Author

Sarah Thomson

Browsing

THE CLOCK TICKS

Have you ever stopped and listened to the sound of a fire crackling? The fire in the hearth is almost out, but the embers still glow. My clock chimes the hour, its sound is deep; it generates feelings of reverence and wisdom whenever I hear it. The steady ticking changes the feel of the room, slowing down time, breaking it into seconds you can almost touch. My husband gave me the clock as a birthday present a few years ago.

Last night I lay with my head on Greg’s chest, listening to his heart beat. Its rhythm steady and soothing. I thought of it pumping life into every vein and muscle in his body. The sound of a heart beating is so vital and intimate, yet its stopping is a silence like no other.

Certain sounds seem to have an endless quality. Like waves breaking on a beach, or the roar of a waterfall. Even the din of traffic from a far-off highway has that ceaseless quality. As if they will continue long after I am gone.

Like words, certain sounds bring about certain moods in me. The sound of a trickling stream causes a feeling of peace deep down. But sometimes it’s the lack of sound that creates this. I remember walking along a city street last winter in the middle of a snow storm. The snow spread itself like a blanket over the noise of the city. As the snow fell, the blanket became thicker and heavier. The crunch of snow under my step was the only sound I could hear in the stillness of the falling snow.

Then there are sounds that, for me, signify the beginning of something. The sound of birds rising at dawn and heralding the new day. A car engine turning over, or a steam whistle in the distance. There are other sounds that signify the ending of something. Like “Taps” played on a single trumpet at a soldier’s funeral; or the squealing of brakes followed by the tearing of metal.

For me, sounds not only measure time but space. They seem to go along with the places I have lived. Each home has a host of distinct sounds that make it unique. The apple farm where I grew up had some sounds I will always remember. A dog barking across the fields from miles away on a cold, star-filled night. Or the sound of frogs in the marsh filling the summer night with their calls. Like a thousand voices all trying to be heard. It was the first crowd I experienced. And it was there, on the farm, that I first heard the quiet rustle of poplar leaves sounding like tiny bits of tin foil tapping gently together. And cicadas buzzing on a hot August day.

There are certain sounds that I associate with living in Toronto. A lawn mower cutting grass and kids playing in sprinklers. Then there are sounds that I associate with our cottage. They seem so far away. The loon calling for his mate to join him every evening. The lap of water against the dock and the boats jostling in the boathouse. The sound of our paddles dipping into a still lake. The call of an owl echoing through the woods. All these sounds I associate with a certain time and place.
Today I hear the sound of the city bus as it speeds past our house. It’s becoming a familiar sound. It reminds me that the world out there is turning. That life is going by. The sound gives me an anxious feeling, suggesting there is so little time and so much to do. And as I listen, I’m drawn back to the sound of my clock ticking. Each second is gone, each minute goes by. When I’m old and grey and about to take my last breath, I hope I can hear at least one sound ― the sound of another heart beating.

THIS AIN’T THE GREAT DEPRESSION

The fire crackles and spits, warming up the cottage. As our boys build Lego castles on the floor, I surf the Web to find out what latest economic developments are shaking up the world. The turmoil in the markets seems so far from my everyday life, but its impact hits directly home as we watch our assets bounce up and down like a yo-yo. Watching as fortunes disappear tends to worry even the most cautious of people.

I can’t believe how many possible solutions are being thrown at the markets. The British government announces it will buy up shares in the country’s banks, asking for firm commitments that support lending to small businesses and home buyers. Other European countries announce they will work together to guarantee bank debt, and the U.S. announces its plan to buy up bad debt. The economists seem to be trying everything they can to stop this market meltdown, but the problem is more than an economic one. At this point, trust in the entire economic system needs to be restored. And trust isn’t something that can be achieved overnight.

When I was 11 years old, my family lost our farm to a bank foreclosure because housing prices fell and interest rates skyrocketed. I’ve always had a strong sense of how powerful the banks can be, and I’ve always had a slight fear of them. Now, as I watch the U.S. feds bail out the banks (the same institutions that encouraged people to mortgage themselves to the hilt), my hope is that the governments get more involved, take ownership, force the banks to extend credit to small businesses, and become more accountable for their actions. That is the only solution that will restore trust in the banking system.

