EDITORIAL: Sentinel asks the tough questions but not everyone likes them
With files from Michael Wirischagin The Sentinel has been censured for doing too good a job it seems. Boundary Sawmill Inc. probably completed the purchase of the Midway mill site on Friday last week. Do you want to know what happened? Are you, dear readers, curious what this all means to the Boundary as a region, not just Midway? Will the mill pay low wage jobs or provide family living wages? What does the competition for wood supply mean for International Forest Products Ltd. (Interfor) and the future of the Grand Forks mill? How is the Village of Midway’s investment being used? Is there really community control of the company? Unfortunately, the Sentinel will be unable to provide you with the insights from BSI about the final purchase and the potential lease to Vaagen Brothers Inc. of Colville, WA. Why, you ask? Well, we have been banned from communications with the group. In an interview by reporter Michael Wirischagin last week, Doug McMynn, president of BSI stated that they are unhappy with the coverage provided by the Sentinel. McMynn refused to speak to the Boundary Sentinel Friday when asked if the scheduled Jan. 28 Midway mill purchase closing between BSI and Fox Forest Products, Inc. had or was to take place as planned. When asked as to why he would not speak to the Sentinel, McMynn responded, “I do not like the way that we (BSI) have been represented by the Sentinel.” The Sentinel has provided continuous coverage of the mill group, and has been a leader in providing the region with updates as the process has moved along. Being an online news source, the Sentinel has been the first to post events as they have taken place, but more importantly there is always an opportunity for users / readers to comment on articles. Stephen Hill, promoter of the BSI shares, has posted comments about other unrelated stories more than once. At no time has there been a comment from anyone involved in BSI to dispute or accuse the Sentinel of misrepresenting coverage. The only correction to an article was provided by Midway Mayor Randy Kappes and was posted as soon as it was received. One can only piece together that the BSI group is disturbed by the article written about the reaction from Interfor to the new competition in the region for wood supply. At the time the piece went to press we did attempt to contact McMynn, Kappes and Russ Vaagen of Vaagen Brothers and had no reply from any of them. In response to McMynn, I can only let the community know that the Sentinel is a responsible news outlet. We provide quality journalism which means examining issues from all the possible angles that concern our communities. That includes asking the sometimes difficult questions that are on the minds of the people we talk with in our communities. We could just cover meetings and repeat the words said there, or we can act as responsible journalists and look at the different implications of what is happening and how it affects everyone we serve. That means asking about wood supply problems, wage levels for workers, and why the community should be putting money into a corporation that will be essentially supplying timber to an American company to process for their markets. McMynn further went on to say in the interview, “We (BSI) have done more for economic development in this area than any past economic development officer has.” One has to consider this idea. Yes, while Midway community has become the majority backer of the purchase of the mill, they do not hold controlling shares when it comes to votes at the board table, and there have been no jobs created to date. Time will tell if there has been in fact significant economic development or if people just bought a dream to save their town. These are good reasons to be watchful and continue to provide coverage so that the people of the Boundary are aware of what is happening, and especially the Midway residents who are entitled to accountability on the village’s investment of their money. If it all works there will be cause for celebration, if not there will be cause for examination of what went wrong. McMynn ended by saying, “If there is anything that we deem important enough to share with the Sentinel we will contact them, do not contact us.”
I can only respond that the Sentinel remains open to providing coverage for the activities of BSI and the Village of Midway as this new venture progresses. But we commit to continuing to also provide balanced coverage on the important implications this new venture has on the Boundary as a whole for you, our readers. That is what responsible journalism is all about.