News­pa­pers re­port and in­ves­ti­gate

The Peterborough Examiner - - Opinion -

Gary Har­rod’s let­ter en­ti­tled “Pa­per should re­port news, not make it,” shows that he fails to un­der­stand the his­tory and pur­pose of news­pa­pers in this coun­try and abroad.

News­pa­pers re­port the news but should also in­ves­ti­gate what is be­hind the sto­ries. It is called in­ves­tiga­tive journalism and cou­pled to that con­cept is tak­ing edi­to­rial po­si­tions on is­sues fac­ing the com­mu­nity by pro­vid­ing anal­y­sis of events and pol­icy po­si­tions es­poused by politi­cians. Too of­ten they fall short. Re­port­ing on Ford’s pro­pa­ganda news ma­chine but fail­ing to do the same in the past is a le­git­i­mate crit­i­cism but does not mean that they shouldn’t start now. Just like they have failed on some things I will de­scribe below.

News­pa­pers have also been con­cerned about mak­ing money to pay their bills. As their advertising rev­enue has de­clined they have in­creas­ingly faced dif­fi­cul­ties fund­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions and not an­tag­o­niz­ing ad­ver­tis­ers.

This means that the ed­i­to­ri­als and re­port­ing are usu­al­lly tepid and an at­tempt at bal­ance. For ex­am­ple on cli­mate change. Con­cerned about bal­ance, edi­tors and re­porters gave equal weight to the de­niers and sci­en­tists. The public no­ticed and stopped sup­port­ing news­pa­pers. Yes so­cial me­dia and the in­ter­net were fac­tors but not the only ones. But bal­ance is lack­ing in other ar­eas such as the pro­pa­ganda dis­pensed by or­ga­ni­za­tions de­signed to man­u­fac­ture our con­sent for the Lib­er­tar­ian in­spired Ne­olib­eral Age of Aus­ter­ity in which we now live.

Other than the oc­ca­sional let­ter to the edi­tor, when have you seen a story or ref­er­ence in a col­umn in the Ex­am­iner about Ne­olib­er­al­ism? An ex­am­ple is the Fraser In­sti­tute funded in part by the Amer­i­can Koch broth­ers and where Mike Har­ris is now a fel­low. Be­cause they are listed as a reg­is­tered char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion, our tax dol­lars also partly fund the Fraser but the news me­dia go along with the fic­tion that they are a think tank pro­duc­ing al­legedly ob­jec­tive re­ports. It is de­scribed in Wikipedia as a “public pol­icy think tank” both “po­lit­i­cally Con­ser­va­tive and Lib­er­tar­ian.”

Ford and his ilk do not want to spend tax dol­lars on so­cial pro­grammes but do not mind spend­ing it on their pro­pa­ganda.

Ford, em­u­lat­ing his hero, Don­ald Trump, likely does not trust the me­dia af­ter it ex­posed his early drug deal­ing and his brother’s ad­dic­tions and driv­ing while un­der the in­flu­ence.

He has also said that his sup­port for Trump is “un­wa­ver­ing.” So he cre­ates his own pro­pa­ganda On­tario News Now to please his Lib­er­tar­ian and Con­ser­va­tive base.

Lo­cally, the de­ci­sion to sell PDI is also from the Ne­olib­eral Play­book. Mayor Ben­nett ac­cused me of be­ing ide­o­log­i­cal be­cause I op­posed its sale on the grounds it was a public as­set and part of the com­mons. But a prime tenet of Ne­olib­er­al­ism is the pri­vate own­er­ship of public goods so that they are re­moved from po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence and com­mu­nity con­trol. The Ex­am­iner should have re­ported that the coun­cil­lors vot­ing for the sale of the PDI (Par­nell, Haacke, Beamer, Clarke and McWil­liams) were fol­low­ing ne­olib­eral ide­ol­ogy but al­leg­ing the ex­is­tence of undis­closed Fraser In­sti­tute-like “facts” to jus­tify their po­si­tion. Ne­olib­er­als also dis­re­gard democ­racy and the will of the peo­ple be­cause they be­lieve that elec­tions should not change eco­nomic pol­icy. Leal and Wynn were also fol­low­ing the Ne­olib­eral play­book when they sold off part of Hy­dro One. Har­ris sell­ing the 407 is an­other ex­am­ple.

News­pa­pers have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to re­port both news AND the ide­ol­ogy be­hind po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions. Herb Wise­man Peter­bor­ough

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