As I read about women who have excelled at what they do (page 18), I’m reassured. The business world is filled with smart, tenacious women. It’s a far different place from the world of the Great Depression, the worst and longest economic collapse in the history of the industrial world. From the stock market crash in 1929 until the worst point in 1933, more than one-quarter of Americans were unemployed. But today, with women in the workforce, with increased innovation and globalization, there are more opportunities to fall back on than ever before. There is also much more government intervention than there was in 1929. The issue is the same for a lot of people. Do I move forward, building my company in my usual optimistic manner? Or do I slow down, and proceed with caution? I wish I had the choice, but alas, every fibre in me is programmed to “fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run.” (Kipling)

I welcomed our new VP of Advertising, Colleen McNarry-Wilson last week, and I have a feeling she’ll do a much better job than I did in her role. She is already inspiring our team to be the best they can be. It is hard giving over the reins, and it will take me some time to get accustomed to not picking up the phone and asking clients to advertise with us. I have formed some great relationships over the years, but now I will have time to develop those relationships, to listen to what our customers need, and to build Women’s Post into a media company that fulfills all those needs.

Sarah Thomson can be reached at publisher@womenspost.ca.

EARTH, BLOOD, AND THE SPACE IN BETWEEN

Mother Earth is the name I’ve given her. She hangs on the wall of an artist’s studio, painted in clay reds and earth browns. I can’t get her out of my head. So regal and silent — She is a mother holding life at her breast, strong and alone. It captures what being a woman is about. Something in the painting talks to me.

The painting, done by Philippe Garel, hangs in the studio of Paul Duval, an art critic, artist and author of more than 20 books on various artists. I met him in his Toronto studio today and was both inspired and awed by a man who combines his passion for art with a gift for great conversation.

Paul welcomed me at his door, a little surprised at the car seat I held with my sleeping 10-month-old son. He exclaimed “Oh, you’ve brought me a Christmas present.”

We spoke of artists, of their contributions to civilization. We spoke of the Sistine Chapel — of the hand of God meeting the hand of Man and the tension in the small space between them. We spoke of buildings and the need for a museum created just for the city of Toronto. We spoke of the Royal Ontario Museum, and its disgraceful attempt to grab cash by charging admission to children. I doubt very much that the people who have donated to the museum want them to limit entry to children who can afford it.

Duval’s studio is one big open room with huge north-facing windows and a small kitchen tucked in under a loft filled with books. Art hangs from the walls, and ceramics and wood carvings are tucked into every nook.

His ceramic collection alone took my breath away — until I noticed the painting of the woman, hanging on the south wall of his studio, so warm it seemed to heat the room. And now as I sit and try to recall her, my mind becomes murky. I feel a need to see it again. My husband asks if I can see it from the street outside Mr. Duval’s studio, I respond that I could if I had a ladder. My husband thinks that might be a little too much like stalking.

Why is this painting haunting me? I remember my father defining what he thought made something art. For him a work of art had to instantiate a universal idea or thought — this was the only basis for true art. Anything else wasn’t art. My father particularly disliked works created with a political message, as well as works of self expression. He believed they distracted people from understanding the power, and importance, of art. The more I learn about art the more right his views seem.

When I think of the works of art that I have had the good fortune to see, it is difficult to find words to describe them. It is as if the art itself has a presence in the room it is in, it whispers in your ear, or moves ever so slightly so that you turn and look at it fully.

This painting seems to speak to me in a language I know deep inside. The woman is me, but not just me. She is a mother, protective and thoughtful. I want to make the painting fit into my life. I want to connect it to the things that give my life meaning. But an inner voice (which sounds a bit like my father) whispers…“Art can teach you how to navigate through your life. Art isn’t about how it fits into your life, or how it matches your décor. It is more than that. Instead think of it as something that inspires you to learn and understand the universal truths that matter to humanity — those universals are depicted in true art.”

DESTRUCTION OR DESIGN OF THE ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

It’s late. Large snowflakes softly fall. I can see them as they pass under the streetlights. A thick layer of snow has formed on the street below my window. The house seems so quiet now with the boys asleep.

This will be my last journal entry for 2006 and when I think of the year that has passed it seems to have stormed in and left without even stopping for a drink. Our younger was born in February and the newspaper moved from printing once a month to twice a month in April. The number of staff in our office has doubled, we’ve got even more great writers and our readership has skyrocketed. So the year has been one of birth, growth, and propulsion.

