Editor’s Note: Steve Marshall is the co-publisher of MetroVan Independent News. He also has an online blog called Driven2Action.com where he shares some of his experiences in dealing with the Filipino-Canadian community in Vancouver.
There are all sorts of stories going around as to why MetroVan Independent News is currently only online and no longer in print. I discovered that some sources of these stories was allegedly coming from some of our competitors in the Filipino-Canadian media, in particular Zeala Cortes, and Rey Fortaleza.
Right now, I will address the rumours and be open about the truth behind why MetroVan Independent News is no longer printing. I will also disclose responses from Zeala Cortes and Rey Fortaleza after I directly challenged each of them on the rumours they were allegedly spreading around the community.
First, the official answer. Why is MetroVan Independent News no longer in print? Because I stopped the printing. On May 3, 2016, I sent an email to our printer informing them of our decision. They responded “… And are sad that you decide not to continue the printing version… Please let us know once you want to come back to the papers world again. Working with you guys is a great experience!”
When we got back from our cross Canada – Hope Beyond Thunderdome Tour, I was hearing the following baseless allegations around the community:
- We couldn’t print anymore because of the article we wrote Transparency Remains an Issue in Ethnic Filipino Canadian Media.
- That I was in big trouble for taking pictures of other newspapers’ stacks and exposing the total amount I saw printed.
- Some of the media we included in the article we’re going to sue us.
- I wouldn’t sit down with Rey Fortaleza to go over our differences.
- We are the laughing stock of the community.
When I heard these unsubstantiated allegations, I contacted Zeala Cortes and Rey Fortaleza by email to give them the opportunity to comment, prior to me writing this article. Here’s how it went.
DISCLOSURE – Zeala Cortez, who along with her husband Francisco “Jun” Cortes (of CNM Communications, Filipino Star Magazine and Easy Padala), stepped into our world a few years back with an eagerness to “help” with our many businesses. At first, we thought this business relationship could work out. However, things took a turn when Zeala attempted to control too many aspects of our businesses. We made the decision to part ways with the Cortes’s before they got too involved in any of our businesses. We have had nothing to do with them ever since then.
After Luisa Marshall and myself returned from our Canada-wide tour raising funds and awareness for PTSD, someone told me that Kimwell del Rosario said that we are the laughing stock of the community because MetroVan Independent News can’t print anymore in part as a result of our taking pictures to support the article Transparency Remains an Issue in Ethnic Filipino Canadian Media.
Not one to jump to conclusions or believe in rumours, I immediately phoned Kimwell myself and asked him about why he said “The community is laughing at us because we took pictures and that Vanstar stopped our print.” Kimwell stated “that’s what I heard” then later revealed he heard it from his new employer, Zeala Cortes of CNN Communications.
Aside from Zeala’s own employee, Kimwell, telling me she is making these statements about us, we also heard others alleging they heard similar stories from her.
I emailed Zeala Cortes and questioned her about these allegations with the following email:
“Hello Jun and Zeala,
I was disappointed to come back and hear that you are telling people that we are not printing because the printer stopped our printing because of our Transparency remains an issue in the Ethnic Filipino-Canadian Media article. What makes you think that happened?”…
ZEALA CORTES’ select assorted answers throughout multiple emails from her:
“we have neither have the time nor the energy to entertain all these petty issues… We don’t give a sh*t about you and your wife Steve…Please don’t bug me again because you are a total waste of time…If I think you’re an asshole and your show is shit, I can say so to whoever I want, as many times as I want…We call this petty because, really in the overall scheme of things, you and your wife are just trying to fill your insatiable negative egos…”
Her response was completely off topic and didn’t address the issue at all. Then Zeala all of a sudden cc’d multiple media people in our email communication and she carried on…
“Steve – I don’t know how to break this down even more for you …I don’t care what the peanut gallery says and I don’t care if someone’s sister told her auntie who told you I said something. I don’t care Steve because as we’ve been saying from the very beginning, we don’t have time for these petty issues…”
I challenged Zeala about these serious allegations and she thinks they are petty. I take it very seriously when someone makes unsubstantiated allegations against us in the community that could be damaging to our reputation and businesses.
Near the end of our emails I wrote to Zeala Cortes “Do you have any evidence to back up your statement that Vanstar stopped our printing? Zeala, that is a pretty straightforward and simple question that you should be able to understand and reply to WITHOUT going off topic and going in all sorts of different directions.”
