Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
Journalists abandon professionalism, repudiate free speech.
A few weeks ago, a Canadian newspaper behaved despicably. It demanded that climate skeptics be denied a public voice. It demanded they be silenced. Censored.
Rather than the eccentric opinion of an individual, this is the ‘consensus view’ of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.
Having once served on the editorial board of the National Post, I was gobsmacked. The idea that people employed by a newspaper would collectively and publicly call for the silencing of anyone is astonishing. Nations in which people are silenced aren’t safe for journalists. The choice is always between freedom and tyranny.
Prior to the publication of my first post about this matter, I sent an e-mail (two sentences long) to three senior editors, asking “how many people wrote/agreed to” that editorial. Maybe this was the work of a rogue writer. Privately, I prayed I wouldn’t be advised that a dozen individuals had calmly sat around a conference table and signed-on to the idea.
Shortly after publication, Brad Oswald, the Perspectives Editor, responded. To this day he has declined to say whether there were three, 10, or 20 people involved. Instead, he explained at some length that “our editorial board is composed of a collection of senior Winnipeg Free Press writers from a variety of disciplines; we meet regularly to discuss issues and potential editorial topics.” He told me newspaper editorials “are by design not attributed to an individual writer or writers.” Then he said this:
As the Perspectives Editor at the Winnipeg Free Press, I am responsible for the content of our editorial pages and stand fully behind the editorial, and am happy to respond to questions regarding it or any other content that appears on our editorial pages. Free Press editor Paul Samyn also approved and supports the editorial in question. [bold added]
In other words: that newspaper is staffed by people who think people like me should be silenced.
Perhaps we’ve all been done a favour here. The publishing of that foul editorial has dragged professional journalism’s decaying corpse out into the sunlight. Most news outlets, even highly prestigious ones, are now run by activists. Rather than performing the traditional task of keeping the public fully informed, these people are propagandists for their own worldview.
Newspapers have abandoned the notion that they should behave in a neutral, evenhanded manner. They have abandoned universal skepticism. The Toronto Star, for example, now describes itself as “the leading progressive news source.”
As I told Oswald in an e-mail response,
It is not the job of journalists to decide who’s correct in a scientific debate, and then to freeze out entire swaths of the scientific community. The public has a right to hear a wide range of opinion, and to make up its own mind.
Instead, the Winnipeg Free Press is loudly and proudly repudiating free speech.