Not much has changed on the international front. War still goes on in Iraq and Canada is still trying to bring peace to Afghanistan, but the longer it lasts the less likely it seems. Nobody truly believes that civility is possible in such a tribal culture, but the ethical sense of duty to help and protect the people in their war-torn country still goes on.

I met with a great Canadian architect today. We spoke about cities, about the importance of designing buildings that enhance the streets they are on. His philosophy reminds me so much of my fathers. My father was also a great architect who believed that good architecture must fit within a social structure. It should always take into account the rest of the community and work to complement the landscape around it. Architecture is about creating a civilization.

I drove past the Royal Ontario Museum. Construction continues. At this point the heavy-hanging metal beams looming over the sidewalk remind me of the scenes of destruction left by the twin towers — it seems barren and empty, the cold steel and glass a reflection of the new immediacy that seems to be taking over life in today’s “got to have it now” world. The old solid stone building behind this mess seems to be cringing at the horrible partner that is now being fused to it. The design is an exhibitionist statement made to attract attention. It was created to fix the immediate problem of lack of attendance. It is like an immature child screaming “look at me, look at me.” While at first it will turn heads, it will require an endless succession of bells and whistles to get people back time and again.

It didn’t need to be this way. Unfortunately the design is not a solution to the problem of attendance, but merely a quick fix attempt — like a bandage one hopes will be ripped off quickly but may stick on, growing more and more ugly as the years pass. The architecture feeds the vulgar elements within society and will ultimately hinder the natural development of the area that surrounds it.

Tonight I watch the news as Canadian forces meet up with yet another suicide bomber in Afghanistan. His body lies in pieces on the road. Tanks and armoured vehicles are everywhere. The buildings in the background are bland square boxes. I click from channel to channel.

How much does Canada shape my value system? I have a garden to sit in. There are clean parks and safe streets that my children can play in. I’m not living hand to mouth, with little time to think. I have the time to contemplate, to create, to build. I have reason to value the civil society I live in. But the people in Afghanistan don’t have these luxuries. Life isn’t about working together to make a better community but about personal survival.

I think of my boys quietly sleeping, I watch the snow steadily falling. I am safe, there is peace all around me. The television brings images of people struggling in Afghanistan; people with different beliefs so strong they are willing to die for them. I see the shards of glass from a suicide bomber’s car glitter on a road halfway around the world and I remember my grandfather’s words: “There but for the grace of God
go I.”

THE VALUE OF VISION

My two-year-old son woke me early this morning. He placed his hand on my cheek and, when I opened my eyes, his nose was almost touching mine. When our eyes met he whispered “hi mummy,” softly with a tenderness that melted away any thoughts of sending him back to his bed. He is learning the value of tenderness, learning that the way he speaks and what he says has a direct effect on how others treat him. He is learning the art of manipulation.

I’ve just finished taking the MBA Essentials for Managers course at Rotman Business School. The course fired up my desire to learn and grow, particularly the class on negotiation taught by Glen Whyte. What I came away with was the idea that good negotiation isn’t about winning or losing, but about creating a contract that allows both sides to benefit from the relationship like a good marriage.

Jim Fisher also gave a great lecture on leadership, using a speech from Shakespeare’s Henry the Fifth. The speech demonstrates how Henry is able to convince his men to fight although all the odds are against them, how he motivates and manipulates them using everything from honour to promises of infamy. A good leader must be good at managing, motivating and leading. They must carry out a plan, but be able to maneuver in a consistently changing environment. What is important is not sticking to the plan but sticking to the vision. A leader must live up to their value system in order to inspire those who follow them. It was interesting to learn that ethical values can have much more influence over people than money.

And today I think about the vision for the Women’s Post. Our vision is to inspire as many women as we can to be all they can be. Our strategy reflects this vision and so too do the people I work with. Now as a leader I must stick to my values. I must motivate the people I work with and adapt plans easily to the changes we encounter, and at all times I must stick to our vision.
Vision without a task is only a dream. A task without a vision is but drudgery. But vision with a task is a dream fulfilled.

Recommended Reading:

Willie Stone Sixtyfive Roses, a Sister’s Memoir by Heather Summerhayes Cariou had me in tears by the second page. The story is about how and why her parents founded the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. But it is also about the bond between two sisters, and how illness changes the way a family lives and magnifies each moment.

