Heritage Sure Does Gets People Talking

Last night, I attended an event organized by the local branch of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario about the Wilson-Ingram farmhouse, a north-end heritage asset on the brink of an uncertain end.  It was billed as an opportunity to “celebrate” and “explore ways to secure its future.”

It certainly was that.  With well over 50 people in attendance, the event began with a slideshow of historic and current images of the Wilson-Ingram farm property.   The show was choreographed by David J. Knight, a professional archaelogist, who grew up on the northern edge of the city and friend of the Ingram family who lived on the property until 2006.  Many of the historic photos were supplied to him by the Ingram family, which he compiled and set to an earthy and echoing sound track featuring cicadas, crickets and cows.

Knight’s visual and audio gift was followed by a presentation and active discussion on one possible future vision of the farmhouse as a community centre.  Ben Barclay, who led the creation of K-W’s REEP House project, described a vision of what he has done in the past to convert historic homes (in worse or similar condition to the Wilson-Ingram farmhouse) into showpiece demonstrations of energy retrofits.  He further described how such a home could host “community enterprise” uses and announced that the Trillium Waldorf school has already submitted a letter expressing interest in leasing space.

All in all, it was a positive and interactive event.

You would never know it by the Guelph Mercury coverage the next day.   Here’s the link to the Mercury article.   Headline:  “Farmhouse’s former owner says it’s not worth saving”. 

Normally, I would post the article link and leave it at that.   But I am more keenly aware of how the media reports things during an election year, and 2014 just happens to be one.   The coverage of the ACO event by the Mercury was a great illustrative example of how to create a headline on an issue of political interest.    Heritage demolition is one of those issues that gets people riled up, for and against.

Balanced reporting is essential to balanced debate. 

Journalism is the balanced reporting of facts and public and/or expert opinion on an issue.  Editorials offer the personal musings and perspectives of the reporter.

Consider the following:

  1. Jack Ingram, who sold the property for development, was NOT in attendance at this event. *
  2. Jack’s brother’s wife and her two daughters WERE in attendance, and are supportive of a renewed life for their former home. *
  3. Jack rented the house to his brother and his family who lived in it for over 35 years until 2006 (not 2001 which keeps being  reported). *
  4. Three city councillors were in attendance, one who supports demolition and two who support retention and reuse.  Which one was quoted in the article?

* Source:  David J. Knight, who presented at last night’s meeting.

In response to a tweet I sent out this morning expressing my disappointment on the biased coverage, Mercury reporter Chris Herhalt responded “Yes, the ambiance of the evening is *far* more important than what everyone thinks about what ought to be done”  and… “and we reported on, at length, the most developed plan for the farmhouse’s future, which was presented that night.”

“Everyone”?  “At length”?    I must be missing something.


One thought on “Heritage Sure Does Gets People Talking

  1. Thanks, Councillor Piper, for your clear explanation of the problems of the reporting of the evening.
    David Knight, Ben Barclay and executive of the Guelph and Wellington Branch of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario put a lot of work into organizing and presenting the evening of exploration.
    We wanted it to be a positive presentation of heritage stories and future thinking. I spent an hour the previous day with the reporter. Yet, the Mercury did not even attend the meeting. The resulting report did not factually reflect the events, and that’s why we are upset.

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