Newspapers: Reflections of our communities or those imagined?
If readers can’t learn from their daily paper, it’s all for naught
A reader recently cancelled his subscription because he was unhappy about a front-page article on Muslims. He doesn’t want to read about them, he said.
I wondered, though, if it was just Muslims, or did he also not want to read about Hindus, Jews, Buddhists or Christians?
Or maybe it’s just people from the Middle East and South Asia?
Or was it also stories about the Chinese, the Portuguese or the Irish?
It is possible he was simply trying to make a political statement, emboldened by the likes of Donald Trump.
There are many reasons why people cancel their delivery of a newspaper, and it’s true everyone has different complaints and preferences.
But a newspaper must reflect its community. Some do a better job of this than others, but we all try. And we are regularly assailed by readers for failing.
Some of these criticisms are petty jealousies:
For example, those (students, parents, teachers, administrators) associated with both public school systems often wonder why one system gets more coverage of sporting and school events than the other. The Liberals, the NDP and the Conservatives are all convinced their events, causes and initiatives get less coverage than those of their opponents.
Some are criticisms about the nature of journalism:
We probably feature more trials than triumphs in articles. We tend to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Such observations are either flattering or unflattering, depending on your perspective. And people say we are more negative than positive, which is debatable.
And some are legitimate complaints:
For example, we likely include more men than women in news stories, and fewer visible minorities than we should given the makeup of society.
We take every opportunity at The Spectator to write about minorities and celebrate diversity. Some are provided to us on a silver platter, such as festivals. We go out of our way to portray the successes of minority groups, but we don’t shy away from their failures either.
And whenever possible, we try to include perspectives from different walks of life in everyday stories, by looking for comments or profiles from community leaders who might be outside “the usual suspects” (i.e. older white guys) category.
Like most newspapers, we are not nearly as good at that as we should be.
But the result of those efforts often leads to complaints by people who think a newspaper should not reflect the community as it is, but instead an image of the community they feel or want it to be. The result? People stick to themselves and do not get to know each other. Generally speaking, when humans do not take the time to know others, they end up fearing them, hating them — and inevitably fighting them.
Newspapers are here to bridge that gap, and we won’t ever give it up.