Welcome

We welcome Sandra Martin, Heather Mallick and Elizabeth Nickson to our roster of columnists. They are three very intelligent women who say what they think with eloquence and style. I’m looking forward to some very interesting discussion and debate in the coming months.

THOUGHTS AND IDEAS

Monday

My office is filled with sunlight. I came in early today to get a head start on answering email and returning messages. Nobody is in yet and it seems so [quite] QUIET. I love the fast pace of the office when things get hectic on deadline day, but I also love moments like this. I wander around and notice that someone has hung a new map on the wall for the salespeople to use. I see that my great assistant has organized all the back issues of the paper onto shelves and labeled them. Someone else has a picture of their wife on his screensaver. I notice that every desk has something personal on it that distinguishes them. Someone has taken the little toy animals that sit on my book shelf and put them in a compromising position. There are some things people do simply to cause a smile ― I’m glad I work with people who do those sorts of things.

Tuesday

Went to my first MBA Essentials for Managers course tonight at Rotman Business School. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy school. Tonight the focus was on design thinking. Heather Fraser took the class through a crash course on the value of design as a means to “unlocking breakthrough strategies and ideas…” We covered some of the design tools that can be used to set up, grow and analyse a company. Fraser demonstrated how to create a strategic business design in order to understand the key elements that drive a company to success. As we spoke I doodled out a strategic business design for this newspaper and the act of simply writing down all the important elements that go into the end product made me focus on how important our distribution is to our brand identification as well as our advertising revenue stream. I must broaden our reach and get the street boxes out as soon as possible.

We’ve had success with every major city but Toronto. We have waited more than 2 years to get licences for newspaper boxes from the city of Toronto but have had nothing but roadblocks put up. At this point I’m wondering if we should take legal action. I can’t understand why the Toronto Sun can have a box on all four corners of an intersection but the Women’s Post is not allowed to have even one box.

Wednesday

I’m feeling guilty today. Guilty for driving to work when I could have easily walked; guilty for turning on the lights, for buying my latte, for consuming like most other North Americans. Global warming is real and yet I continue to go about my life, giving little thought to finding the answer to the energy crisis. If not me then who?

Thursday

We had our first advisory board meeting for the Women’s Post today and I was awed by the number of great ideas that were discussed. Having the time to think, talk and strategize with a number of very intelligent people felt like a great luxury. Each one of them gave their best ideas and their time and for that I will always be thankful. Time is something one can never get back, but I must say that those first few hours spent strategizing on the direction of this newspaper were some of the most productive hours I have had in a long time.

I had another MBA Essentials for Managers course at Rotman Business School tonight and this time the focus was on negotiation. The instructor was thorough and interesting. He had us break into pairs and role play while negotiating an employment contract. It is something I do frequently and the structure emphasized creating a winning situation for both parties so that the actual outcome would create the best situation possible. I didn’t realize that the things I do by gut instinct can be abstracted into a theory.

Friday

One of my favourite journalists, Heather Mallick, has joined the Women’s Post. I find both her intellect and comical outlook inspiring. Last summer, she wrote a short sentence in an email that filled me with awe. While commenting on the heat she wrote, “the spiders are dripping from my windows.” Lines like that are few and far between and when you come across them they stick with you.

MIDSUMMER THOUGHTS

Sunday

The boys are having their afternoon nap and the lake is calm and quiet. A canoe wanders along the distant shoreline and a slight breeze ripples the water below. I’m back again in the boathouse; looking out over the water always makes me a little more reflective. I picture all the life living beneath the surface of the water and above it, from the dragonflies to the spiders that are building webs in the window. My life seems so small in this circumstantial world and yet I strive to make the world better, word after word, idea after idea, page after page…

Monday

The newspaper is growing day by day. We’re getting more support from advertisers and I think that even the larger companies are starting to understand the value of reaching our professional female readers. I’d like to add an electronics page. I’m getting too busy to search and compare products the way I once did, so perhaps it is time to hire a writer to compare and evaluate all the different gadgets that a busy professional woman like me needs to make her life easier.