The only thing she could say in the end was “The next reply you will receive will be from my lawyer asking you to kindly stop harassing me.”
As I suspected, she has no evidence to back up her alleged statement. And I haven’t to date, received an email from her lawyer.
DISCLOSURE – We have had issues in the past with Rey and Cely Fortaleza (ReyFort Media Group, Philippine News Today (PNT), Philippine Showbiz Today, Philippine News Canada (PNC), Balitang Vancouver TV) with ongoing issues going back years. I put these issues on the site Driven2Action.com when we didn’t have a newspaper and reported on them in our newspaper Transparency Remains an Issue in Ethnic Filipino Canadian Media and Reyfort Media Group trying to use a ghost association.
In the past, Rey Fortaleza wrote an article naming me in his newspaper publication Philippine News Today (PNT) that didn’t make sense to me. When I challenged him regarding what he wrote about me, he wouldn’t answer my questions about the article. The article Fortaleza published about me was titled Publisher Hit for undermining efforts to unite community. The title insinuates I was “Hit”, so I asked Fortaleza how I was hit and he had no answer. In my opinion, It was actually only him doing the “hitting.” Rey Fortaleza did not abide by proper journalism to give me a chance to comment to his article that names me publicly. Before I wrote this article, I gave Rey Fortaleza the courtesy to answer my allegations before I wrote it. Unfortunately, neither Rey or his wife Cely Fortaleza had any answers.
I heard about the latest things Rey Fortaleza allegedly said about us. Things like they were going to sue me, that we can’t print anymore and that I wouldn’t meet with him. So I confronted Rey. I emailed him and asked about these baseless accusations. Instead of Rey responding back to me, his wife Cely emailed me a response that didn’t answer any of my questions and instead accused me of another baseless accusation.
Some people have even told me that Fortaleza talks about us non-stop. Here is some highlights of our conversation when I emailed Rey Fortaleza.
FIRST EMAIL TO REY FORTALEZA
You have told people that you were willing to talk to me but I didn’t want to. That is untrue as you can clearly see in our emails. Please forward any evidence you have to prove otherwise.
You are telling people that some of you in the media group are going to sue me over my Transparency Article. That appears not to be true. Do you realize if you sued me the first step in court proceedings are “discovery”. During discovery we each get to demand proof of things from each other. For example, I would get the court to obtain your print records going back years. If you didn’t actually print 10,000 copies weekly as you say you did this info would now be included in Supreme Court documents for all to see. If you tell people you are going to sue its best to do it. Don’t go around telling people you are going to sue me just to make it look like I may have done something wrong. It may backfire on you.
You told people I can’t print at Vanstar. That is untrue also. I’m still printing at Vanstar.”
Instead of Rey Fortaleza responding back to my email, his wife, Cely, answered for him. Cely seemed to want an audience, so she cc’d our newspaper printer in the conversation even though they had nothing to do with our issues.
This is Cely’s email response to my questions (with our printer suddenly included and cc’d):
“OMG Steve, you really don’t want to stop! Leave us alone! Concentrate on what you’re doing! We’ve been trying to be patient with your guys!!! It’s you who’s doing illegal things!!! LEAVE US ALONE!”
Instead of answering anything, Cely now accuses me of “doing illegal things.”
I RESPONDED BACK TO CELY FORTALEZA WITH THE FOLLOWING EMAIL (compressed selected notes):
“…I keep hearing from people that Rey keeps saying things about us so I’m going to do something about it. …You guys aren’t even on my radar until I hear Rey is still talking bad about us…Cely, the fact is, it is you and Rey that won’t stop. Do you remember BUSTED BOMBA NEWS? Even before you did BUSTED BOMBA NEWS we had already been trying to have a discussion with you. Your own close friends were trying to get you to talk to us but you didn’t. Instead of talking to us you put Luisa on the front page of your newspaper for no reason whatsoever in BUSTED BOMBA NEWS ? Do you remember PUBLISHER HIT? That made no sense and had no facts? Do you remember KONSENSYANG PINOY all over your Facebook with everyone attacking Luisa personally and you liking and allowing that? This I would consider a most unprofessional act. Do you remember the attacks against us from your defunct Joey Albert Show years ago?
What did Luisa ever do to you? She only supported you for years until you included her in BUSTED BOMBA NEWS… On top of all this you are now stating that I am doing illegal things and cc’ing our printer. Let me know what illegal things that I’m doing.
