Sunday, June 08, 2008

An Open Letter to Canadian & American Journalists

The recent "human rights" case in Vancouver, BC has caught the attention of the world. I am heartened that many people are in support of Free Speech but I'm absolutely appalled at how more than a few Canadians & Americans are so easily willing to discard it simply because they don't like Mark Steyn. This even includes prominent Journalism professors, which is more than a little frightening.

There are, in fact, several journalists who I respect & admire. I don't know the personal politics of any of them or how they vote. Frankly, it's irrelevant. What is important is that each of them handles the news as NEWS. That is very, very rare these days.

Just like I perceive these aforementioned journalists to be, I am not some kind of far right or far left zealot who has his mind closed to all but one set of viewpoints. In my particular case I have tons of friends of all political stripes, ages, ethnicities, and religions. For example, though I'm of German-Polish descent, I often joke that I probably know more Chinese-Canadians than most Chinese people do! I've pretty much been adopted into an Ismaili Muslim family, and am frequently referred to as "The 3rd Son". I'm attracted to and have dated women of all races. On some issues I'm definitely right of center. On others my views are quite liberal.

What I am not is blind to Fascism. I use that word very carefully. My father was forced to grow up under it and I took the time to learn many great lessons from him.

Journalism, also know as The Fourth Estate, has enormous power to shape public opinion. But now, through the power of the Internet, people have other avenues to communicate, voice their opinions, and effect change. My biggest problem with many journalists, most of whom appear to be quite left of center, is that they have a huge blind spot when it comes to fascists that sit on human rights commissions, teach at universities, or are members of a minority. I've learned that many others share this concern.

I would posit that in Canada this is a major factor why journalists are viewed so unfavourably by the public. In the U.S. respect for them is even lower though there I would suggest it's because of perceived blind spots toward both the left and the right.

People don't really expect that much from journalists. But the one absolutely fundamental thing that is expected is to report the news in an unbiased manner. After reading, listening to, or watching a news story, the average person should not be able to detect the personal views of the reporter, the editor, or the management of the media organization. As the famous character, Joe Friday, used to say on Dragnet, "Just the facts." Yet way too often the bias is clearly obvious, either by the way the story is presented or by what facts are omitted.

In the past all we could do is throw a shoe at the radio or TV or write a letter to the editor (which rarely got published). But those times are long gone and I'm convinced that many journalists are having a difficult time now that their work is challenged on a regular basis. As it should be. I suppose they're getting to realize what it's like to be a politician!

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