“Democracy has become a government of bullies, tempered by editors” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

A strong statement and I think most would agree, an exact one. Particularly at this point in Canadian history.

Here we are, a couple of days after yet another federal election, and there are many who still are jubilant in victory, many who are angry in defeat, and even more who are licking their wounds like Gilles Duceppe and Michael Ignatieff.

It has also been a couple of days since Lumby mayor  Kevin Acton and council voted to go ahead with a bid for a prison in their village despite significant opposition, and yes, as with the federal election, some in Lumby are certainly jubilant. Even more, however, are channelling their anger to take the campaign against the prison to the provincial powers who make the decision. Defeat is not in their vocabulary.

Across Canada, and in the small village of Lumby, people are quite clearly divided. The lines have been drawn in absolutes in my opinion, with little middle ground to cover. And in my opinion, the media( or lack thereof ) played a strong role in both votes.

Call me foolish for thinking so, but I find it repugnant to open a paper and find an editorial endorsing a political party, or a certain candidate. Just as I find it equally abrasive to discover openly biased or absent journalism within those pages. Why? Because unfortunately, there is still a very large part of the population that believes papers and news outlets are unbiased and impartial when it comes to reporting. Those staunch hold-outs who honestly think advertisers, corporate influence and political pressure play no part in what we see in the pages of our daily news.

Ha!

When we live in a country where a bunch of corporate media types have the power to sit and decide who can participate in a pre-election debate, something is seriously wrong. When it is the media who has the power to decide what is important for me to hear, or not hear, something is wrong.

The art of crafting a story and presenting a certain view with an agenda is indeed a talent worthy of awards. Selective editing of photos, sound bites, statements and speeches can dramatically alter the truth, the facts and even the flavour of a story. Even more compelling is the timing of when a story is put to press, as in the case of the missing money and corruption in Surrey City  that was released at 8 pm, on a Friday night. During a Vancouver Canucks playoff game no less… accident? Not on your life. That’s called burying a  story and if it had been a less media adored mayor, that would have been all over the front page of the Province. But at least the CBC can say they actually posted the story… although it remains likely it went by the wayside in the rush of Canuck victory.

People are still talking about the Vancouver Sun’s editorial endorsement of Stephen Harper and the Conservatives  – ironic since many feel the press in general have a Liberal bias, which they certainly do  at the provincial level . Meaning the BC Liberals with a federal Conservative leaning are extremely happy at this electorial outcome. ( Kevin Falcon must be kicking his heels in glee! )

These endorsements place newspapers in a tough spot of explanation in my view. On one hand, I have had editors tell me in  a scornful manner that my accusation of political bias or influence is insulting, and the reason a certain news story did not run was because it wasn’t newsworthy, or there was a lack of space or it wasn’t relevent….and yet both our major papers have endorsed candidates/parties during election times- federal and provincial !  Newsflash, how much more biased can you get? A paper can’t play both sides and expect people to believe transparency and neutrality still exists when this happens.

Which brings me to the other issue facing many Canadians – particularly in small towns and villages like Lumby. A lack of press. True enough, there is a small community paper in Lumby, and they do get access to other news outlets like Vernon, Kamloops or Kelowna, but those papers are not likely to have the budget for investigative reporting, leaning on the most basic reports. They also tend to have relationships with advertisers and companies that would make it prohibative to offend a particular audience with certain styles of reporting. Even here in Surrey, one of our local community papers is pretty much the mayors personal PR agency, and rarely if ever will one read a negative or even potentially negative story about her and council within the pages.

As the people within these small communities look to large outlets beyond their horizons, they then meet the big dailies and the big dailies opinions of who is the politician de jour, which politician gets the free pass on accountability, which stories they will see and which ones will remain untold because of  “editorial constraints”.

I long for the days when one could open a paper and read the latest expose of government wrong-doing, the days when one could sit back after particularly fine paper and say ” Thank God for the press.”

