Time for me­dia to stop grant­ing le­git­i­macy to the Toronto tabloid while its colum­nists con­tinue to de­mo­nize the “other”

NOW Magazine - - NEWSFRONT - By RICHARD WAR­MAN and BERNIE M. FAR­BER Bernie M. Far­ber and Richard War­man are with the Cana­dian Anti-Hate Net­work (an­ti­ | @nowtoronto

While the ex­pres­sion “fake news” has been ap­pro­pri­ated by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to dis­miss the main­stream me­dia, the term’s mis­use pa­pers over the re­al­ity that fake news has in­deed ex­isted for a long time – of­ten in the form of the tabloid press.

Amer­i­can politi­cians were lament­ing the scourge of “in­vented oc­cur­rences” as far back the late 19th-cen­tury dur­ing the me­dia ri­valry be­tween Wil­liam Ran­dolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, whose re­spec­tive news­pa­pers would pub­lish sto­ries that were out­ra­geous and sala­cious – and which (it’s ru­moured) led to war and as­sas­si­na­tion. Since the mi­gra­tion of news on­line, the con­se­quences can be far more sin­is­ter than the term “click­bait” im­plies.

In Canada, there are a few cul­prits to high­light, chief among them the Post Me­dia-owned Sun Me­dia chain. It’s be­come all-too-com­mon for the Sun’s var­i­ous it­er­a­tions around the na­tion to en­gage in smear cam­paigns, the re­port­ing of con­spir­acy the­o­ries and the spread­ing of false in­for­ma­tion about com­mu­ni­ties and in­di­vid­u­als – in par­tic­u­lar, Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties.

For in­stance, late last month a trio of fig­ures on the lo­cal far-right scene vis­ited a Scar­bor­ough ho­tel hous­ing refugees from Nige­ria to film an “ex­posé” on “Trudeau’s refugee ho­tel,” al­legedly “to de­ter­mine if ru­mours of the mi­grants (sic) de­struc­tive be­hav­iour are true.” Turns out they weren’t.

But that didn’t stop fringe may­oral can­di­date Faith Goldy from show­ing up a cou­ple of days later to hold a press con­fer­ence in front of the ho­tel, dur­ing which she pledged to evac­u­ate “all il­le­gal mi­grants” from the city.

Shortly af­ter Goldy’s visit, Sue-Ann Levy got into the act, writ­ing a piece pub­lished by the Sun on­line that an­i­mal ser­vices need to be called be­cause “some goats were be­ing slaugh­tered.” The ba­sis of that in­for­ma­tion? A TripAd­vi­sor re­view that proved to be false.

Within hours of both Goldy’s visit and the pub­li­ca­tion of the Sun’s story, a ho­tel main­te­nance worker dis­cov­ered a lit gaso­line can­is­ter on the ho­tel’s third floor. Emer­gency crews were called to the ho­tel at 10:30 pm.

It’s not the first time the Sun and Levy have stoked fears about refugees and other vul­ner­a­ble mi­nori­ties. Fol­low­ing the Dan­forth shoot­ing in July, she was taken to task on so­cial me­dia for tweet­ing her “guess” that the shooter could be a refugee. Fel­low Sun colum­nists An­thony Furey and Candice Mal­colm also weighed in promis­ing to “get to the bot­tom of what re­ally hap­pened,” con­trary to what­ever po­lice and city of­fi­cials were say­ing about the shoot­ing.

At this past year’s Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists con­fer­ence, Toronto Sun edi­tor-in-chief Adri­enne Ba­tra, who is a woman of colour, was in­vited to talk about how to “di­ver­sify” news­rooms. She is fre­quently in­vited to sit on pan­els at jour­nal­ism con­fer­ences and other prom­i­nent civic or­ga­ni­za­tions. From time to time, Ba­tra is also in­vited to par­tic­i­pate in dis­cus­sions on the CBC. The pub­lic broad­caster is man­dated “to re­flect the mul­ti­cul­tural and mul­tira­cial na­ture of Canada.” How does Ba­tra, whose news­pa­per at­tacks those con­cepts daily, fit in? Or do peo­ple just not rec­og­nize the dam­age this out­let does to peo­ple’s sense of safety and well be­ing?

Dur­ing the last pro­vin­cial elec­tion in On­tario, a leaked memo from the Sun made it clear the ed­i­to­rial team viewed ef­forts to ad­dress in­equal­ity as part of “cul­ture wars” in the prov­ince.

Of course, none of us have to buy the Sun or click on its sto­ries on­line. We cer­tainly don’t have to pre­tend that its con­tent ac­tu­ally meets real jour­nal­is­tic stan­dards set out by the Na­tional NewsMe­dia Coun­cil, of which the Sun is a vol­un­tary mem­ber.

But it’s not okay to pre­tend that this is a me­dia out­let like any other.

Con­ser­va­tive politi­cians ig­nored the Rebel’s clear anti-Mus­lim bias and would grant in­ter­views de­spite sto­ries that in­cluded con­spir­a­cies as wild and of­fen­sive as sug­gest­ing that the gov­ern­ment en­gaged in a cover-up re­gard­ing the Que­bec mosque at­tack that killed six peo­ple. That changed only when Goldy, who was a con­trib­u­tor to the on­line out­let at the time, ap­peared as a guest on the neo-Nazi web­site Daily Stormer af­ter the al­tright rally in Char­lottesville last year. Only then did every­one dis­tance them­selves from the site.

Sim­i­larly, it’s time that me­dia and civic in­sti­tu­tions stop grant­ing le­git­i­macy to the Sun while its colum­nists con­tinue to de­mo­nize the “other.”

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