Fed­eral fund­ing doesn’t mean me­dia is bought

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Opinion - Brad Brown is a for­mer Prairie Post sports re­porter and cur­rently the owner and pub­lisher of the Quad Town Fo­rum in Vibank.

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.

BRAD BROWN

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