Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

This big top has rings full of characters under tent

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The Lori Douglas inquisition blew into town as a circus with more rings than could ever be necessary.

There were tawdry sexual allegations, alleged blackmail, an unfathomable betrayal of a wife by her husband and a full complement of lawyers assigned to all parties, aggrieved or otherwise.

When you've got graphic porn, a sitting judge and a wistful interest in interracial sex in the same case, you know headlines will follow. There are now two Toronto newspaper columnists attending the inquiry daily, which is the sort of thing Winnipeggers use to assure themselves this really is A Big Thing.

The mainstream media (MSM), as we're now known to distinguish us from people who do this sort of thing for free and without editors, are out in full force. So is the fringe, alternative or wacky pseudo-journalistic gang. One blogger attempted to get standing early on at the inquiry, apparently believing his interest in the case was the same as "the public interest."

It now takes nothing more than an Internet connection to claim to be a "citizen journalist" from your basement, local library branch or jail. If you blog, you can pretend that's the same thing as reporting. If you tweet, you can imagine yourself a very concise Bob Woodward.

To be fair, there are many well-documented and crafted personal blogs and websites out there. To be frank, there are even more gibbering ramblings about conspiracies, government malfeasance and why the MSM should never be trusted.

(Exclamation points always follow, of course.)

The blogger was turned down, but added another ring under the big top.

Then there's Ron Pollock, bless his heart. He and his infamous sister Natalie, both former mayoral candidates and hosts of an 1980s gossip show that relied heavily on her breasts for ratings, now have what they call a "news channel" on YouTube.

Ron has been faithfully attending the inquiry. He told me the siblings have already covered Obama, the U.S. elections and gay marriage on their channel.

"He seems to be very remorseful," was his on-the-spot analysis of Jack King.

Not everyone in the gallery is media, mainstream or otherwise. Many are simply interested citizens with time on their hands.

Retired teacher Ralph Paul came out of curiosity and because his son is a lawyer at the firm where Douglas and King once worked. Paul invoked Pierre Trudeau, asking why the state is so closely examining the private behaviour of this couple.

Everyone in the courtroom knows King and Douglas never had sex in the morning, a fact that can surely do nothing to determine whether Douglas should remain on the bench.

Brian Havelock has been at the Phoenix Sinclair hearing, the Taman inquiry and now this show. He says it's "morbid curiosity" that brought him out.

"It's a tragedy, for sure, for the judge, for her family."

Kim Lee Wong says she lost custody of her children in a court battle when Douglas represented her ex-husband. She says Manitoba's justice system is flawed and hopes the ongoing inquisition of Douglas somehow rights the wrong Wong feels she has suffered.

There's the woman who offers continuous sotto voce commentary, generally focused on how this case is a "feminist issue." There's the accuser, Alex Chapman, a constant presence at the inquiry. There's a city police officer, usually bored out of his gourd.

It is a circus, complete with bloggers, YouTube artistes and MSM. Jack King was once the ringmaster of his sexual fantasy. No more. He's been reduced to riding around in a tiny car, taunted and poked at by the committee's own counsel. Those of us bearing witness have been cheapened by the experience.

Send in the clowns. Don't bother, they're here.

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 27, 2012 A3

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she has written for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business. She’ll get around to them some day.

Lindor has received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.
Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She has earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

She is married with four daughters. If her house was on fire and the kids and dog were safe, she’d grab her passport.
 
lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

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