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Freedom of the Press

This month's article is one I write with nervous apprehension as it deals with the media, publishers and the press and, consequently, may never see the light of day, especially if the editors have their way. The topic is the responsibility of the media and how information is presented.

I remember back in the day, when I wanted a liberal view of our political system, I would read the Globe and Mail or the Telegram, and if I was more inclined to lean toward a left wing perspective, the Toronto Star or National Post would be the publication of choice. It was the same with television, where CBC toted the Liberal perspective, and I could always count on CTV to put things back in a conservative light.

In the US it is very similar, which has become especially apparent in the recent election. CNN and the New York Times are very Democratic, whereas Fox News is totally Republican. Lately I have even started to see the lines crossed in local, small town newspapers and am beginning to question the legitimacy of reporters.

Having written columns for newspapers, international magazines, and numerous local publications, I have always been a firm believer that news should be presented as factual representations of information, and not opinions displayed by individuals who may, or may not be qualified to offer such.

Another bugbear of mine is the ‘letters to the editor’ sections in newspapers or magazines. It seems no one edits these for content, legitimacy, accuracy or downright ignorance. It used to be when someone sent a letter to a paper and it was printed, the editor would comment at the bottom, to ensure the reader was getting an accurate representation of the facts and not just a rant by some disgruntled employee, citizen or customer, who had a personal beef with local government or a business.

I get extremely annoyed when citizens, who claim to be 'in the know', offer opinions through letters to papers about politics, where usually they either, don’t have all the facts, have misconstrued the facts or are just simply ignorant of what the facts are. I don't blame the writers, for usually they know no better, but I certainly lay fault with the editors for often allowing unqualified people to mislead the public, through erroneous interpretations of what they believe to be the truth.

True journalists know (or should know) that they have a moral obligation to present factual material in a nonpartisan fashion, enabling individuals to create their own opinions. My columns reach about 40,000 people and another 50,000 on line. Can you imagine how immoral it would be of me to state a fact incorrectly or offer my opinion based on incorrect research to a maze of unsuspecting individuals. The end result would be totally unethical.

This entire, somewhat misrepresentation of some of the truths, is embellished through the use of online media, such as Twitter, Facebook and the latest popular craze of blogging. It seems everyone now has the ability to become a reporter, or even worse, an editorialist. I have read blogs, which are followed by hundreds of people, where the author has out and out lied to get their points across, and an unsuspecting public reads and absorbs these facts as truths.

The US election is a great example of snippets from conversations constantly being taken out of context, in an effort to sway voters in a certain direction. I don't blame the politicians, but certainly lay the blame at the doorstep of the news media presenting the tainted facts. It seems sensationalism sells, regardless of accuracy.

I urge individuals to take up a mission of becoming informed citizens. If you read an article, a letter to the editor, an advertorial or a regular column, please understand the substance of what you are reading is the opinion of the writer. It may be factual or it may be slanted, but you owe it to yourself to dig a little deeper and establish the truths. Make a telephone call to your politicians and ask their opinions, go to council meetings and learn what is really going on, and watch various newscasts to get a broad view of what is really happening. The more facts you compile, the better versed you are in understanding what's really going on.

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