Editorial: When reporters tell lies, journalism dies

Every day it seems the American president is firing shots at “the media” and accusing anyone who disagrees with him or challenges him as being purveyors of “fake news.”

Donald Trump is not alone in calling one news outlet or another fake.

Canada is no longer exempt from this trend against journalists, now equal to door-to-door energy sales people on the scale of public trustworthiness.

On all sides of the political spectrum, you will find news outlets willing to cater to that side’s worldview.

What gets trampled in the mix are the countless media outlets and reporters providing a balanced point and counterpoint on the issues of the day.

Lately, we have seen the American media referred to as the Lügenpresse, German for “lying press.” It’s a shame to be accused of lying when being truthful and it is a shame to be believed when clearly misleading the public for private purposes.

Every time a reporter lies, all journalism dies a bit.

You can be sure; some reporters do tell lies. Other reporters use words and twisted accounts to mislead, knowing full well people are too busy and distracted to see it.

It is, of course, inevitable that sooner or later they are challenged, tried and made to print retractions by their associations or even sued by those who have simply had enough.

Most reporters, though, are honest folk, in it for the passion of telling good stories and keeping public servants, agencies, and corporations accountable.

Some columnists and editorialists like to create a little controversy or sway public opinion, but it is only under these two journalistic styles that opinion is allowed.

Understanding the difference between an objective news article and a subjective editorial becomes harder in a social media age when opinion can be formed in seconds from a headline, tweet, or Facebook comment.

In short time, we can only imagine how low media trust will decline as revenues and relevancy decline.

“No News is Bad News,” as Ian Gill titled his book on Canada’s Media collapse and what comes next.

Going forward, we must return to the days when critical thinking was a skill we all had to help us tell the difference between a balanced news account and fake news articles published with a partisan, malicious or revengeful agenda.

You, dear, reader, are journalism’s only hope (to steal a Star Wars phrase.)

Only you, Dear, reader. Because only you can hold purveyors of fake and misleading news to account.

Until then, those of us with journalistic ethics (and there are still far more of us than you may think) will keep on keeping on and telling the stories that matter.


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