Insult and injury
Enough is enough. I’m fed up to the teeth with the dishonest war against the news media and the ill-informed fools who goosestep their belief in and support for it.
We cannot let the dimwits who repeatedly smear important journalism with that fecal label “Fake News” continue to get away with it. It is insulting to the thousands of women and men who work long hours, many for small pay and thin benefits, to observe and report on our lives and times.
It is an insult to me personally, one of a group of family members who have spent their lives helping to provide our fellow citizens with accurate and fair news. Also, it is becoming dangerous.
A free press, or more accurately these days, professional and independent news distribution, is the foundation of any democracy. Without it the cancers of manipulation and misinformation hollow and weaken our social structures like termites tunnelling through support walls.
Enemy of the people, eh? Was Sy Hersh, the reporter who uncovered the U.S. Army’s 1968 slaughter of innocent women and children at Mai Lai, Vietnam, the enemy? His reporting turned U.S. public opinion against the Vietnam War, now seen as one of America’s most disastrous mistakes.
Was reporting the mercury contamination of the English-Wabigoon River system in northwestern Ontario fake news? Visit the gravesites of Indigenous people who died of Minamata, the neurological syndrome caused by mercury poisoning, and ask them.
Every day there are professional pieces of accurate news reporting that inform and enlighten citizens to help them understand and therefore improve our society. Yet every day media outlets reporting the news take more abuses that weaken them and eventually will sink them.
The abuse comes from several directions. Many politicians downgrade professional journalism because it often reveals their follies and mistakes. The best example today is the vainglorious U.S. president with his agenda to denigrate and destroy legacy media outlets because they report the truth of who he really is.
One of the most severe hits on traditional news media has come from the popularity explosion of social media sites. News can be reported now by anyone with a keyboard connected to the Internet but it lacks the veracity provided by professional journalism training and editors who demand fact checks, honesty, balance and fairness.
Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are filled with false news. And because it is sensational, it moves faster and through more people, than real news.
Another hit comes from the general population, which never has made the effort to develop a full understanding of journalism, its importance and its workings.
These hits are killing legitimate, serious news organizations, and therefore our democracy. Reporting and editing staffs are being reduced and the number of working journalists is falling year by year.
Newspapers are closing. Guelph, Barrie, Orillia, Moose Jaw, and Peterborough no longer have daily newspapers. Other dailies in other cities will be shuttered within the next year or two.
Canadian daily newspaper revenues from classified advertising fell from $875 million in 2005 to $119 million in 2015, according to The Shattered Mirror, a 2017 report by the Public Policy Forum.
The same report noted that in 1950 there were 102 newspapers sold for every 100 Canadian households. That figure dropped to 18 for every 100 households in 2015 and is projected to fall to two per 100 households within the next few years.
In short, in Canada, the U.S. and other places around the world there are fewer professional news businesses making enough revenue to pay and support professional journalists to observe and report the critical stories of our times.
Part of the blame for all this rests with news organizations themselves, which have been too caught up in the past to create innovative approaches required by the huge changes of the last three or four decades.
Traditional news businesses stagnate while innovators create powerful and profitable companies like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
Even news gathering thinking is living in the past. Too many newsrooms continue to worship the scoop – getting the news before anybody else. That’s an ego thing that should have died with the screwball comedy stage play and film The Front Page.