Tuesday

I’m working on a bunch of new ventures that tie into the newspaper. Two of these are a women’s economy summit for CEOs to meet, discuss, and learn about the women’s market, and an awards event for business women. We are planning both events for the spring of 2007 and I spend a lot of my days meeting CEOs and discussing what their needs are. I’m enjoying every minute. Most of them are quite intelligent and they have a desire to learn that is just as strong as mine.

Wednesday

The world is changing so quickly. I went into a high-end retail store today and wandered from aisle to aisle, aghast at the prices. I thought about buying a skirt. It was beautiful but the price tag read $1200. I knew I could find something similar at a small boutique around the corner for $100 and I’d feel better about giving the difference to a charity. The store was filled with things so expensive only an idiot would buy them. Am I being too harsh on the people who shop there? Is there a reason they need to spend so much on themselves? At least the store wasn’t full; there actually seemed to be more salespeople than shoppers. The people buying things seemed to look at themselves in the mirrors a little too much.

Thursday

Got a call from a large client telling me that his company will be adding us to their media buy next year and I felt like dancing around the office… so I did.

Received a few complaints about the lead news articles on the cover of the last issue. The writers were pretty hard on Bush, and I didn’t necessarily agree with them, but I have to stand by the fact that we do not censor our writers. Interestingly though, the three complaints we received were from men. I wonder if women are, in general, more left-leaning than men.

Friday

Came to the cottage late last night and the boys are still sleeping. A storm woke me early this morning. I listened to the sound of the rain falling on the boathouse roof. There is something about the cottage that is hard to describe…being here feels like coming home.

Saturday

We went to see some very old boats today. They were built in 1921 and are quite beautiful. You can almost feel the craftsmanship put into them — from the shape of the hull to the elegance of every little detail. I kept thinking of how much my father would have loved those boats, not only because he was a naval architect, but also because the boats had aged so well. That they still have value in this world of newer, better, louder, and faster gives me hope.

WONDER AND MEMORIES

Saturday

Went to the zoo with the kids today and then back to Dason and Jodi’s house in Brooklyn for dinner. Our friends made a great meal of glazed salmon, rice and salad. We sat for hours, sipping our wine and catching up. They are teachers and have three young children, but what I admire most about them is their ability to enjoy every little moment. They have a curiosity about life — a desire to experience life in all its richness.

This desire seems to wither away in so many people, yet for them it seems to grow stronger.

Sunday

We had the whole family (24 of them) over for our eldest son’s birthday. I can’t believe he is already two years old. Everyone sang his favourite song (Happy Birthday) while he sat as the cake was put in front of him. He wanted to grab at the flame, hold it the palm of his hand, but I pulled it from his reach just in time. He constantly pushes his boundaries and we keep loosening them week by week.

This was the first ritual he’s actively taken part in and the wonder on his face and acceptance of our irrational behaviour — singing around him with the lights dimmed and candles burning — makes me hope that he will be just as open and full of wonder in his forties as he is today on his second birthday.

Monday

We picked up the car from the repair shop (Autotrend) and I got to know the owner, Don. He’s a well-trained mechanic and my hero of the week. He’s someone who has found his spot in the world. You can tell that he enjoys what he does and the people he works with. Don repaired the stiff steering, but warned us that the clutch needed repairing and suggested we could save $50 by taking it to the dealer instead of having him do the work. Don is one of the many good business people that I’ve come across. I truly believe that there are more good and honest entrepreneurs than there are crooks. The problem is that it is so very rare to read about them.

Tuesday

Went to a great debate at the Fraser Institute about liberalism and how the position of most journalists is a liberal one, and this in turn influences how the media covers election campaigns. I believe this without a doubt. It’s almost impossible to find a good “conservative” writer in the sea of liberal-minded journalists that exist in this country.

Wednesday

Had interviews all day with potential employees and learned how many romantics there are in the world — so few people seem to want to do the hard work it takes to be successful. How do I teach my sons that hard work will give them the most fulfilling journey?

Thursday

Got a call from the president of a company that advertises with us to see what I thought of their advertisement. We spoke about women and how they interpret ideas and the conversation turned to politics and the ridiculous way that Belinda Stronach is acting. This country needs strong intellectual women in the political arena. Women sho aren’t so obviously glory seeking. Stronach is angry that her former lover (Peter Mackay — whom she publicly humiliated when she left him and the Conservatives) insinuated that she was a dog, but her claim that his remark reflects the attitude of Conservatives toward women is so obviously self-serving that it borders on vulgarity. Implying that Stronach is a dog (although it was a quick and witty response) was obviously not a true description of her because dogs are known for their loyalty.

