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Subject: The Jeff Outhit Challenge

Dear Ms. Haddrall,

I am writing today to ask you to assign Jeff Outhit to accept my challenge to him. He has declined. I don’t understand why a columnist/reporter focused on transportation would turn down the opportunity to explore transportation options that are not a part of his current practice but which are increasingly being made by others such as myself. Changing people’s behaviours and choices are mandatory if Waterloo Region is to enjoy sustainable growth. I believe it is reasonable to expect Jeff Outhit to have first hand experience with alternatives to owning his own car.

If I had your role, I would make different choices since while transportation issues are important I don’t see them as being more important than many other issues facing our local governments that lack a weekly column. Being a longtime Record reader and subscriber, I would prefer to have a daily column on a wide range of local issues located on the front of the local section as the paper has had over the years. I welcome adding Luisa D’Amato’s occasional columns but wish she had a dedicated, regular column as she has had before. But I recognize that I am not Editor-In-Chief.

Your choice is to have a dedicated transportation columnist/reporter. I would suggest that right now, the perception is that the Record has a pro-car, anti-public transit columnist/reporter who has difficulty seeing life without being able to drive a car whenever he desires. I can’t believe that was your intent when you decided to feature this issue. So let’s have Jeff Outhit broaden his horizons and see if he can live without his car for 30 days.

I’d be happy to consider modifying the challenge if that would help. A shorter time period could be considered though I deliberately picked 30 days since I think that length is best so that he can truly experience a changed mindset. I also don’t expect the challenge to start immediately.

I can assure you that I am not alone in challenging Mr. Outhit. Interest in my post challenging him has been huge by the standards of a modest blog that focuses on Kitchener and Waterloo Region. I have been described as a prolific blogger so I believe it is significant that inn two days, it ranks in my top ten posts for the past 12 months–and is clearly the most read in the past three months. In addition to the comments on my post, local folks on Twitter have been very supportive of the challenge as evidenced use of the #Outhit hashtag.

I encourage people to use the comment section below to co-sign this letter.

I believe that the Record’s credibility on transportation issues is at stake if this challenge is declined. If that happens, you might consider stopping the sale of papers on buses and  in favour of putting boxes along the expressway so that drivers can read it when they are stuck in traffic.

Please assign Mr. Outhit to accept this challenge. I look forward to your response. Feel free to use the comment section below.


James Howe

The Record’s response to the Outhit Challenge

106 thoughts on “Letter to the editor: Lynn Haddrall

    1. I’d like Jeff Outhit (and Ms. Haddrall, and really everyone) to take up James Howe’s challenge. Walk/bike/bus/carpool/CARSHARE! in my shoes for 30 days and I promise you’ll be hooked!

      1. Judging by the silence from the Record, I don’t think my letter is going to be published by them, (editorial page editor John Roe usually calls me within a few hours of my sending an email if he plans on running it), but it’s been getting lots of attention still on my blog. Your challenge is too good to be ignored!

        1. Sorry to hear you haven’t received your normal quick turn around. Hopefully, it’ll still make it to print. These posts have been huge here. As of this morning 20 people had co-signed the letter and there have been many more since then. I don’t see this challenge as being something that the paper can successfully ignore.

  1. The Record ought to be eating this kind of interaction up!

    I, Daisy Arseneault, support the #Outhit challenge for the modern Waterloo Region perspective and cutting edge media engagement from The Record.

    Carry on James Howe! 😉

  2. I fully support James’ initiative! I think our local transportation reporter needs a fresh perspective on the pros and cons of all the kinds of transportation available in this region, not just the one that suits him the best.

    Also, please more columns on our local health care, downtown core and poverty issues! One reason I love the Waterloo Chronicle is because it’s all about us… The Record should be focusing more on the community that supports it.

  3. Glad to get behind this call – I think a 30 day challenge would not only be well within his mandate, but would create a great set of stories and encourage this kind of engagement with the Record. At the very least, I expect and request a clear explanation from him as to why this is not relevant work for him to tackle.

    1. Thanks Eric! I love the phrase “well within his mandate.” I think that sums up very nicely what I was trying to say. I appreciate your call for an explanation if the challenge is not assigned or accepted too.

    1. I have been told that Justin. I still felt it was appropriate to send my letter to Ms. Haddrall in her capacity as Editor-In-Chief. She has forwarded it to Jeff Outhit’s editor and the paper’s managing editor. I hope that the Record will accept this request that I have initiated and many others have co-signed. I would encourage you to do the same. The more visible support their is for this request, the harder it will be to ignore or decline.

