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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Are We There Yet?

Publisher Mike Van Santvoord bought The Islands Grapevine 6 years ago, and has more than doubled circulation of the print version, and expanded its circulation to readers everywhere through his efforts to reach out from Denman Island to Hornby Island, Union Bay, Fanny Bay and the Baynes Sound region, and he’s increased the value to TIG advertisers by doing so. The refreshed and updated theislandsgrapevine.com is TIG’s most recent improvement. 

Mike’s commitment to TIG from the beginning was to provide a weekly snapshot of our communities, and a mirror of the diversity of viewpoints that exist, without an obvious ideological bias. Of course Mike has his own opinions, but the Letters to the Editor and other content TIG publishes aren’t necessarily Mike’s personal views. Since the 2020 pandemic response, this editorial policy has become far more controversial. Even the small percentage of dissenting views on all things COVID that TIG published have triggered passionate and sometimes extreme responses. Ironically, those who would prefer that TIG exclude dissent, are often those people most often unconcerned with the facts relating to important matters.

The perceived controversies are exacerbated by the belief that if Mike does not “de-platform” dissent, not only is he supporting these views, he becomes a target of suggestions that he holds an unacceptable and offensive worldview not just relating to the pandemic, but by association, he must have all sorts of problematic and even bigoted views. When these kinds of false assumptions are manifested in gossip and hearsay without any rigorous attention to the facts, it has led to elevated levels of community conflict. Whatever your level of sensitivity, the residents of our areas of circulation hold a diversity of opinions, while there is a small but vocal group of residents who wish to damage the livelihoods TIG supports.

Sometimes the result is that Mike and TIG become smeared with the worst kind of pejorative labels, without any factual evidence of the characterizations or conduct, in a “pile on” mentality of what has become known as cancel culture. Cancel culture can be best characterized as when no process of fair review of the facts is necessary when a smear or a pejorative label is flung in someone’s direction. And to Mike’s great credit, he has not conceded to this kind of bullying nor has he capitulated to the threats, the lies, or the intentions of those who would work to damage his livelihood. After all, TIG survived the business disaster that was the pandemic response, where some of our advertisers’ activities were either shut down or severely limited.

Team TIG has doubled down on its commitments to growing its reach, expanding its coverage, and improving the clarity of the writing contained within it. This has caused some consternation from some of TIG’s regular contributors, challenging us to curate less, while they have pushed back on editorial feedback and our requests for revisions from time to time. In each case, and as a result of our learning that a lack of clarity or unnecessary ambiguities can be perilous to our editorial policy, we are more determined than ever to stay the course of curating content in an increasingly divisive climate, both locally and otherwise. Contrary to local misperceptions, TIG’s editors work each week to support a healthy information ecosystem.

TIG is grateful to its contributors, its readers and advertisers and its staff, which represent a diversity of identities, both gender and sexual, and the varied representations of culture and ethnicity. We support inclusiveness, mutuality, the principle of peaceful coexistence, and a commitment to a free press that does not pander to those who would attempt to limit open discourse, and censor the publication of views they do not share. We believe that more speech and more independent and community journalism is the healthiest idea for representing who we are, even when it’s sometimes difficult to embrace the reflection in the mirror.

It is in that spirit that we welcome the proposed new publication, The Barnacle, and sincerely wish its publisher and contributors well in the New Year.

Author: TIG

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