We went to a “Grand Cru” dinner and wine event, hosted by Halpern Wines, to raise funds for Toronto General and Toronto Western Hospital and bumped into an old friend, Todd Halpern. I haven’t seen him in over six years and he’s gained a few pounds (he is, after all, one of Canada’s biggest wine importers), but not as much as I have. I introduced my husband to him and Todd told us that he had bought the Bowmanville Zoo, which explained where the elephants in the front driveway came from. He went on to tell us of the small vineyard in France that he owned and how much he’s enjoying life. The glint in his eye, combined with the glee he takes in his conquests, makes him seem like a young boy. His joy in living is infectious and it isn’t surprising that he organized such a grand event in order to raise funds for a very worthy cause. And the wines were superb. Oh for another beautiful evening like tonight.

Friday

We just got to our place in Florida and the weather is beautiful. The waves are huge breakers, rolling in and pounding the shore endlessly. Our elder son is learning to swim and I’ll always remember the smile and pride on his face when he kicked his way across the pool. The boys are pushing me to experience things I might never have done. Tomorrow it is Sea World, the next day I’m not sure, nor am I sure of the next or the one following. What I do know is that I find joy in each moment and with every one of them, a memory is made.

THOUGHTS FROM COTTAGE COUNTRY

Monday

We began our week off last Thursday. A storm damaged the power lines and we still haven’t got the power restored. Friends on another island have loaned us their fridge and I’m getting into shape lugging buckets of water from the lake to the cottage. For some strange reason I’m feeling a little more at ease. It may be the exercise and routine or that without the extra sounds — music, the dishwasher, the hum of the fridge — I can hear where my “allmos-two” son is. He chatters to himself as he investigates everything he picks up and I can track his progress through the cottage by the objects he names as he wanders.

Went night swimming. It was quiet and the water felt warmer than the air. Only the stars looked down on us.

Tuesday

I woke this morning to a quiet lake. We made coffee on the barbeque and decided to go into town for a generator, but arrived back at the cottage to find the power on. I read an article in The Guardian about the fact that the world’s uranium deposits are running out. The writer pointed out that spending billions on building Nuclear power plants when there clearly won’t be uranium to run them in 20 years’ time might not be a wise thing to do. I wonder what the world will be like then… I’ve always believed that education will solve most problems in the world. But is enough funding being given to researchers to allow the innovation to occur, or is it all being put into repairing and upgrading nuclear plants that may be obsolete in 20 years?

Wednesday

I’ve almost finished reading a great book, Consumption by Kevin Patterson (a specialist in internal medicine, who has worked in the Arctic). It’s an excellent novel based on the history of the Inuit in Canada and the effect that Tuberculosis had on them. The story tells how a foreign disease — and a different way of life — can consume a culture. At one point the narrator talks about the Inuit dog sleds and the teams of dogs that pulled them. He explains how dogs that are not worked wither and become sick. The book ends with notes from the doctor — one of the central characters. In the notes, the doctor concludes that there is a new plague that may kill more people than any other in history. The fast food, coma-inducing North American way of life is seeping into developing countries, changing the daily lives of millions of people and causing an epidemic that is bigger than any humanity has seen.

I looked up the number of people with diabetes. It affects more than 230 million people worldwide. In 2005, 40.3 million people were infected with HIV, which pales in comparison to the number with diabetes. The complications from diabetes — heart problems, stroke, liver and kidney problems etc. are just now coming to light and the actual number of deaths caused by this disease is hard to determine. But it isn’t just the fast food; it’s the boredom and the lack of physical activity and challenge that also weakens people: The spirit gets sick.

Thursday

The weather turned cool and it rained most of the morning, but cleared to a bright sunny day. Got an email from my mother telling me not to use suntan lotion because now it too is supposed to cause cancer.

Watched the full moon rise tonight and thought of all the evenings my husband and I have had together under the moonlight, our two shadows becoming one.