    2. If they’re smart about this and assign him to the job, it would certainly help them to demonstrate that their working relationship does not result in favouritism. (On the other hand, if they don’t, it would only serve to increase our distrust of their editorial judgement…)

      1. Thanks for sharing your opinions Don. However, I am deliberately not going there. I trust the professionals at the Record to deal with that angle appropriately. My intent is to get Mr. Outhit to experience life without his own car and since he didn’t willingly accept that his superiors assign him to tackle it as part of his job. Ms. Haddrall has forwarded my e-mail to her to the City Editor and Managing Editor. I look forward to their response.

  4. I think it makes a lot of sense for a transportation columnist to explore different modes of transportation. A lot of people in Waterloo Region don’t have cars. It wouldn’t hurt to try going without a car for a month, and writing about the experience for readers of the paper.

    1. Thanks for your support Dave. You make a good point. As you know, there are people without cars because they can not afford one. From that angle alone, the challenge is worthwhile for a transportation columnist.

  5. I fully support your 30-day challenge to Jeff Outhit. I hope The Record will, as well. In fact, one would think the folks at The Record would be a little embarrassed for not thinking of it themselves sooner. Thanks, James, and good luck!

    – Branden Wesseling

  6. As one who doesn’t own a car, I especially support this. There are so many alternative methods of transportation other than owning a car – bike, walking, bus, car share, car pooling, and hopefully LRT. It seems silly to me that someone labelled a transportation columnist would focus soley on one form of transportation. This person should either expand their horizons or change their title to automobile columnist (guess which option I prefer).

  7. As a prolific blogger you should know the word in doesn’t have 2 n’s unless you are staying there.
    I have been described as a prolific blogger so I believe it is significant that inn two days, it ranks in my top ten posts for the past 12 months–and is clearly the most read in the past three months. In addition to the comments on my post, local folks on Twitter have been very supportive of the challenge as evidenced use of the #Outhit hashtag.

  8. I fully support this initiative as it will bring much needed public awareness about the reality that one can survive without the daily luxury of a vehicle. I very much enjoy my daily commutes on the GRT. It’s always fun to bump into people that I know and let someone else be my chauffeur.

  9. I think this is an excellent challenge. If Outhit declines, I would like to see a public reason why as a transportation columnist he can only use 1 type of transportation (his car).

  10. I fully endorse James Howe’s challenge to Jeff #Outhit. I have to wonder how seriously Mr. Outhit takes issues of public transportation when he is not prepared to experience the world from the perspective of somebody who relies on public transportation on a daily basis. I imagine that it’s like trying to write a travel guide about a place one has never visited.

  11. I’m with you. This region pimps itself all over the world, meantime I commute 41/2 hours a day (when I’m not living in London, UK) because KW cannot & will not shift from its backward (or futurist ?) but not present based, mindset.

  12. My household has survived over a decade in suburban Kitchener without owning a vehicle (or even a driver’s licence). It has had its challenges, but I don’t think we’d reverse the decision if given the choice. As a result, I’m very happy to support a transportation columnist seeing how such a lifestyle can work in our region. This initiative has my full support.

    1. Thanks for the support Kevin. I also appreciate hearing about your personal experience and agree it helps show the relevance of having a transportation columnist/reporter experience life without having the default choice of a car always available.

  13. It would be great to see a transit columnist and reporter regularly using the services he critiques; one would think this should be a requirement. I hope that The Record takes their journalistic responsibilities serious enough to consider this idea.

    1. Thanks for agreeing Andrew that if you think it is important enough to have a transportation columnist that it is important the columnist has experience using other forms of transportation.

  14. As someone that has ditched his car for public transit, I would love for Jeff to experience this very realistic possibility for himself.

  15. I would suggest that Jeff should try public transit for a month in the summer while university students are out of town, and again for a month in the winter to experience what its like to wait at a bus stop when its -10 outside. One doesn’t truly appreciate Quality of service and Frequency of service unless they have waited for a bus to show up in the middle of winter!

  16. I support this challenge. If KW wishes to continue to grow, it seems foolish to have a newspaper that encourages readers in a small-town mindset towards transportation. I would however suggest that, as we are only a medium-sized city, if Mr. Outhit finds going car-free too difficult, that he attempt instead to add transit to his mix. Perhaps he could try living like a big-city professional: transit for going to work or going out in the evenings, but still using a car for errands that are out of the way. (Although it may seem that way, cars aren’t just for poor people)

    1. I agree completely Christine! While there is a lot of talk in the comments about public transit, my challenge was not limited to public transit. I also said he could use his spouse’s car when she was not, use Grand River Carshare, carpool, cycle, walk, etc. Thanks for your support.

