COLUMN: Ensure the survival of the free press

Newspaper Week continues in Canada

Journalism and newspapers are still important.

I’m not just saying that because my family can afford groceries and a mortgage out of the deal — those things are great. I’m saying it because journalism is the last defender of the disenfranchised, the poor, the cheated and the unnoticed in a society that, when let off the leash, allows for bigotry, scandal and excess.

Never in my lifetime — I am admittedly young at 31 years old — have I seen the free press more endangered by politics of exclusion and intolerance.

Donald Trump has obviously made the grotesque ideas of “fake news” and “alternative facts” commonplace in our cultural lexicon, but the virus of spreading misinformation goes way beyond the views of an American president from Queens.

Journalists, like me, want to find truth — that doesn’t mean truth is always printed, but good journalists are held accountable when they lie.

Journalists print retractions, make calls to apologize and they feel guilty for weeks if they print a wrong spelling of the name “Megan”.

We don’t write to mislead, we write to share what is happening in a community, we write to point out if something in society is damaging society as a whole and when we are wrong — we feel bad and do everything in our power to make it right. Journalism is not about perfect objectivity — although we strive for it. Journalism is about trying to provide society with all the relevant facts in order for citizens to make more informed decisions.

Those decisions could be as mundane as whether a head of lettuce could be contaminated with listeria; or they could be as serious as an alleged potential sex offender making their way onto the Supreme Court.

You may think I am doing a poor job, you may think many journalists are doing a poor job — maybe they are, but we cannot as a society give up on a free press.

If you think the press misinterpreted the facts on something, tell them. Good journalists will research what your criticism is.

If you think something isn’t being reported, submit a story. Good journalists will follow up.

In short, good journalists are part of the communities they serve and are trying to make every effort to ensure citizens are informed.

I’m not asking you to thank journalists – most of us would feel way too uncomfortable in a situation like that. I am asking you to consider what life would be like if society didn’t have people every day who try to tell the stories of communities while also trying to ensure their own opinion does not influence the story.

(Turn the page or click away from this story for journalism. This is an opinion column).

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