by Deron Johnston
Every time that we pick up a local paper that is dedicated to informing their readers of the local issues, local events and local culture that matter to people, we should be grateful. It is very time consuming and very costly to run a local paper or other local media source (you’ll never get rich owning one). And if you’re fortunate enough to have local media that will print letters to the editor and other pieces that contradict the opinions of the regular contributors, you should feel fortunate. Why? Because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find either a local, regional or national newspaper that will.
After this past federal election, an obvious truth reared its ugly head. National newspapers are no longer independent, no longer informative and no longer neutral. The purchase of the front pages of the Post Media and Sun Media national newspapers by the Conservative party for a desperate final election day ad were the final straw. This is not to blame the Conservatives for this situation, as the other parties have bought prime space as well, just not on so grand a scale. The fact that they were allowed to buy the front pages of all of those national newspapers in the first place shows the rampant partisanship and desperation of our current national newspapers. And frankly, it makes it hard to take them seriously as an unbiased and credible news source.
When Andrew Coyne stepped down as the editor of the National Post editorials and comments in October of this past year right in the middle of the last month of the election, it was over his desire to publish a column disagreeing with the Post’s editorial endorsement of the Conservative party. The company leadership of the Post blocked Coyne’s editorial with the justification that it “would have confused readers and embarrassed the paper.” In response, Coyne resigned his position as editor and stated that he believed that “I don’t see public disagreement as confusing. I see it as honest. Readers, in my view, are adults and understand that adults can disagree.” This type of obvious political interference should have no place in our national media. However, it’s incredibly naive to think that this type of partisan activity is not the standard these days. The Toronto Star is a good example of media partisanship going the other direction. One of the huge downsides to this partisan activity is the loss of ‘airtime’ for the truly good writers who are able to present information either in an unbiased way, able to back up their statements with untainted factual evidence or who aren’t afraid to be critical of something that they don’t believe to be just or fair.
With the consolidation of the national print media over the past couple of decades into the two massive media conglomerates, Sun Media and Post Media, it is nearly impossible to find a larger regional or national newspaper that is not owned by one of these two. Even smaller papers like the Brockville Recorder and Times, for example, is owned by Sun Media. These news sources have become the media factories for the party that they support. Each piece omits or twists important information to support the paper’s opinion, or simply confirms the opinion of the reader who buys that paper because it regularly confirms the reader’s beliefs. This type of condescending writing should be upsetting to people because the reader is being treated like a child and being told how they should feel or think on a given subject. In other words, the story has been ‘dumbed down’ for you rather than providing information in a way that allows you as an adult to think for yourself and form your own opinion.
In the past, it seemed some national newspapers looked like they at least tried to be somewhat neutral even in their political writing, but they clearly no longer feel the need to pretend. Especially around election time, the rhetoric comes in a non-stop flow of obvious party propaganda. It’s easy to see why these national newspapers have been losing readers and subscribers at an alarming rate. People appear to be tiring of the partisanship, tiring of being treated like a child and are looking for alternative news sources. This awakening has resulted in the rise of online newspapers like the Huffington Post and Ipolitics, among countless other smaller ones.
So the next time you watch, listen to or read content produced by someone locally (that treats you like an adult), maybe take a second to appreciate it. Chances are that they’re not making money from what they’re doing, they’re doing it because they love what they’re doing and they think that it’s important to keep you informed.