Municipal Election 2006

Mayoral Candidate Accuses Newspaper of Favouritism

Diane Elms accused the Hamilton Spectator of playing favourites after Mayor Larry Di Ianni received advanced notice of an upcoming article on positive public attitudes toward the economy.

By Ryan McGreal
Published October 20, 2006

Diane Elms, a candidate for mayor in Hamilton's upcoming municipal election, accused the Hamilton Spectator of favouritism in its election reporting.

In a recent email sent to local media, Elms wrote that at a mayoral candidates debate organized by the Committee to Free Flamborough, Mayor Larry Di Ianni "mentioned that in tomorrow's newspaper (which would be Wednesday, October 18), we would notice that people think the city's economy is doing better than three years ago."

Elms pointed out that on page A11 of Wednesday's paper [PDF link], the Spec's weekly "Pulse" feature did indeed report the news Di Ianni had stated at the meeting.

Almost 50 percent of Hamiltonians polled believe the economy is improving, compared to almost 30 percent who do not believe the economy is improving, with the rest listed as undecided.

Elms asked rhetorically, "how did Larry Di Ianni know that? I thought ethically reporters were to be unbiased during elections."

She also described seeing Mayor Larry Di Ianni, a city employee, and Spec city hall reporter Nicole MacIntyre "huddled together" and "looking at what appeared to be a mock-up of an article for the Spectator".

Elms described what followed, writing "as soon as they noticed me, Nicole quickly folded the article and placed it in the pile she was carrying. If this is a non-issue, why did it look so secretive?"

Elms wrote, "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see who the Hamilton Spectator favours," and concluded, "the democratic process in this city of Hamilton is in great jeopardy."

Mayor Larry Di Ianni shot back in an emailed reply, referring to "Diane's rants and delusions" and her "conspiracy theories about the Spectator reporters," and accusing Elms of "attack[ing] one of my staff who was attending the debate on his volunteer time in the evening."

He continued, directing his message to Elms:

For the past six weeks, on Wednesdays the Spectator has been running their 'pulse' poll. Since the debate was on Tuesday, I asked the reporter in question what the focus was for the next day. She told me what it was, and mentioned that people felt 'confident' about the economy; and also mentioned that I did very well in the survey. I am sure that if you, Diane, had asked the same question, you too would have gotten a civil answer.

Di Ianni concluded his reply by arguing that Elms might have more electoral support if she "concentrated on sharing [her] vision of the city rather than personally attacking everyone".

Wednesday's Pulse poll included a pie chart showing support for Di Ianni at 26 percent among those polled, compared to four percent for Elms. (Among the other candidates, Michael Baldasaro has three percent support, Steve Leach has two percent, and Martin Zuliniak has one percent.)

Nicole MacIntyre, the Spec reporter named in Elms' email, replied in an email that Elms "has significantly misunderstood what happened and has made several inappropriate inferences" from what she saw.

MacIntyre explained that she had brought in a print of Wednesday's "Pulse" and was looking at it when she and Di Ianni "had a casual conversation prior to the debate." It was at this time that MacIntyre "mentioned the results of that week's voter survey".

She acknowledged, "I appreciate how this would be wrongly perceived, and it should not have happened." MacIntyre added that the article was already "headed to the presses" and that "no content was changed, nor was there any intention of offering the mayor special information, nor did he ask for it."

For her part, Elms thanked MacIntyre for her response and called it "a clear indication of integrity."

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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