At the end of March I hurried back from my at-home vacation with a story – the McBarge was no longer in Burnaby waters.
I had written a story in 2010 on developer Howard Meakin’s struggle to get approval from Mission city council for his restaurant development, Sturgeon’s on the River, which includes the former Friendship 500 McDonald’s restaurant in the design.
When Mission council approved his plans at the end of January this year, stories popped up about the project going ahead. I didn’t want to reiterate what everyone else was doing, so I decided to wait a do a story once the McBarge was set to leave the area outside Burnaby, in Burrard Inlet, where it has been floating for two decades.
So I went hunting for the McBarge with my son one day at the end of March, at about 5 p.m. We had walked the trails in North Burnaby for years, and though it had been more than a year since I’d last seen the McBarge on one of our walks, I thought I knew where we’d spotted it before – while walking along the trails and beach adjacent to the Chevron Refinery.
We drove along the edge of North Burnaby, stopping at the end of Gilmore Avenue to make sure we couldn’t see the McBarge from there. We couldn’t. Then we walked through the dog trails of Confederation Park, looking from every vantage point for the McBarge. We went down to the beach, but I chose not to take him across the railroad tracks, as that part of the beach is cordoned off by Chevron due to its oil seepage problems.
We walked as far east as we could on the trail, going to the edges of embankments to see if we could spot the McBarge from above. I didn’t see it. And so I wrote the story – the McBarge had left Burnaby.
Except that it hadn’t.
The story was a lazy piece of journalism based on a visual assumption. I should not have said in the original story that the McBarge had left Burnaby unless I could confirm it – either by combing every inch of shoreline from Boundary to Port Moody or by confirming it with the developer. I wasn’t able to track Meakin down in time for the piece, so I chose to go with it as is, and that was a mistake.
I have received calls and emails from concerned readers – and the developer – this week regarding the story, and I have apologized for the error. But I’d also like to publicly apologize to anyone who was misled by the article.
For the record, the developer and a NOW reader have confirmed the McBarge is still in Burnaby waters – it is down from Penzance Drive, east of where I was looking for it.
While I currently feel like a complete dummy for this particular mistake, I intend to learn from it and use it to encourage me to be more responsible, double- and triple-checking facts, and making sure I source everything I report before it goes to print.
Again, my apologies for the error. I promise to do better in the future.