In a book titled ” The Elements of Journalism”, by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, the authors list the 9 elements a journalist must adhere to,to fulfil their duty of providing information to the public. Those elements are:

  1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.
  2. Its first loyalty is to the citizens.
  3. Its essence is discipline of verification.
  4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
  5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
  6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
  7. It must strive to make the news significant, interesting, and relevant.
  8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
  9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.

There are plenty of exceptional writers and journalist in this town. Time for the powers that be cut them loose and let them serve the public in the way they are obligated to by their own professional standards.

I’m Laila Yuile, and this is how I see it.

 

13 thoughts on ““Democracy has become a government of bullies, tempered by editors” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  1. Chip

    Yes the media is out of control and now they are feeding on their own out of control energy, I live in Elisabeth May’s riding, one of the biggest reason she won was a backlash to the media trying to keep her out, as much as the vote was a backlash against the incumbent who deserved to go, it was a swipe at the media for trying to control the peoples agenda. Different level by far but no different than the recent events in Libya or Egypt.
    Minor local matter I just dropped off a number of reverse petitions to stop a borrowing bylaw. On principal I will sign any reverse petition because the attitude behind them is wrong. The councilors are effectively saying to the people “we will do as we want unless you get mad enough to stop us” They seem to have forgotten they are elected to do the people’s wishes not as many think run rough shod over the people while they does as they wish.
    I doubt Canadians will go the violent extremes of North Africa but it looks like more and more of us are passed our level of tolerance of the politicians/media.
    A way to tune up the media is to contact the advertisers and tell them if their pet media outlet does not start publishing the news instead of the business control agenda you will stop dealing with them and focus more on the local small business Amazing how well this method works big business gets really concerned when they realize their big advertising budgets are hurting their profits.

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  2. cherylb

    The mainstream media doesn’t practise the “Elements of Journalism” anymore and that’s why fewer and fewer people are relying on it to find out what’s really going on in the world.

    I miss the real press but thank god for social media!

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  3. Curt

    Absolutely right on, Laila. I gave up on the Province and Sun years ago. 9 Elements of Journalism doesn’t exist there, or in a few of the local papers either. Their obvious leanings are just that, obvious. They do not provide the citizens of this province true and accurate information, or even “all” the information, if they provide any at all in certain circumstances. (News releases Friday at 4) And I agree with you on some of the smaller papers content and how it comes to be. Who is paying their bills will depend on what is reported. Same holds true with pretty well any news media these days.
    It’s thanks to your writings, and Mary’s, Norm’s, Ian’s, Grant’s etc., where you can read all the story, of what is going on in our communities and with issues that affect us all.
    You won’t find that in the bought and paid for mainstream press who won’t print, or print only “their” side.
    Keep up the good work! I always look forward to hearing your view and investigative reporting, and reading it in print.
    Oh, and still waiting for your Dianne story. Will we have it before November?

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    1. Laila

      You will have it before the election…lol.. you can bet your behind on that. Nothing like a little strategic timing ; )

      And thank you for the kind words. Cheryl and Chip have hit the nail on the head. More and more people are turning to social media and while that may have it’s downside when sources aren’t confirmed and the rumour mill is working overtime, I trust people can weed through and sift what is sourced and accurate from what is bafflegab and nonsense. Certainly many savvy politicians are paying close attention to what is being said and monitor social media sites all the time.

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  4. Julie

    I agree, thank heaven for the bloggers. Good honest journalism and reporting, is long dead and gone.

    I am most certainly am not a political guru, I rely heavily on all the excellent bloggers. I especially liked, Laila’s article on, the sea to sky highway. I would have never known such a thing like that was going on, without Laila’s blog.

    I do believe Canadians are getting angrier by the day. Canada is rotten to the core with corruption. They see Harper doing to Canada, as Campbell did to BC. In the Hill Times they wrote an article, on the methods Harper used, to cheat to win the election. The steam escape valve on the kettle, just may blow.

    I am very leery of Harper. I am afraid I may wake one morning and find, we are now Canada U.S.A.

