Paper in awkward position during editor’s run for council

Beau Simpson

Time, I think, to address the elephant in the room.
There’s a fair amount of rumbling in the community about Now newspaper editor Beau Simpson pairing up with former Mayor Doug McCallum to run for civic office this fall.
Candidates from other camps are crying foul, suggesting that at least the potential for slanted coverage may have been under way prior to Simpson’s announcement.
Here’s the nut of it.
In journalism, as in politics, credibility is everything.
The real estate of trustworthiness is gained in inches and lost in miles.
Also like politics, in newsrooms it’s not only paramount to be unbiased, but to be seen as being even-handed.
It must be noted that the staff at The Now are consummate professionals. I’ve worked beside them all and every one of them is skilled and in this business for the right reasons.
I also consider them friends.
I feel terrible for them and the position in which they now find themselves.
Simpson told staff at the paper just before he announced to the public he was taking a leave of absence as editor and running for public office.
He could have greatly mitigated some of the optics problems by taking his leave a couple of months earlier. Stories during that time would be in less doubt, and if they were questioned, it would be far earlier in the electoral process.
I’m told when he left, he urged his staff to treat him like any other candidate.
Easily said.
If he’s unsuccessful in his bid to become councillor, ostensibly he would be back in the editor’s chair.
Pity the reporter whose pointed coverage costs him his golden parachute.
Meanwhile, the paper must convince the public its coverage is balanced, which will mean offering a few smack-downs of McCallum’s camp to show the newsroom is not beholden to its old boss.
A few of those have already been fired off – well-written pieces by Tom Zytaruk – but whether that’s enough to convince the public is yet to be seen.
Sympathies also go out to Gary Hollick, publisher of The Now, who must undoubtedly have to explain this odd situation to everyone he meets at community events.
The two non-McCallum camps, I’m told, are choked at this turn of events.
There is even talk of registering a formal complaint with the B.C. Press Council, which governs the province’s newspaper industry.
This all leaves the remaining staff at The Now, not the least of which is acting editor Tom Zillich, in an awkward situation.
There’s no doubt Simpson may well make a great councillor and has every right to advance his career.
It’s a shame he had to throw a live grenade under the desks of his colleagues to do it.

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