For years Gorski Consulting has expressed the opinion that the public needs to be made aware of the manner in which persons have perished in motor vehicle incidents. It has been our continual criticism that investigating police do not provide sufficient information about those deaths and the mainstream news media are often handicapped with the lack of funds to provide quality journalism that digs deeper than what they are simply told to report by police.
Over the years we have been impressed with the quality of reporting by the very small Aylmer Express newspaper located in Aylmer, Ontario. On a number of occasions, when the large mainstream organizations did not provide sufficient detail surrounding a motor vehicle collision, we found that the Aylmer Express filled in those details. We often wondered how such a small outfit could provide such quality journalism that the larger outfits could not.
It is with great distress that we have learned that these high-quality journalists have been charged with respect to the high-quality activities that they have engaged in by attempting to obtain information about how a driver came to his death upon driving over a cliff of Lake Erie on June 23, 2017, not too far from Aylmer, Ontario.
In fact, Gorski Consulting was also concerned about the reported information about the death such that we prepared an article on the incident and posted the article on our Articles page of this website. The circumstances by which the death was reported did not make sense and we totally understand why the Aylmer Express journalists would seek to attend the site where the driver perished to learn whether the police were involved in a chase that ultimately led to the driver’s death.
It was only through the actions of the London Free Press that published an article in their digital website that we learned of the charges to these journalists. Without that action no one would have known that these charges took place. We understand that every incident has its divergent reporting of facts. However the London Free Press article was disturbing in the way it reported the police actions that appeared to be highly inappropriate. The journalists, John Hueston, publisher, and his son Brett, apparently crossed over a road-closed sign on the roadway to get closer to the collision site where the driver perished. While taking photos of the recovery operations they were reportedly approached by a plain-clothed female offer and subsequently by her superior, that, through a verbal exchange, led the journalists to be charged with “criminal obstruction of a police officer”. Again, the facts as reported by the London Free Press may be different than reality and the true facts may be revealed in court. However, if the facts are as reported, they truly represent a challenge to democracy and the freedom of the press which is so vital to it.
What is at stake at the upcoming trial that will commence in St. Thomas, Ontario on June 27, 2018, is not just the damaging of the reputations of these high-quality journalists. What is at stake is the fundamental right of the public to be provided with independent information about the “5 Ws” of any incident (Who, What, Where, When and How, or something to that effect). Independent reporting beyond what the public is told by the government, its police, or other agencies in charge, has long been crucial to the ideals of democracy that guarantee a balancing of power. The tipping of that important balance can lead to far more unpleasant outcomes than the result of a simple trial.
We will be watching closely for the result of that trial. But more importantly, we emphasize the importance of freedom of expression and the absolute necessity that the public be informed of important matters that the public has a right to know. When the public is simply told what it is to know this is a recipe for disaster. Independent journalism is absolutely essential to our stable and secure way of life that we have enjoyed for many generations.