doing better than my dad and two of his brothers when it comes to longevity and I figure I can't ask for much more. Plus, I've got three lovely granddaughters. For me, personally, life could not be much better.

Up until 2009, I worked at The London Free Press. At that time there was a layoff/buyout which was leaving a young staff-photographer with a stay-at-home wife caring for two little boys facing the loss of his job.

I decided to take the buyout. I saved his job even though it meant a 25% cut in my company pension along with a big cut to my Canadian Pension Payments. As my wife and I still needed more money to balance our books, my wife also began drawing her CPP and again at a huge discount. I also faced the loss of my drug plan and my dental coverage. But I took the buyout and I never looked back. I have no regrets. It was the right thing to do.

I assist two children in the third world by sending monthly payments plus birthday and Christmas gifts. Speaking of Christmas, this year my wife gave a third world family a selection of farm animals. Also, she paid for the education of a young girl for a year. She did both in my name. Why? She knows that I feel gifts are a waste, at least when given to me. At my age, I have everything I need. So she gives gifts to others in my name. I love that woman. She understands.

That said, I've been surprised at the total lack of understanding shown by many of the professional journalists with whom I once worked. I've learned they have exceedingly thin skins. Do not ask these folk a question. They get their noses painfully out-of-joint.

The other day Morris Dalla Costa posted a tweet on Twitter calling for a boycott of L. L. Bean. I was surprised to see The London Free Press supporting a boycott, especially a boycott that involves not just a distant company in New England but a boycott that also involves a number of chain outlets  here in London, Ontario. I'm sure Mr. Dalla Costa was unaware of the London connection. I cannot see a reporter/columnist at the paper calling for a boycott of businesses advertising in the Free Press.

I asked  Mr. Dalla Costa: "Do you really want us to boycott L. L. Bean? Boycotting L. L. Bean will not punish Trump according to the Bangor Daily News." I included a link to the newspaper article.

But L. L. Bean is not the one supporting right-wing policies. The Trump supporter is a board member, a granddaughter of the founder.

The group Grab Your Wallet decided to boycott L.L. Bean because Linda Bean contributed money to a political action committee (PAC) that supported Trump. It seems odd that GYW, and Mr. Dalla Costa, did not target Linda Bean’s own company Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine. Talk about firing quickly and wildly. If you thought only the Donald abused Twitter in this fashion, now you stand corrected.

The aim of the L. L. Bean boycott is to force the company to remove Linda Bean from its board of directors by financially damaging the company. This is the goal despite the fact that the company under attack does not appear to support Donald Trump and his policies.

As Rebecca Fishbein argues in the gothamist: Linda Bean is very rich and she's not going to be affected by, or learn a lesson from, a boycott. On the other hand, LL Bean's employees are not rich and will suffer if enough people stop shopping there.

Let me finish this post with a couple of paragraphs from the Bangor Daily News:

Before you forgo ever buying another flannel shirt from the retailer, you might first consider that in 2015 L.L. Bean employed more than 5,000 year-round workers, many of them in Maine. During the winter holidays, the employment count reached nearly 10,000. L.L. Bean has manufacturing facilities in Brunswick and Lewiston, where more than 400 employees make their products. Undoubtedly those workers hold views that differ from one company leader and from one another.

More important, L.L. Bean has kept is strong presence in Maine — its distribution facility is also located here — though it would likely be more cost efficient to locate many operations elsewhere.

Contrast L. L. Bean with The London Free Press. Jobs that I would have thought impossible to cut have been eliminated. Why even the press has been silenced and the paper is now printed in Hamilton. I've heard rumours that there are now only eleven reporters at paper which was once one of Canada's finest.

Years ago I thought the paper was heading in the wrong direction. One can ask Paul Berton if I made my unhappiness known. Paul listened politely to my all-too-vocal complaints but he didn't threaten me or try to silence me. Paul was, above all, a gentleman.

I cannot say the same for Mr. Dalla Costa. He tweeted to me "get a life" and then blocked me on Twitter.

Joining a boycott is a serious matter. Such a move demands careful thought.  This boycott is the type of Twitter response I expect from someone like, uh like, Donald Trump.

Add from August 29th, 2018:

Today, Bloomberg and others are reporting that David Pecker, chief executive officer of American Media Inc., has resigned from the board of Postmedia, owner of The London Free Press. American Media publishes the National Enquirer. Pecker and his company were implicated in the scandal involving payments to women who alleged affairs with Donald Trump.

"In 2016, Pecker told the Toronto Star he was asked to join Postmedia’s board by Chatham Asset Management, a New Jersey hedge fund that owns stakes in Postmedia and American Media."

Maybe Dalla Costa, by his standards, was boycotting the wrong company.