31 January 2017

Local news media in the post-factual world #nlpoli

Chris O'Neill-Yates is a veteran CBC journalist.  Like most people in her line of work,  Chris is on Twitter plugging both her own work and commenting on events in the world around her.

Not surprisingly, Chris has been fascinated  - appalled might be a better word for it - by events in the United States over the past year.  "Global media will face [a] credibility challenge in the next four years,"  O'Neill-Yates tweeted one day around Christmas. "There'll be those who report facts and those who report nonsense."

A Telegram editorial last week also chimed in on the issue of facts, in the way of even more recent events in the United States.
The message is clear: the media is now dealing with a situation where some believe they can simply make things up. 
We have to be more careful than ever to be accurate. We also have to be ready to clearly identify and call out both mistakes and lies for what they are, when they occur. 
We want you to consider the source, and not find us wanting.
Oh dear.

CBC and the Telegram ran a story last week based entirely on the allegation from a fellow under investigation for poaching that fisheries enforcement officers had targeted the guy's son in a sting operation for selling smelt at two bucks for a bag of 12.

As SRBP pointed out, there was actually enough information in both the Telly (TransCon) and CBC stories to make you wonder about the claim but that didn't stop both news organizations from running the claim as if it had substance.  CBC even gave over their hour-long Radio Noon call-in show to discuss DFO's sting operation.  Not the alleged one but a real one. For good measure, the guest was the guy who had made the bogus accusation.

CBC had another story Friday.  Seems that the online classified ad for the smelt wasn't posted in the son's name as the fellow had claimed and news media reported.  The contact name for the ad was that of the father.  And what's more,  the father had a conviction for fisheries offences over a decade ago. No mention in the CBC story that they had basically been either suckered initially or had tossed disbelief to the winds and run alongside as an unproven source spewed an unsubstantiated claim.

Facts aren't the issue, evidently. Both CBC and the Telegram actually had plenty of facts that cast doubt on the original story.  Both newsrooms apparently decided to produce their initial stories based on something other than a presentation of facts.  They did so for reasons other than the absence of facts.

CBC went even further than the Telegram by featuring the unfounded accusation as the basis of an hour of province-wide radio.  The latest CBC story doesn't really correct the problem in the fashion the Telly editorial supposed might happen.  It actually makes the original error worse by not addressing the wrong story CBC told despite having the facts. Nor does the new story explain why the people who produced the original story didn't check the online classified ad before they posted the smelt-poaching-sting story.

Facts aren't the issue.  Facts aren't the solution to the crisis that is decimating conventional media.

Something else is.  But that is another post.