CELY ANSWERED BACK
“GOD BLESS YOU!!!!”
That was all Cely could say. She didn’t answer any questions and didn’t forward any evidence to back up her statement that I’m doing “illegal things.” This is a pattern that I have experienced with Rey and Cely Fortaleza in the past. Instead of answering questions, they avoid my questions then add accusations or make more unsubstantiated statements or assumptions. I answered all their questions on the previous issue last year but they would not answer my questions at all.
I’ve tried to initiate communication to settle our differences, but Rey still refuses to meet with me face to face.
REALITY FACT CHECK:
- THE PRINTER NEVER STOPPED US FROM PRINTING OUR PAPER AT ANY TIME. The article Transparency remains an issue in the Ethnic Filipino-Canadian Media was posted on Feb 11/16. In March, we were still printing and printed on to April with no issues. On May 3/16 while touring across Canada, I emailed the printer and told them we will not be printing any more and will concentrate online for now. The printers return email to me was “… And are sad that you decide not to continue the printing version… Please let us know once you want to come back to the papers world again. Working with you guys is a great experience!”
- NOBODY HAS EVER SUED US. I was told that some of the media groups that I included in Transparency remains an issue in the Ethnic Filipino-Canadian Media got together and were preparing to sue us. We were never sued by anyone. I took a picture of the PNT newspaper pallet at the printers on Dec 10, 2015 after the PNT run and counted only about 3,500 copies whereas Reyfort advertised they printed 10,000 copies weekly. I challenged Rey Fortaleza to show proof of what he prints for the last year. He wouldn’t. Though after I challenged him, I noticed what appeared to be at least 3 to 4 times more newspaper copies than the last year suddenly being distributed at all our drops. He also started putting a sticker on his front page. “10,000 copies printed, guaranteed 24 issues a year.” I challenged publisher Rey Fortaleza by email again on January 29, 2016 to show what he has printed for the previous 12 months. Again, I received no response. Why would a newspaper hide what they are printing? For MetroVan Independent News, I would allow anyone to see what we printed at any time. I have nothing to hide.
- THERE WAS NO WRONGDOING WITH ME TAKING PICTURES. I still hear that members of the Filipino media keep bringing up the issue that I’m in trouble for taking pictures at our printers for proof that other Media wasn’t printing what they advertised. There was no prior instructions, written agreements, signs or any mention of not being able to take pictures at our printers. When community newspapers publicly boast how much they print to everyone, such as their advertisers or on their websites, then why would the same newspapers have issues with someone questioning them and asking for proof of the number of printed copies they print? What do they have to hide?
- I AM ALWAYS WILLING TO SIT DOWN AND TALK ABOUT ISSUES… WITH ANYONE. On Sept 8/2015, after a meeting with the Philippine Consulate, I shook Rey Fortaleza’s hand and agreed that we would have a meeting when we got back to town to discuss our differences. Once I did come back, Fortaleza kept coming up with excuses why he can’t talk to me. Instead, Fortaleza kept making more accusations against us without showing any evidence. One of the local media alleges Fortaleza says I’m the one that won’t sit down and talk with him. This is completely untrue. I have all the emails to prove it.
- WHY WE STOPPED THE PRINT VERSION OF METROVAN INDEPENDENT NEWS. We stopped the print version so we could concentrate on multiple new business and personal family opportunities. We did write about it and announce it on our website in an article “MetroVan Independent News focusing online.” We are still able to carry on working on the main thing that made us stand out from all the other media: our investigative reporting to help protect the Filipino community. That is something that was never looked after consistently in the past by any Filipino media that we know of. We will keep working on that and are working on 6 cases at this time. Stay tuned to MetroVan Independent News online!
ADVICE FOR ADVERTISERS IN PRINT MEDIA
If you are presently advertising or even have advertised in the past with any newspaper company, you have the right to ask them for proof of what they have been printing for as long as you have been faithfully paying them for advertising.
The only way to get the correct info is to ask for the print information to be emailed directly from the printer to you. Don’t take something from the newspaper itself that you advertise with as proof because they could cheat and change it. The info has to come directly from the printer themselves. If they won’t give it to you, look for another newspaper. If they did cheat you, ask for your money back or request free advertising to make up for the shortfall.
Even if you advertised for the last 5 years and stopped advertising, you can still ask for proof for when you advertised. You may have a lot of money owed and coming back to you or you may have some free advertising for a long time.