Letter to the editor – fundamentals of journalism

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Dear Editor,

I read the article “Fundamentals of Journalism” (Victor Lachance) and the reply to “Fundamentals of Journalism” (David Shanahan) with some amusement and consternation.

The arguments presented by Mr. Lachance appear to have basic fallacies, those being: (please read the article in NGT June 10, 2020 pg 15 for the arguments presented):
The argument regarding an airline pilot making a mid-flight speech about his or her spiritual beliefs.

As I would presume the case to be, the pilot does not “own” the plane nor the airline, and so has no “right” to disregard the protocol of operations placed upon him by the owner(s) of the plane or airline. In short, the protocols placed on the pilot by the owner(s) are more “restrictive”. Also, the pilot would have a “captive audience” that cannot escape his presentation. Those on board the plane pay for their boarding pass.

Mr. Shanahan does own and edit the newspaper and so has not only the right, but also the responsibility to “manage” articles in the newspaper for content, accuracy, and appropriateness. These responsibilities will be of a much broader “range” than the pilot. In addition, the NGT reader can choose to not read the article, unlike the pilot with a “captive audience”. As far as I am aware, the NGT is free to the readers.

Standards set by firefighters when responding to burning buildings, be they large or small, or the safety of planes, be they large or small: The standards for the above mentioned services are set by the governing agencies, and so those “serving” or “employed” must comply with those standards set by the agencies. In the case of Mr. Shanahan, as owner and editor of NGT, he has, by definition, a broader frame of reference regarding articles in the newspaper, than those “employed” in “public safety” issues. I also fail to see how Mr. Shanahan’s “Fundamentals” articles impact public safety.

Mr. Lachance argues that, should Mr. Shanahan speak about Christian beliefs, that objectivity, impartiality and fairness are compromised in light of other beliefs. Mr. Shanahan has not written disparagingly (in the NGT) about other beliefs. Mr. Shanahan also has not written articles about these other beliefs either. That could be viewed as “integrity” on behalf of the editor, as he may have little theological, factual, or historical knowledge of such beliefs. It may also indicate that other belief systems are not submitting articles. Thus, it would appear to me that Mr. Shanahan’s objectivity, impartiality and fairness would not be in question when it deals with issues he may not be knowledgeable about.

For Mr. Lachance to argue that he, as an atheist or agnostic (as the “reply” article indicates), does not appreciate such articles as are presented by Mr. Shanahan, is one thing, but to argue that the integrity of Mr. Shanahan is in question, is quite another. In addition, Dr. Jordan B Peterson (an agnostic and clinical psychologist) indicates that “ignore the biblical stories at your own peril” in his Biblical Series regarding the psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories”.

The NGT (according to the front page) has a circulation of 9,000 homes and businesses in North Grenville and Merrickville Wolford. North Grenville has a minimum of seventeen churches in its environs and Merrickville Wolford has three. It may appear to be a public service to many of Mr. Shanahan’s readers to learn about, or engage in, the faith history of the Christian church, a history that has been integral to, and formative in, the western world, even in the community served by the NGT.

Mr. Shanahan, the historian, has provided a “history” of our local community to those of his readership that have an interest in such articles. I would assume that Mr. Shanahan does not have the responsibility to write about other communities that he may have little knowledge of, in order to be “fair and impartial” to those other communities.

In closing, Mr. Lachance, typical of the left, assumes and presumes he has the “moral high ground” and from such a lofty throne, attempts to remove the freedom of speech of others.

Willem Van Dam

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