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Local journalists welcome Trudeau’s support of the media

By Tamara Pilon  [4]

BELLEVILLE – When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted Sunday that a free press is the backbone of democracy, local journalists were pleased.

Trudeau’s comment came in the context of U.S. President Donald Trump and other politicians in both Canada and the U.S. attacking the media with talk of “fake news.”

Bill Glisky [5], managing editor of InQuinte [6], says journalists agree with Trudeau’s statement. He’s happy to see the prime minister speaking up after journalists have been criticized for simply doing their jobs, he said.

“I think he’s absolutely correct,” Glisky told QNet News. “And as someone who has worked in this business a long time, him speaking up about it – especially at this time when so many newspapers are facing financial troubles and so many members of the media are being criticized and attacked for doing their jobs – to have the leader of our country standing up and recognizing (that) the free press is the fundamental part of democracy: it’s a great thing.”

Brice McVicar [7], managing editor of the Intelligencer, [8] agreed that Trudeau’s words are welcome, but added he’s not sure whether they will change much.

“I think it’s nice to hear our prime minister recognize the importance of what we do every day, and what we will continue to do each and every day,” McVicar said. “But in terms of the overall impact, I don’t see one.”

Tim Durkin [9], a news anchor at Quinte News, [10] said: “I don’t think it’s any secret that (a free press is) the backbone of any solid Western democracy.”

Glisky said that the use of fake news to discredit the media and control the message getting out is history repeating itself.

Dictatorships have often gone after the media first, he noted.

“Whether it be fascism or communism or whatever kind of dictatorship, the first thing those kinds of governments do is attempt to control the message,” said Glisky. “And (what’s happening today) is just another way of trying to control the message – by discrediting those who disagree with you.”

McVicar said Canada had a taste of the government trying to control of the media when Stephen Harper [11] was prime minister.

“He was a little more selective in regards to media announcements, who was allowed to attend some of his campaign events – some things like that,” McVicar said.

Durkin said that when the message is being controlled or limited by people in power, it makes a journalist’s job hard to do.

“I feel that some groups try to limit access or limit or control the message. I think it can be difficult sometimes, especially with the amount of work that journalists have to do these days.”

McVicar said fake news also gets circulated when people post inaccurate content online and it is consumed it as if the source were a reputable media outlet. The problem is that this content is not being fact-checked by the people posting it or the people reading it, he said.

“It’s easy for anyone to log onto a blogger’s site, or anything else, and feel that what they’re reading is quote unquote news,” said McVicar. In reality, “there’s a big chunk of the story missing from some things out there,” and not everyone will take the time to check other sources, he said.

“So they’ll read it on something, they won’t scope it or anything, and the next thing you know, they think it’s fact.”

Glisky said that when people are told that the news they consume is a lie, it’s easy for them to be confused and not know what to believe.

“And who do you believe? It used to be that you believed the press, because they were the ones that hold politicians … accountable,” he said. “Now a lot of the political parties and political people in the States are saying, ‘It’s not us who’s not trustworthy; it’s them.’ And it’s not true, but it’s effective.”

Freedom of the press is essential to all journalists doing their job, he said, adding media being put at risk by accusations of fake news is the biggest concern for journalists in Canada.

“We can sit here and have all the freedom we want, but if we don’t have a way to express it in a way that reaches people and is reliable and trustworthy and sustainable, then what’s the point?

“Then it’s, you know: people like you and (me) standing on our front porch screaming, and nobody listening.”