All the talk about Danny Williams boycotting the CBC (at least in terms of questions about his health) brings back memories of run-ins with the premier.
The headline and deck of a column in the Aug. 13, 2006 Independent sums up a low point in Danny Williams’ relationship with the defunct paper.
Headline: We are dead to the premier.
Deck: It’s hard to get in the premier’s headspace when he won’t give the paper the time of day.
Have a read of the first few paragraphs:
By RYAN CLEARY
Sunday, August 13, 2006
“As a rule, we have in the past been very open with and available to your paper. However, I must advise you that the premier will not be available to The Independent in future.”
— e-mail forwarded to me on Aug. 10 by Elizabeth Matthews, director of communications, office of the premier.
Subsequent e-mails …
“Does that mean me — or all Independent reporters?”
“Will you, yourself (Elizabeth Matthews), be responding to my e–mails if I have a question for the premier’s office? Does the boycott go for you as well?”
Matthews: “Ryan: it extends to the premier’s office.”
“Me, (Craig) Westcott, probably Ray Guy — who else is on the list? Tell me there’s at least one mainlander? Those journalists can be negative, more negative than us, don’t you think? (It’s OK — I don’t expect an answer.) Must be at least one oil company? Maybe a premier or two? No way to handle the media …”
End of correspondence.
•••Not only was The Independent cut off in terms of access to the premier, his office cancelled its five copies of the paper a week.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the papers were complimentary.
Danny turned away free stuff.
What made the premier so mad back then was a story that Sue Kelland-Dyer and I had written a few weeks earlier about his charitable donations. (Whatever happened to the Radio Queen?)
The premier takes a salary but he doesn’t spend it. Rather, he passes it on to the Williams Family Foundation, which distributes it.
We tried to find out where. Some people said it was none of the public’s business (much like where Danny Williams has his heart surgery carried out).
In fact, I had interviewed the premier himself about the issue, although he wasn’t on the phone long.
“This is the most offensive interview I’ve ever had to do,” Williams said before eventually hanging up in my ear.
I stood by the story — still do. Although I took an incredible amount of flak, including from my own publisher.
Up to that point in August 2006 The Independent had a decent relationship with Premier Danny Williams, excluding the fact he wouldn’t have anything to do with Craig Westcott, who worked for the paper as a reporter for a short stint.
The rule of thumb is that if you piss off the premier, he’ll cut you off.
That’s not to say that you can never get back in his good books, because time does heal all (with the exception of Westcott and his broken record hate-on for the premier).
Russell Wangersky made an interesting suggestion in his column in the Weekend Telegram.
He said the media should unite and boycott the premier.
Will that ever happen?
Not a chance.
Some media outlets may have the balls, but not all.
So it won’t work. This is a small town and the media can be played off against each other, the strong against the weak.