The week that was

Here was a major local story breaking that involved Burns Lake and community, but the story broke in Vancouver.

Last Thursday a Vancouver weekly paper published a story claiming that eight sworn affidavits of physical abuse at a former Burns Lake school reveal a dark chapter in John Furlong’s hidden past. The school has been closed since 1986, but because it was a Catholic school, media gathered on the doorstep of the local Catholic church to gather footage and get some quotes on record before updating their websites. Before the day was out John Furlong had vehemently denied the allegations, expressed his intent to sue the journalist and the newspaper involved, and every major paper and news service in the province had filed stories with updates.

The Globe and Mail had managed to determine, before noon last Friday no less, that Burns Lake was a town divided by these allegations. I was surprised to read that Burns Lake was already divided by the news of the allegations. I’ve only lived here for a few weeks and can’t claim to have my finger on the pulse of the district, but ‘divided’ isn’t a word that comes to mind.

By Sunday we had learned that the journalist is going to counter-sue Furlong for attacking her journalistic integrity. And now silence, which is to be expected because the matter has been passed on to the RCMP and the courts.

Laura Robinson, the journalist involved, is a respected writer and author and the Georgia Straight a credible paper with a large circulation.  It’s hard to imagine that the testimony of the former students could be a fabrication, and it’s difficult to understand why Furlong apparently left his time in Burns Lake out of his official biography. But the story, if anyone is being honest, is confined to Robinson’s investigative work and that’s where we have to assume that the announced RCMP investigation will begin.

Following this story from a Burns Lake newsroom was very interesting. Here was a major local story breaking that involved Burns Lake and community, but the story broke in Vancouver, was gobbled up by the major provincial and national media, and was virtually over before the weekend was out. The major news networks had nothing to do with this story, even though they took it over and cannibalized it.

Part of me is concerned that I was so out of the loop on a story so close to where I now call home. The local paper was the last to know, shame on me. Or maybe that’s just a bruised ego talking. Either way it’s only a footnote to this serious story.

This is a big story, and not just because of the seriousness of the allegations involved and the way they have affected members of the local community. It’s also noteworthy because it comes from outside the large media outlets. The Black Press chain of newspapers (which owns the Lakes District News) has 48 newspapers in the B.C. interior from Cranbrook to Prince Rupert.  We exist outside of the sphere of influence of the larger news organizations and are sometimes the last to know of a local story. The attitude seems to be, if you want to get your message out call CBC in Prince George, or better yet, Vancouver.

As last week’s events have shown, that’s not necessarily the case anymore. Weekly newspapers maintain an online presence and can break news instantaneously online as quickly as any larger organization. What matters most is the reporter on the ground doing the work, and the trust that people put in that writer to get their message out in a fair and professional manner.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

School buses for SD91 to start running from June 1

Parents urged to drop off and pick kids up whenever possible

COVID-19 highlights lack of connectivity in First Nations communities

Many don’t have access required to utilize online platforms, says First Nations Technology Council

Salmon closures announced for Skeena and Nass watersheds

DFO notice expands on May 21 chinook ban throughout Skeena watershed

New traffic lanes for Six Mile west of Burns Lake coming soon

Construction to begin on lane extension and traffic improvement

Coastal GasLink pipeline work ramps up

With spring thaw ending, workers start to arrive for summer season

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

Police watchdog recommends charges against five Mounties in Prince George man’s death

Police used pepper spray on the man, who then had trouble breathing before dying at the scene

B.C. tourism seeks relief as businesses wait for COVID-19 restrictions to ease

Mid-June earliest for more in-province travel to be authorized

Northern Health bus service resumes standard passenger eligibility

Patients with non-essential medical appointments can ride starting June 1

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on quite a show

The ‘playful’ pod lingered by a Campbell River tour operator’s boat for quite some time

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

B.C. woman launches First Nations search, rescue and patrol program

Linda Peters envisions trained searchers ready to go at moment’s notice in each B.C. First Nation

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Man who bound, murdered Vancouver Island teen still a risk to public: parole board

Kimberly Proctor’s killer is still ‘mismanaging emotions,’ has had ‘temper tantrums’

Most Read