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  5. "Billy"

    John Swinton on the independence of the press

    Variations on the quote below have been misattributed as a response to a toast, by John Swinton, as “the former Chief of Staff at the New York Times”, before the New York Press Club in 1953. However, research reveals that Swinton (1829-1901), after moving to New York, wrote an occasional article for the New York Times and was hired on a regular basis in 1860 as head of the editorial staff. Afterward holding this position throughout the Civil War, he left the paper in 1870 and became active in the labor struggles of the day. He later served eight years in the same position on the New York Sun and later published a weekly labor sheet, John Swinton’s Paper.

    The remarks were apparently made by Swinton, then the preeminent New York journalist, probably one night in 1880. Swinton was the guest of honour at a banquet given him by the leaders of his craft. Someone who knew neither the press nor Swinton offered a toast to the independent press. Swinton outraged his colleagues by replying:

    There is no such thing, at this date of the world’s history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it.

    There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone.

    The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press?

    We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.

    (Source: Labor’s Untold Story, by Richard O. Boyer and Herbert M. Morais, published by United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America, NY, 1955/1979.)

    Despite the misattribution, the quote raises the issue of whether there is not continuing truth in Swinton’s remarks, and whether some candid journalist might not be able to fairly say similar things today. Anyone who has associated closely with journalists can hardly avoid finding a ring of truth in such words, and the best evidence lies in the actual product of journalists and how well, or how poorly, it both agrees with and covers what actually happens, especially involving such things as corruption and abuse of power.

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  6. Alan H. Goettemoeller

    Hi Laila,

    Thank you for your concern in the divisive Lumby issue.
    I do watch the stock market, (Daily)And today they had a small segment on Corrections Corp. Just google that to read all the positive aspects of private prison management. I remembered that our Prime minister made a commitment to social justice issues. Then the commentator made a small comment about prisoner bonds. Well I googled that, and found this . How a prisoner funds America. I did no understand all of their terminology, and must read it again.
    Well if our system is in any way like the American, this will be a moneymaker.To the detriment of Canadian society in general.
    They always say, “Follow the Money” I never thought Banks would be involved in the justice system
    It just keeps getting deeper.
    I sent a letter of my concerns to the Sol. Gen, and am still waiting on a reply.
    Keep up your Good work
    Alan

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  7. karen

    Yesterday’ editorial in the Prince George Citizen called Bob Rae “Norma Bob Rae,” congratulated Elizabeth May on “finally getting a real job” and spent its full column sounding inarticulate, condescending and spiteful. I gave up my paper subscription two years ago because I thought the paper itself was wasteful. I see it when someone brings it to work. I am going to write to its advertisers and tell them as long as they support such blatant partisanship and unprofessional writing, i won’t be supporting their businesses.

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  8. Linda

    Wikileaks says, we are heading towards the NAU. The North American Union will be, Canada, the U.S.A. and Mexico. This was Harper’s agenda all along. Our currency will be, the Amero dollar. It was said, there will be huge aqua ducts built, to send our clean drinking water to the U.S. I know we already send our water, to some of the states and Mexico. No-one told the US and Mexico, they can’t drink their water, when they pollute it.

    Canada is now quickly polluting all of our watersheds too. Athabasca Lake and the mighty Athabasca River are now polluted by oil from the dirty tar sands. The Athabasca watershed is huge, and now dirty. The dirty Alberta tar sands, is an abomination on the face of our country. They are finding more and more devastation of the eco system, because of the dirty crude. Harper and Campbell are going to force us into, the Enbridge pipeline and the dirty oil tankers from China anyway.

    Harper has a majority now. Pipe line bursts such as is out of Edmonton or the river in Michigan, teaches those two nothing. Campbell and Harper will also force , drilling oil and gas wells off BC’s coast The 6.1 earthquake in the Queen Charlotte’s, doesn’t bother their greed either. The Gulf spill nor the Valdez spill, is even considered.

