The following Open Letter is from Britt Santowski, Publisher of Sooke PocketNews. It is a response to two comments from Alex Dunphy left on SPN, in response to the article “Sooke’s elected officials’ remuneration stays the same, CAO ranges magnificently”.
First, the comments
Alex Dunphy on January 3, 2017 commented:
These CAO remuneration numbers are misleading. Have inflation and cost of living been incorporated to show the figures in the same real dollars? Where are the regional comparables? Comparing Sooke to itself in nominal values provides little value. Is this a smear campaign?
Alex Dunphy on January 3, 2017 also commented:
$140k is on the lower end for CAO compensation, both regionally and provincially. This is not news to anyone who is willing to do research. I asked if it was a smear campaign as the writer of this blog has come out against the CAO on numerous occasions, without presenting accurate information. The figures presented here are not in real figures so comparing them is NOT accurate. I challenge the writer of this blog to present the numbers in real figures and present the salaries of other managers regionally to be considered fair and accurate. Stoke (sic) deserves fair and accurate reporting, please step up your game! Thank you
In those comments above, Dunphy “challenges” the blog writer for response. So, here it is.
Dear Alex Dunphy,
Today you have challenged me to respond to you. Normally, I don’t rise to the occasion. For you, today, I will.
1. No comparisons were made
First, today’s published article was a presentation of some very real numbers, from the District of Sooke’s Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) reports from the last 10 years, up until today. It was a presentation of the SOFI numbers; it was not a comparison.
2. No judgement attached to the numbers
Second, the very real numbers were presented without judgement. The article didn’t speculate or judge: they were neither good or bad, high or low, fair or unjust.
People can take from these numbers what they will. There was no thought-directive (slant) given in that published article.
- One takeaway could be having knowledge of the pay range that Sooke considers for the position of CAO. A recent piece by CBC Radio One spoke about the impact that pay-scale transparency could have in achieving gender pay equity, especially in jobs where salaries are negotiated.
- Another takeaway could be the knowing the remuneration range for elected officials, just in case one is thinking of running for office in November, 2018.
- Another takeaway might be that one CAO in particular was an excellent negotiator; OR, that those on council at the time of his employment were not.
- Another takeaway could be that while the staff salary for CAO generally increased, that of the elected officials was more or less flat.
- Another takeaway could be that perhaps the elected officials are due for a pay increase.
When it comes to a presentation of numbers, there is always a myriad of takeaways.
3. Respect begins by not name calling
Third, referring to me as a writer of a blog is not respectful. I’m not too sure if you are aware of what the difference between a blogger and a publisher is, so I will happily take a moment to explain it, briefly.
- A blogger writes blogs (“web logs”). Their appeal is in their writing style and/or their voice and/or their views. Many write very, very well.
- A publisher publishes stuff.
In order to “publish stuff” on Sooke PocketNews, I do the following (feel free to skip it because it’s long, boring and incomplete):
- Maintain and manage the online news service, including overseeing and resolving server issues, maintaining and backing up databases, upgrading the backend programs, testing and installing new programs, upgrading the software offerings, managing robot attacks, manage stats, maintaining daily and weekly newsletter subscriptions, managing a live mirror site, looking after SEO and more.
- Gather content for publishing, including press releases from different levels of government, health authorities, RCMP, transportation, local arts groups, local interest groups, and more. And then I format, post and mirror the content.
- Manage and take photographs and videos of current events, work that includes processing photographs which can consume hours of time.
- Promote and sell advertising, and most of the ads that you see currently on SPN have been put together by myself.
- Manage the business, including developing relationships with contractors and advertisers; I nurture a positive relationship with most of the SPN readership; I do the bookkeeping, the taxes, supply maintenance and more.
- Follow and report on local politics. This seems to be appreciated by most, and upsets others. That is the nature of politics. And, curiously, publishing.
- Occasionally, I’ll write an editorial or, as in this case, an open letter. That is the privilege of an editor—one of the many hats I wear.
In order to publish daily on SPN, I work seven days a week, 365 days of the year, and have done so for two years. I do all of that, and more, for an income that is worthy of a high school dropout in 1984.
The only people who refer to me as a “blogger” are those who attempt to belittle my work.
If you are looking for respect, name calling is not a good opener. And now that you know the difference between a blogger and a publisher, whatever you call me next will speak to your intention.
4. No smear campaign here
Lastly, I would like to address your accusation of this being a smear campaign. Yes, I have issues with some of the decisions made by Council. That’s called being critical. A good democracy is one where authority can (and must) be questioned.
If I wanted to run a smear campaign, it would be dead easy. I have information that certain people at the District would not want to see published. It would not be defamatory, as it is all verifiable factual. I have not published said information, because as far as I can see, it is not relevant to the story of Sooke. One day it might be. Or, it may never be. Time will tell.
I appreciate that you are a champion of the current CAO. I recognize that there are always different sides to every story, as well as to every person. Keep up the good work! Loyalty is a valued quality in any friend.
If you don’t like the information being published on SPN, don’t read it.
If you wish to present another view, I welcome it. As you can see, I have not deleted your comments. I have published articles from DOS staff that accuse me of some pretty outlandish stuff, but they have the right to their views. So it gets published. I will only remove something if it’s defamatory or if it contains unacceptable language. All SPN policies are published, if you wish to further examine the publishing standards.
I do strongly recommend, though, that you rise above name calling, as it automatically weakens your presentation.
I also recommend that when you make an accusation, let it be grounded in fact. Today’s article was not a comparison of numbers, it was a presentation of numbers from the past decade in Sooke. It was not a directive on how to interpret those numbers, it was a presentation of numbers. The numbers were raw and real.
And lastly, this was not a smear campaign. If and when I choose to publish my investigative findings, it will be unmistakably apparent and direct. If I publish anything, it will be relevant and meaningful to Sooke. If I publish anything, it will be verifiable fact.
Britt Santowski, BA, MA
Publisher, Sooke PocketNews
(a rose by any other name…)