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Chronicled: How my take on Cape Breton golf ended up in a paper on strike

The 16th at Cabot Cliffs is one of the country's most visually stunning holes.

The 16th at Cabot Cliffs is one of the country’s most visually stunning holes.

I’ll say that as far as I know I haven’t worked at a paper with a union. Scratch that–I was part of the Niagara Falls-Review early in my career and they were unionized. Not that I noticed. But the National Post was never unionized—in fact it became part of a joke at the paper, the notion of what we’d do that would have received a union reprimand.

However, with journalism under attack in Canada, I draw the line at using replacement reporters. It works as well as using replacement players in the NFL. In other words it is a mess, never really works out, and those who take the work during a strike are usually not good enough to work in a newsroom otherwise.

Today my Linkedin page notified me I was referenced in Halifax Chronicle-Herald on a story about Cabot Links and the rise of golf in Nova Scotia. I was a little surprised—I couldn’t actually recall having given an interview in recent memory on the subject.

Here’s the quote:

Veteran golf writer and columnist Robert Thompson of Toronto, who has traveled the globe writing about and playing golf, calls Golf Digest’s selection of the Cliffs and Brunello as “pretty positive” for both of them.

Thompson has particularly high praise for Cabot Cliffs and Cape Breton golf in general.

“I think people are starting to take notice now,” he said in an interview. “I think Cabot Links was a curiosity but Cabot Cliffs elevates it to a whole other level.”

He said Brunello would be exceptional on a “local” scale while Cabot Cliffs and Cabot Links are “exceptional on a world scale. When you put Cabot Cliffs and Cabot Links together with the $2.5 million investment GolfNorth is putting into The Highlands Links, that’s a pretty compelling argument that Cape Breton is one of the great golf destinations in the world,” he said.

Thompson has played in Scotland, Ireland and Wales where the courses were average in design but the scenery was spectacular.

“The key to the Cliffs,” he said, “is that it has both a spectacular course and spectacular scenery.”

For the life of me I couldn’t recall talking about this. I searched a couple of month’s of emails and no luck. And for the record, the comment about “Scotland, Ireland and Wales, where the courses were average in design, but the scenery was spectacular,” is not the context I would have placed on it anyway. There are courses like that—Nefyn in Wales, Old Head in Ireland–but that’s not the point. I’d say Cabot Cliffs is akin to the great courses that have opened there in recent years—Kingsbarns, Trump International, Castle Stuart.

Anyway, my concern was the story appears in the middle of a reporters’ strike. I wouldn’t have given an interview to anyone from the paper during a strike, but the story appeared anyway.

I searched my email and couldn’t find anything, so on Twitter I reached out to Brian Ward, the Chronicle’s “vice-president, news,” which I can only assume is an editor’s position. As an aside, the demise of newspapers will surely be linked to giving out titles like “vice-president, news.”

To Ward’s credit he eventually called my office to explain what occurred. The story, he said, was submitted some months ago, was getting stale, and they put a fresh spin on it with Golf Digest’s World Course ratings that pegged Cabot Cliffs at 19. The interviews for the piece, Ward explained, were done in November.

November? I searched my email and found a note from a sports writer on the East Coast at the end of the month who had inquired about my perspective on Cape Breton golf. I did a short interview—I don’t recall if the reporter told me where the story was appearing—and didn’t think about it again. It is easy to forget speaking about something three months in the past.

“I’m sorry the story put you in a difficult position,” the reporter said in an email. “I filed it Dec. 1 and negotiations were still ongoing. I never thought they would hold the story so long. The strike didn’t happen until Jan. 23. Again I apologize.”

The union says the paper has been banking stories to use in a job action, which is likely what this was. Whether the writer knew that or not, I can’t say.

The news business is being assaulted by small-minded so-called “businessmen” who have no vision for what the future holds or how to deal with it. All they do is slash and burn and hope someone is interested in the product that remains. Not surprisingly, readers usually aren’t.

I wish the best to the Chronicle-Herald workers who are out on strike, and I wish the story with my quotes in it had never appeared in the paper during their job action. For that I apologize.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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