    Democracy in Canada is now dead. We are living in a dictatorship regime. There are concerned citizens, wondering about ballots done in pencil. They are saying, that is not legal. The vote on the ballot, could be erased and changed. The ballot is a government paper, which should have been done in ink. Harper could have won this election by cheating. Don’t forget Campbell cheated, and those two have a very close relationship. Harper literally begged for a majority. I didn’t trust him from day one.

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  9. I don’t think we actually have “freedom of speech” in Canada – our freedom to speak is tempered by the word “expression” and yes, expression can be an opinion.

    Some people are afraid the CBC will lose funding with the new Government – personally I doubt it – as far as I can see, the CBC is the Government’s Ministry of Propaganda. Normalizing wrongdoing – ever hear the phrase “warning – some people may find the following report disturbing” and then they tell some tragic story of insane wrongdoing. Well you have to wonder who are the people who don’t find it disturbing?

    How about the assassination of Bin Laden – I have yet to hear the CBC correctly call it an assassination. Why is that? CBC is already normalizing the minority view of the NDP with talking heads and Cross Country opinions – pulling out bogey men to assuage the fear that the very poor might in fact get a fair shake with the NDP in opposition.

    Yes, bully is the right word for NEWS these days – Mainstream news is the the reason why Canadians think they live in a democracy – it’s all an illusion – democracy has been eroded. We are proud of our past but those years have long gone – no longer can we rely on the past to claim our democratic leadership. Yes it’s better than some third world countries but face it, we are well below other countries on many political issues.

    The smoke and mirrors media was Mayor Acton’s platform to procure a prison for lumby. The Mayor’s media campaign was aided and abetted by media that never questioned the Mayor’s unfounded claims – and that includes CBC. I heard they had more calls and letters and e-mails on the Lumby prison issue that any other issue in a long time. Did it do any good? Did they follow up on the information? No they did not.

    Big Media continued to say that Lumby was bidding for a prison – ignoring the huge “No Prison” outcry. CBC never questioned Mayor Acton’s baloney about all the mills that closed. They didn’t investigate the truth of Lumby being a town in desperation. Paragon closed and the Village did nothing to encourage industry to move here. The Mayor and Doug Brown (leaders in this prison stuff) both have jobs. Councilor Janet Green has been nominated as business woman of the year in Vernon. Well what business does Ms Green manage? Will her business benefit from a the imposition of a Prison here?

    Mayor Acton claimed support for the prison when he had no evidence to support that claim. I think they knew that dividing the community and wearing out the opposition would allow the bullies to swing the vote. The pro prison letters in the paper were bullying. Resorted to name calling. Cliff wedgewood called Lorna Church’s views “hysterical”. It was upsetting. There was no need to exploit Lorna’s fear. Even the Mayor of Burnaby agreed that Lorna’s fears of a big remand Centre in a small community was something to fear.

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  10. Alan H

    Hi Laila

    We are doing our best in Lumby. We have not given up,Rather we are starting to experience some unusual ocurences, (shouting) fight? at the grocery store. I am amazed that this energy isn’t spent fighting the council. But heat of the moment stuff.
    I have searched on your website for a reference from last week, and would like to get your help to find it. The person had a link to a law case, and cited about the” Rule of Law. “I got a definition about that and yes the Rule of Law is not being followed here.
    I wanted to check his link to see where I could start to ruffle some feathers.

    Alan

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  11. Hi Allen – Yesterday – I approached the Whitevalley Community Resource Centre in Lumby and asked them if they could set up a counseling program to help the people who have been bullied by the Mayor and Council and their pro prison backers, the Get in LINE people and the media with Internet comments and letters that intimidate and ostracize the “No” voters from our Lumby Community with name calling, lies and saying our vote does not matter.

    I haven’t heard back yet but I will post the info here for everyone who like me, is suffering from the bulling and the intimidation. The pro side have crossed the line of reason and any one responding to the taunting needs to know they can get help – this is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.

    The “no prison” people are experiencing an overload of bullying.

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