Editorials - June 24, 2021
Starving the trolls
Last week, CBC News turned off commenting on its Facebook page for a month as a pilot project. While social media platforms can help journalists to find stories and promote their own work, the toxicity in the comment sections has become unbearable. The abuse is thrown in all directions - at the reporters, the subjects of the stories and amongst the commenters themselves. The broadcaster was even finding itself limiting which stories that it would share to its Facebook page, based on knowing which types of stories would lead to angry, racist or misogynistic comments. It will take the next few weeks to evaluate how best to utilize these platforms to serve the audience and minimize the negative impact.
It had gotten to the point where CBC had to evaluate the health and safety of its staff, including those who had to wade into the muck to moderate the comments. It is also evaluating the cost (both financially and in terms of workload) to maintain its Facebook pages and make them safe places for its staff, journalists and audience.
While the comments sections of news sites and social media have always had their fair share of both angry readers and trolls, over the past several years the level of hate and abuse have reached vitriolic levels. Much of this can be traced back to conservatives in the U.S. and their attacks on “fake news”, allowing this climate of mistrust to thrive.
Commenting and healthy debate can increase a reader’s knowledge but not when it takes the form of rage, insults and misinformation. – DS
Shine a light
Late last week, the provincial government announced accelerated and expanded eligibility for second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This was good news for the nearly 75 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 and up who have received their first vaccine dose (and over 70 per cent of Canadians aged 12 and up).
Instead, the government is saying that by the end of the month, anyone over the age of 18 who has received a first vaccine dose can book their second appointment, provided it is at least 28 days after their first dose. This is far ahead of schedule, both according to the Ontario government’s framework and best estimate predictions of those in their 20s, 30s and 40s who thought it might be September or October before their first dose, with hopes of a second dose before Christmas.
This good news comes because of several factors. First, vaccine availability has dramatically increased in Canada, with good news on that front seemingly coming every day. Second, however, is not-so-good news, as the concerning Delta variant of the virus is making the rounds in the province and having people fully vaccinated will better people’s chances of avoiding the more infectious strain of COVID-19.
From the slow origins of vaccine distribution in Canada to watching with envy as countries like the United States and England return to (a new) normal, Canadians and Ontarians have felt, at times, left behind. However, thanks to our patience and the kindness of our neighbours, there does seem to be light at the end of the tunnel and a promise of a future full of seeing friends and family, hugs with loved ones and a bustling Ontario with restaurants, bars and shops humming again. – SL
Out and about
Living in a small town means one thing above all else: everyone knows who you are and what you’re about, for good or for ill.
While we always see the benefit of this kind of close-knit community, with people coming together to support those who have suffered loss or face insurmountable problems, there’s another side to it that may not immediately spring to mind: being different in such a community.
That was recently highlighted by a new documentary that explores how rural communities mark pride celebrations during Pride Month. Called Small Town Pride, the film, which premiered at this year’s Inside Out Festival in Toronto, focused on three smaller Canadian communities (when compared to major city centres) that host pride celebrations: Norman Wells in the Northwest Territories, Taber in Alberta and Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia. The film starts with a quote from Zeynep Tonak, an organizer for the pride event in Annapolis Royal, who explains how being a part of a tight-knit community can be a double-edged sword for those not living the life they’re meant to live. “I think the anonymity of pride in a big city is comforting for a lot of people. Everyone goes home from pride, and on the subway they strip off their glitter and they take off their stickers and they go back to their normal life,” Tonak said. “But I think in a small town, the best and the worst part is that you can’t do that. You can’t ignore it, you can’t get away from it.”
That’s what makes recognizing pride and similar affirming events so important in rural communities: dispelling the stigma that forces individuals with different sexual identities to leave our communities for larger city centres where they can more easily live their lives.
We need to make sure that everyone feels welcome and that means recognizing the different identities in our communities. – JDS