  17. James and others,

    Mr Outhit needs our support. Let’s all take the 30 day challenge right alongside him and share our collective challenges and successes. Would those that have signed on to your campaign give up their cars for 30 days? Yes, I’m aware of and applaud those above who are car free, but the rest of the fine folks here might consider it. It could be a ‘Since Outhit Won’t, We Will’ campaign.

    Let’s make buttons with the #outhit hashtag and when people ask about it, we can champion the cause and call out The Record for its dismal transportation coverage.


    1. You make a good suggestion. I’ve already heard from one volunteer who will take the challenge whether Mr. Outhit does or not. More would be welcome.But hes is not off the hook even if no on else takes the challenge because none of them are the region’s major newspaper’s transportation columnist/reporter.

  18. I also co-sign this call for Jeff Outhit to take up the challenge to give up his car for 30 days. I live this “challenge” every day, and I’m not some student or lower-income person, I’m a 7-year technology professional working at a local startup.

    I applaud ZS’s suggestion to have more people drop their cars for 30 days. Great idea!

    Eric Gerlach

  19. I too co-sign! I work at Conestoga College (Doon Campus) and live in the East Ward of Kitchener. Although my wife and I have two vehicles, I decided to start riding the bus to work in September. I would LOVE to hear Outhit’s opinion on our “adequate” transit system.

    Great idea James!

  20. I totally support your (James Howe’s) challenge to Jeff Outhit. I’m one of the few students who drives a car (share the car between my mom and my brother), but in a city where a huge chunk of the population is made up of students I would like to see way more (and better) options for people who do not have the choice, consciously or not, to use a car. When driving, I’ve seen many bike lanes just abruptly end – and I don’t understand this. Many of my friends who cycle to work or school say that switching from a bike lane to riding on the side of the road can be scary.. and this mindset is appropriate, considering most debates I see in The Record are by drivers in this region who think they own the road, and that other methods of transportation are just hogging their space. We need to expand our options and help users of other kinds of transportations feel safe!

    1. Thank you for supporting the Jeff Outhit Challenge. Thanks also for sharing some of your own observations. There’s still a lot of work to be done to help people get around easily without cars but on the other hand, Waterloo Region has already come a long way.

  21. James,

    You have my support in this endeavor. I believe 30 days of Jeff riding local transit might give him some new perspective on those who don’t have the luxury of owning an automobile.

    1. Thanks for supporting the challenge David. You’re right that is a possible outcome of accepting it. I’m also hoping he’d see a diversity of people when he’s on public transit.

    1. Thanks for the support Matt. I also appreciate taking the initiative to write to Mr. Outhit directly. I know at least one other person has written a “Letter to the Editor” for the paper to publish.

      1. We’re now up to 30 people who have co-signed this letter–31 including me! Please keep signing. The Record has not responded yet. The more signatures this letter has the harder it will be to decline the challenge.

  22. I fully support the #Outhit challenge. I’ve never owned a car. In 2010 we had a child and decided to continue not owning a car as long as we could. All is going well, between Grand River Carshare, the bus, lots of walking and biking and car rentals for long trips. The Record should offer regular acknowledgement that either using your car less or ditching it altogether are viable, healthy options and a growing reality for folks in Waterloo Region.

    1. I agree especially if you are both the transportation columnist and reporter for a major media outlet. Living without your car for 30 days isn’t asking for too much for someone in that role who has a limited experience about the other options available.

  23. I fully support the suggestion that Mr. Outhit take up this challenge. After not biking for 30 years, I started cycling for reasons of conviction 8 years ago and currently bike and bus year-round. I don’t find this easy, and frequently feel unsafe, but have made a commitment to do this as long as I am able. Mr. Outhit could benefit from being challenged in this way.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story Steve. You’re bang on that there are benefits to living without your own car or going from a two car family to a one car family–and that’s exactly what I’m hoping Mr. Outhit is able to discover through the challenge.

      1. We’re now up to 39 people plus me. Thanks for your support. Please help to continue to spread the word. We’re still waiting for a response from the Record.

  24. I am not sure if you have counted me yet, but I support this and think it would be an interesting read. I have been having a tough time with the anti-transit, pro-car narrative that is consistently in Record articles.

    James, thanks for leading this initiative!

  25. Thanks for this James. Having a transportation reporter fully cognizant of the benefits and challenges of alternative transit methods just speaks to good reporting, and a full month of carless-ness would be a great way for a key Record columnist/reporter to demonstrate his commitment to good reporting. As one of last year’s Community Ed Board writers, I’d love to see a more well-rounded perspective on transportation in the Record.

    1. Thanks for your support Sean. I know you have given lots of thought to this sort of issue. I will point out though that I’m not calling for a month without using a car–just not his own. He can carpool, use carshare and even use his wife’s car when she is not using it. Pretty generous terms but a mix that reflects a different way of living.

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