Federal funding doesn’t mean media is bought
I've never put much stock in the whole "everyone goes crazy under a full moon" theory, until last week when it felt like everyone actually went crazy under a full moon.
And at the centre of it all was the delirious reaction of many who took issue with the Nov. 22 announcement that the federal government will provide nearly $600 million in tax credits to support journalism in Canada.
The Canadian mainstream media just became "prostitutes" for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, they wailed.
Trudeau's No. 1 priority is paying off the media, they claimed.
"There is no way Ottawa’s journalism-bailout scheme can pass any press-freedom test," one particularly jaded columnist complained.
It all makes for a great conspiracy theory except for the parts where we didn't, it's not and there is.
Understand this. The Quad Town Forum, like many of our counterparts around the province and across the country, is built on integrity. We are in the business of connecting and informing the communities we serve, without favour, bias or prejudice of any kind — NOT currying editorial favour with those who support us financially.
I don't expect you to agree with every story we publish. And that's not my job either. The Forum exists to tell you what happened, and let you draw your own conclusions from there. We also exist to provide a forum (no pun intended) for viewpoints and opinions of all kinds, in a limited and clearly-designated space each week, with the intent of helping develop the public discourse.
Further, on the occasions when we do share opinions as a newspaper, we make every effort to take an even-handed view of what's best for our local communities in a broad sense, not what's best for a specific advertiser, resident or political party.
To paraphrase my colleague Terry Jenson, esteemed owner and publisher of the Clark's Crossing Gazette in Warman, political asskissing has no place in these pages.
Outside of a precious few targets on both sides of the political aisle (some of whom also do tremendous and valuable investigative work on occasion) there is no credible case to be made that the media at large serve as stooges for their funders.
Following that logic backwards through time, to suggest otherwise would also be to suggest that the media at large are currently actually nothing but minions for the corporate world, since that's where the majority of their revenue comes from. Yet complaints of that nature are suspiciously few and far between, and nor are they true either.
Bottom line: You can't have it both ways whenever it's convenient to the political leanings you identify with.
On a personal level, I chose this career because I believe local news is important; because I believe people's stories and accomplishments deserve to be celebrated and commemorated; because I believe people deserve to be informed about what their elected officials are doing; because I believe in the preservation of history; and because I believe a connected and informed community is a stronger, kinder, more vibrant, more prosperous and more engaged community.
The latter point, to me, is especially relevant in commuter towns and villages like many of those served by The Forum.
I did not choose this line of work in order to advance any personal or political agenda. Occasionally, that neutrality will mean we publish stories that are unflattering to those you support either personally, politically or professionally. That doesn't make those stories untrue, and it doesn't mean they are not newsworthy.
What it does mean is that — even with some temporary funding to either stem the bleeding for some or further enhance the value that papers like ours deliver — you as readers and businesspeople need to decide in fairly short order whether you want to live in a community where people are informed and make decisions with actual facts and reason, or one where elections are decided by memes, and trials are decided by Facebook.
If you choose the former, there are over 1,100 publications just like ours that will be more than happy to give you what you want. To paraphrase Terry once again, most of us are small businesses with a strong moral compass and the noblest of intentions, and we can't be bought by anyone — including a Prime Minister of any party.
If you choose the latter in the name of silencing voices you disagree with, just don't forget how quickly and easily your own voice can be silenced as well.