New Brunswick

Wafer story apology satisfies N.B. cabinet minister

New Brunswick's senior federal minister says he considers the wafergate saga over after the Saint John Telegraph-Journal's front-page apology to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and two of its own reporters on Tuesday.

New Brunswick's senior federal minister says he considers the communion wafer saga over after the Saint John Telegraph-Journal's front-page apology to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and two of its own reporters on Tuesday.

Irving-owned Brunswick News Inc.'s flagship newspaper apologized for inserting erroneous claims into a July 8 story that questioned whether Harper took communion at former governor general Roméo LeBlanc's state funeral.

Veteran Affairs Minister Greg Thompson accepted the apology

"That story was not accurate. It was not true, but the apology from the Telegraph-Journal was a full apology, unequivocal apology, and as far as we're concerned that's the end of the story," Thompson said.

"But it's not very often that any newspaper will apologize in headline form on their front page, so we respect the Telegraph-Journal and its people for doing that."

The fallout from the story has spread to the senior ranks of the Irving-owned newspaper.

Although calls to the Telegraph-Journal's parent company, Brunswick News, were not returned on Tuesday, CBC News confirmed that Jamie Irving, a member of the powerful industrialist family, will no longer be the newspaper's publisher and that Shawna Richer has been fired as its editor.

After the front-page apology on Tuesday, the newspaper made no reference to the controversy on Wednesday.

On the newspaper's masthead where it lists senior staff, Ron Barry is named managing editor and David Stonehouse is called a senior editor. There is no publisher named for the provincial newspaper.

Apology on same day as professors' boycott

The apology appeared the same day that a dozen professors from the University of New Brunswick, Mount Allison University and St. Thomas University issued a news release stating they will no longer talk to the newspaper because of its decision to fire a student intern.

In May, Matt McCann was fired after writing a story about a faculty protest against Premier Shawn Graham receiving an honorary degree from the University of New Brunswick.

Richer had said McCann's story was unbalanced and contained three errors.

The professors said they will reconsider the boycott when McCann graduates in 2010 or if he is reinstated at the Telegraph-Journal.

These were not the only embarrassing public disputes the newspaper has faced in recent months.

Saint John Mayor Ivan Court dared Irving to a debate and temporarily imposed his own ban on speaking to the Telegraph-Journal in January over his belief that the paper was too negative in its coverage of city hall.

Court then said in late June that Irving and several senior newspaper staff members had told him in a private meeting that if the city cut taxes and replaced its manager, the tone of city hall coverage would change.

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