Friday

Discussed the crisis in the Afghanistan with family and friends over dinner. One opinion is that we should just back out and stop meddling in their wars. After all, the United States had its civil war and Canada had its war with the U. S. All societies go through a struggle. A civil society needs to develop on its own and to do so may indeed involve war. What about the fact that we have already messed up the natural progression of their development with our televisions, fast food, and atomic bombs? Would it be right to back out now, knowing that these people are armed with powerful weapons? Is it right to stay in and continue to back one side over the other when at the end of the day there is no right side and no wrong side, just two sides who need to learn how to work things out?

Saturday

Another beautiful day. Greg refinished his kayak this week, sanding it down and resealing it. I went for a long paddle with the boy around the island and into the little bay that always has lily pads growing. He wanted to touch everything. He is now talking in full sentences. His memory for words and phrases humbles me. I think about what the world will be like when he is my age and wonder if there will be an alternative form of energy, if diabetes and the culture that allows it to flourish will have spread wiping out a large portion of the population? I must teach the boys to eat right, to be physically and emotionally active every day, to make each moment count.

Sunday

Packed up to go home today and wished we could stay here another week. Dreamed of living up here, of being a recluse writer in the woods, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I need activity, challenge, and diversity. I’ve got some pretty big goals to fulfill before my soul will settle down enough to write more creatively.

IN DEFENSE OF CLIVE BEDDOE

Dear Mr. Beddoe,

On behalf of the professional journalists in this country, I’d like to apologize for the behaviour that some of my misguided colleagues in the media have displayed lately. I don’t know every detail of the events between WestJet and Air Canada, but the aggressive attack on your character demonstrated both their lack of good judgment and a self-righteousness that was below professional standards. When the power of the pen falls into the hands of fools, I try to wrestle it back.

Journalism courses today teach students to report the facts and only the facts, and thus the context surrounding the facts doesn’t always reach the light of day. Often the true story and the author’s personal judgments remain hidden behind the dry facts they present. This style of “facts-based” journalism sets the writer up with a level of authority and authenticity that isn’t warranted, but few readers actually question it. Reporters are pressured to come up with interesting copy, to cause controversy. They create “filler” on very bland news days, and what gets presented as factual is often merely a disguised opinion.

There is a difference between opinion and good judgment. Opinion can exist without fact, or with very little fact. It can be good or bad, but good judgment requires the facts to be placed in context.

Fact-based reporting should not create a bias one way or the other — but it always does. That is why I believe journalism today needs to focus on telling the full story, with all the facts, or state clearly that it is opinion.

In your case, the reporters decided to extract your statements from the context in which they were made. When I read about you in the Globe and Mail, I realized that the article only presented one side of the story (a hand-picked selection of facts), with very little mention of Air Canada’s role in this whole fiasco.

For example a writer could point out that the biased articles written in The Globe (Oct. 3, 2006) were published on the same day that Air Canada had a front page advertisement with them. They might also point out that Air Canada has been advertising quite heavily in The Globe ever since. But that would not be responsible journalism. There is no evidence that The Globe is supporting Air Canada with their editorial, just a bunch of facts that could just as easily be mere coincidence. Thus this is an assumption based on facts taken out of context. It isn’t the truth, it isn’t the full story and it certainly shouldn’t be made into an article.

The sort of reporters that dragged you through the mud are what I call “witch hunters.” They want to stand out, they want to be recognized, and they preach from very high pulpits. You were tried, sentenced, and burned and I am truly sorry you had to go through that.

One of the mandates we have at the Women’s Post is to be honest. To write what we believe and why we believe it. The columnists give their judgments without hiding them behind a creative manipulation of the facts. My judgement may not be right, but by stating what I think is right I may indeed come closer to the truth than anyone. I ran for city-council once, a long time ago, and experienced the same sort of mud-slinging that you have just experienced. One of the reasons I started the Women’s Post was to keep the dailies honest. Let’s hope this helps.

After meeting you a few years ago, I came away with the belief that you were a hard-working gentleman with a company that would go places. If I hadn’t invested every penny I have into this newspaper I would have placed my bets on WestJet. And over the years you have done it. You’ve taken on Canada’s national airline, built a company from one plane to a company that now employs close to 5000 people. That takes guts, it takes brains, determination and a lot of hard work — all the qualities required for the leader of a successful business. You have demonstrated that you stand behind your company and take responsibility for all your actions. I, for one, tip my hat to you.