Editorial – Anonymity and addressing division

By Korie Marshall and Laura Keil

We printed a letter last week from a person who says her name is Barb Dwyer. When we made the decision to print the letter, we didn’t clue in to the fact that may not be her real name. But since publishing, we’ve been approached by several people asking us who this “Barb Dwyer” really is.

We have not been able to get a phone number for “Barbed Wire” and, through email, the letter’s author insists it is her/his real name.

For someone clearly engaged in the politics in McBride, it is indeed odd that no one has heard of this person. So is it her birth name but not the name she goes by now? Is it her middle name and last name? Is it completely made up?

Our current policy of asking for letters that are signed and legible clearly doesn’t go far enough. We don’t plan to ask for fingerprints when people submit a letter, but we have to be diligent in ensuring the name under the letter is indeed the person who wrote the letter. Imagine your horror in discovering a letter in the paper with your name on it that you hadn’t written. Impersonations can happen, even though that isn’t the case here. Clearly it’s a big issue and one that we take seriously.

The anonymity of this letter compounds the fact it was highly critical of a local community leader, Rick Thompson. Thompson has been keeping a blog ostensibly to keep the new Council accountable. In his blog, he criticizes the new council for various things and provides his two cents.

The first issue – the one of anonymity – we are dealing with in our new letters policy, which will ask for a phone number so we can attempt to verify the identity of the writer.

But even if we don’t print your letter due to libel or our inability to verify your identity, we are still interested in your views.

We have recently heard people in Valemount express the belief that people in McBride are “such a family,” “so connected” – that the community always gets together, regardless of the disagreements they might have. People in Valemount envy that.

But an ugly division has formed in McBride. Exactly how the division formed, we are not entirely sure, but we see the bad feelings and entrenched positions.

How do we, as a newspaper, help? How do we get past the division or find a new approach to dealing with it? How do we support one another even when our views don’t align? How do we forgive when we’ve been wronged?

We are certain that all McBride and area residents, no matter what side they are on, are committed to the health and wellbeing of the community and the region. Fundamentally we all want the same things. We want respect. We want a feeling of community and balance. We want recognition for our contributions. And of course, a vibrant community. Our opinions on how to get there may be different. But in the end we’re all on the same team, struggling towards a common goal. In that, we should take heart. We can vehemently disagree on the method, but we must agree that everyone is trying to get to a similar place – a thriving, healthy community.

The stakes are high. Our communities are struggling in many ways. We can’t lose sight of why we live here – a tight community, a feeling of belonging, friendship and care to name a few.
If we lose those things, what will be left to fight for?

Did you know the Goat could not operate without people buying the newspaper? Subscribe today!