Editorials - Nov. 4, 2021
With great power...
As journalists, we often forget the influence the printed word we distribute has on readers. Sometimes it takes reading an article from another source to remind us that the media can sway public opinion.
Last week, two news articles highlighted how important it is to frame a story for the readers. The first was when Wall Street Journal reporters objected publicly to its own opinion page’s printing of a letter to the editor from Donald Trump that yet again touted false claims about a rigged election, without any fact-checking of the claims, which have been debunked by numerous courts. “I think it’s very disappointing that our opinion section continues to publish misinformation that our news side works so hard to debunk,” one of the reporters said. “They should hold themselves to the same standards we do.”
The second item was a seemingly straightforward news story in the London Free Press featuring interviews with three workers from the London Health Sciences Centre who had been terminated for failing to comply with company policy. The article was about their decision not to get the COVID-19 vaccine and their reaction to being fired over it. It listed all the reasons that they weren’t getting the shot. Only one introductory sentence included the disclaimer stating, “the safety and effectiveness of [vaccines] are widely agreed upon by experts”. The remainder of the article did not include any fact checking or editorial comment regarding the safety of vaccines, which resulted in the story leaning towards sympathy for the fired employees, whether that was the intention of the reporter or not.
Both sides of any story need to be included in good journalism, but the facts and truth must be the take away for the reader. – DS
Playing the victim
Before the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial began last week in Wisconsin, Judge Bruce Schroeder issued a ruling on the use of the word “victim” when referring to the several people Rittenhouse shot and killed (this is not up for debate, Rittenhouse has pled not guilty and says the shootings were in self defence) on Aug. 25 in Kenosha during widespread protests and riots. Schroeder said “victim” and “alleged victim” are “loaded” terms, while he will allow the three people Rittenhouse shot to be referred to as “arsonists”, “looters” or “rioters” by the defence. This decision has led many to openly wonder if the promise of a “fair and impartial” trial in the U.S. is a thing of the past.
While Schroeder’s decision raises all kinds of legal questions, the real issue appears to be one of race. Rittenhouse is a white teenager who crossed state lines with an assault rifle to join a Kenosha-based militia group amid the ongoing protests after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man shot while entering his car. The terminology, many argue, is already tipping the scales in Rittenhouse’s favour.
Things are far from perfect in the U.S. (and many other countries) in regards to race relations, but the courts need to be a place of equality and fairness for all. Some may argue that’s never been the case, but nevertheless, those in power need to strive to be better. – SL
Outside of the box
Last week there was a buzz coming out of London as local golf courses were proposed as temporary homes for the community’s homeless population. The two courses, which go unused in the winter, would be set up to house people struggling to put a roof over their head as a means of addressing several concerns that other housing projects had raised during previous years.
While the idea seems good at first glance, and denotes a genuine attempt to think outside the box, it wasn’t long until people started pointing out some problems. First was the fact that, of the two courses proposed, one needed to be available by March 1, which means those relying on it then, when it can still very much be the depths of winter, will find themselves out in the cold. The other course, called River Road Golf Course, is now shuttered and will host the service until March 31.
There was also the observation that the plan was addressing the symptom, but not the underlying causes of homelessness. However, sometimes addressing the symptoms is all that’s possible - just ask doctors watching over COVID-19 patients on respirators.
Later in the week, however, experts began saying that removing these people from downtown London and moving them to the fringes of the community would take them away from their friends, family, medical facilities and support systems and could be fatal.
While there was some agreement that the homeless supports provided last year were less than private for those utilizing them, moving people to more isolated spots wouldn’t be beneficial to all involved.
In the end, the plan may not be perfect, but there shouldn’t be any ill-will towards its creators. Regardless of the detractors, the proposed plan, whether implemented or not, shows a desire to help and a willingness to think outside the box, which should be valued, not diminished. – JDS