What real journalism—unlike social media—does at its best

First the fun stuff: Before we get to what’s behind that headline, let’s take a walk on the brighter side…Fish Friday for Emmett: The Fenwick Lions are donating proceeds from this week’s Friday fish fry to the family of Emmett Gervason, the boy who’s headed to California this summer for ear surgery (ad, p.20), so get on out to Centennial Park if you can, and fingers crossed that the weather holds. We need the rain, but not this Friday evening…Nuts and bolts: With many of us stuck at home, or at least spending more time there, fixing things, a birdie in the know tells us that Beamer’s Hardware had their best day ever in mid May, and good for them. A letter to the editor this week tells a big box horror story that will sound all too familiar. Stay local when you can…Ample calories: This week’s issue has plenty to chew on, from the lightheartedly adventurous (Jane Bedard’s Column Six), to the inaugural (Peter Piper’s gets into the ice cream game), to the welcoming (Pelham hires a new bylaw enforcement officer), to the frustrating (a noisy car wash), to the continuing, amusing-slash-eye-rolling saga of Pelham Town Council, specifically its increasing inability to make sensible decisions, the most recent example being its wholly unnecessary interference in an effort by Trout Unlimited and others to improve the Twelve Mile Creek (two stories—council report, p. 3, and a project recap, p. 10). We’re reliably informed that this has been pegged inside Town Hall as yet another new council low among certain disaffected staff, who over the last year and change have not only had to deal with pandemic stress, but a council that from its earliest days seemed hellbent on obstructionism. Running throughout has been some councillors’ undercurrent of suspicion, a vaguely paranoid, conspiracy-minded skepticism of staff motives. The latest example is Councillor Bob Hildebrandt’s comment during last week’s council meeting, that a simple pro forma approval asked of council was “a last-minute effort to push this through council without proper disclosure,” implying malign intent on the part of the Town’s professional managers. It’s almost impossible to overstate how odd this is, and how it inevitably affects employee morale… Don’t worry, that’ll buff out:So, about that headline above. It’s pretty self-explanatory, and is the ideal goal of any legitimate reporter, or editor, or publisher: tell the truth as well as you know it, without prejudice, and without kowtowing or bending to pressure. I’ve been the target of various attempts to influence stories over the years, but a new low—if a mildly comedic low—was reached last week, when writer Don Rickers came back to report that local businessperson Gail Levay explicitly told him that if the Voice ran this week’s story about her car wash, she would “never advertise with the Voice again.” Incredulous that anyone in the public eye with any common sense would make such a crude threat, I called Levay to see whether Don had perhaps misunderstood. Oh, no, Levay told me. That’s exactly right, and furthermore, “something” would be coming our way if we did publish. Levay wouldn’t specify what thing some of which would be coming, but by inference it was apparently code for “lawsuit.” In the immortal words of Charlie Brown, good grief. Give your head a shake. Threats of retaliation are red meat to journalists (crispy tofu for the vegetarian ones). You want to guarantee continued scrutiny by the press? Threaten them. Now the comedic part is, as far as we can tell, looking back a decade, Levay doesn’t advertise in the Voice anyway. There was an ironic exception last autumn, when she advertised the opening of the very car wash that is causing so much consternation among her northern neighbours. Otherwise, zip. And, I hope by now needless to say, whether she had spent $300, $3000, or $30,000 on Voice ads over the years, this would have had zero influence on our reporting. After it’s all said and done, this week’s car wash tale is objectively told, with all sides presenting their views. That’s just responsible reporting. Does Levay’s apparent “stature” in Pelham see her granted special privileges? Maybe, maybe not. I echo the sentiment of one Town Hall occupant: “I wouldn’t know her if she came up and kicked me in the ankle.” As for how loud the car wash dryers are, I was naturally curious to hear them myself. On Sunday I took a drive over—stopping for ice cream at Peter Piper’s new parlour (black cherry for me, pistachio for the better half, both delicious)—and parked on Hurricane directly opposite the car wash building. I was expecting an F-22 carrier departure. What I heard was a distant Dyson. That said, it was a Dyson that also sounded like a far-off London air-raid siren—V-1 buzz bombs, incoming. Or maybe a 1960s nuke warning, ten minutes to get to the shelter. It wasn’t loud, but it burrowed in. I could certainly understand how hearing it dozens of times daily might lead to some frayed nerves and cranky neighbours. To what extent the Town comes down on the side of peace and quiet, or on the side of unfettered capitalism, will be interesting to watch…As ever, stay safe: See you next week.