A British Columbia journalist was fired just eight days into the job, after his editors uncovered tweets critical of the mainstream media and in support of the People’s Party of Canada.
Alan Forsythe had just started work on Oct. 9 at the Hope Standard, a weekly newspaper published Black Press Media, a BC-based chain operating over 170 titles in western Canada and the United States. On Oct. 17, he received a letter from editor Ken Goudswaard terminating his employment.
“A recent review of your story on the all-candidates meeting led me to have concerns about your ability to perform the duties of a journalist in Hope,” the letter says. “Upon further investigation I learned that you had posted concerning statements on social media including, just days after you began employment with Black Press, a posting about ‘corrupt, bought off media” and which expressed partisan views with respect to federal political matters that you were covering as a journalist.”
The referenced story is about a community debate with candidates standing for election in Chilliwack—Hope. It remains available on the outlet’s website, though Forsythe’s byline does not appear on it.
The article exhibits no apparent bias. All candidates in the debate are quoted favourably. Forsythe told True North that one paragraph from his submitted version was removed, however.
That paragraph quoted PPC candidate and local teacher Rob Bogunovic as saying, “I’ve been called a Nazi and misogynist by Paul Henderson in the Chilliwack Progress,” in response to a question about his treatment by the media.
A Sept. 13 tweet by Henderson directed at Bogunovic does, in fact, accuse the PPC of “the language and technique of the Nazis in the 1930s,” adding, “It’s all eerily similar.”
It was this allegation that sparked the post singled out in Forsythe’s termination letter.
“The corrupt, bought off media tell you the PPC are Nazis, a slap in the face to the candidates running and we who support them,” Forsythe tweeted. “Let the MSM know, Canadians are sick of their lies and we are taking back our country.”
The Chilliwack Progress is also owned by Black Press Media.
Forsythe relocated for the job, which required him to join Unifor. He indicated there’s a double standard in how Black Press treated his political opinions versus Henderson’s.
“I was shocked that after all the effort (Black Press) went to to get me out there, and all the effort I made in moving there, they fired (me) after a week,” Forsythe said. “I would understand a formal warning. After all…they had a reporter slandering a local high school teacher, the union I was forced to join was very publicly campaigning for the Liberals, but I’m the one summarily fired for a tweet?”
In response to an inquiry from True North, Hope Standard publisher Carly Ferguson said “Black Press Media does not comment on personnel matters.”
Forsythe said he would have worked with his employer had concerns been raised with him prior to his dismissal, including deleting the tweet in question.
“That comment was in retrospect none too wise,” he said. “However, I was thinking of the CBC, Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, where ridiculous, over-the-top, anti-PPC material was being published and ‘reported’ regularly. This wasn’t a matter of a difference of opinion on political philosophy; it was denigrating a diverse swath of Canadian citizens for daring to hold different ideas from the approved narrative. As a journalist, I find that distasteful.
A review of Forsythe’s Twitter feed for the period in which he was employed by Black Press shows numerous retweets of pro-PPC content, as well as his own criticism of CBC’s mid-election lawsuit against the Conservative Party of Canada. He also made clear that he voted for the PPC, though he told True North this wasn’t new information.
“I was tweeting (admittedly a lot) about the PPC before I was hired in the run up to the election,” he said. “It was an exhaustive interview process, lasting three weeks. Since I was already tweeting PPC support, I didn’t think too much about it.”
Forsythe pointed out that Unifor, which represents thousands of Canadian journalists, was tweeting explicitly anti-Conservative messages throughout the election.
“I’ve been a journalist for a while now, working in newsrooms that were always, and I mean always, uniformly left,” he said. “I’ve never made a secret of my right-leaning biases, which I feel challenges me to be as balanced as I can in reporting news.”
“The proof is in the pudding,” Forsythe said, pointing to a lengthy interview he did with former Treasury Board president Reg Alcock at the height of the sponsorship scandal.
“This despite the fact I had written anti-Liberal columns,” he said. “But I’d interviewed Alcock several months earlier and had covered other stories…so he felt I was a fair and balanced reporter.”
Forsythe said he aims to launch a news-focused podcast, though he hasn’t ruled out legal action against Black Press.