MADDEAUX: Canadian journalism needs a reboot
Sabrina Maddeaux says there is a crisis in the Canadian media. The problem is that sensibility is cheap, reporting is expensive. POSTMEDIA
SABRINA MADDEAUX/ 24 HOURS
It used to be easy to take journalism for granted, but these days it's increasingly murky territory as politicians demonize reporters, fake news proliferates on the Internet and outlets struggle for survival. In Canada, it's easy to think we live in a society that promotes freedom of the press and values facts, but unfortunately, that's not always the case. The precarious state of a free press in Canada was the topic du jour at the annual Canadian Journalism Foundation (CJF) gala earlier this month, featuring guest honouree Jake Tapper of CNN fame. Statistics relating to journalistic freedom are disturbingly shocking when compiled into the organization's annual report card, which declares "Trump-style politics are moving north."
CJFE gives Canada a D-when it comes to government progress on access to information, saying "if a government official wants to hide public information, the chances of it being released are almost nil." We get an F when it comes to protection of whistleblowers, as our private sector has no protective legislation at all for employees who report corporate wrongdoing. We also earn a dismal F grade when it comes to concentration of media ownership and shrinking newsrooms.
There have been multiple reports of police spying on journalists in Quebec and a VICE reporter was recently forced by the RCMP to turn over his logs on conversations he conducted with an ISIS supporter. A reporter for The Independent faced 10 years in prison after the RCMP charged him for "mischief relating to a testamentary instrument or property greater than 5,000" and "unlawfully disobeying an order of the Court" when he reported on the indigenous occupation of Muskrat Falls in October 2016. In 2016, for the first time in history, Canada fell out of the top 20 in Reporters Without Borders'World Press Freedom Index. CJFE predicts 2017 will be an even worse year for Canadian media.
The CJF gala was a night to raise awareness of journalism's plight at home, as well as celebrate success stories that represent why the industry is so vital to a functioning democracy. Among the evening's honourees were The Canadian Press, which explored sexual trauma among children in indigenous communities in its "Open Secret" series and The London Free Press for its "Indiscernible" series exposing problems with Ontario's justice and mental health care systems. Journalism can't simply be background noise - it needs to be a valued vehicle for free speech and accountability. Power needs to be checked, facts need to be established and the oppressed need their stories to be told. As the media declines, so does our democratic society.
For more information on CJFE or to donate, visit cjfe.org. Want to read more from Sabrina? Follow her on Twitter @SabrinaMaddeaux