Adrian O’Connell | Jul 10, 2019

The letters critical of North Frontenac Mayor, Ron Higgin's' earlier complaints about press coverage of council were unduly harsh given the issues he raised.

As a former newspaper editor, who dealt with news at municipal, national and international levels for some years, and who trained journalists, I would have to say that many of the concerns he raised are valid.

For the past several decades, in print and broadcast journalism, there has been an unfortunate blurring of the line between factual objective reporting by reporters and an exponential explosion of highly opinionated commentary by columnists and 'talking heads' on the other. This is most apparent in television where some channels' purported news coverage is little more than propaganda issued by bevies of desk bound pundits who breathlessly pour out opinion with sometimes scant regard for the facts. But this tendency has now trickled down into newspapers and magazines to the point where some of our national newspapers are little more than lurid propaganda sheets with little news but a plethora of biased opinion.

In this journalistic environment, it requires a conscious effort on the part of even venerable newspapers like our own Frontenac News to be on constant guard against such infection. The simple rule to follow, I told my trainee reporters, was to totally exclude from their work, all personal commentary. Given the facts, the reading public is quite able to make up its own mind on specific issues. Opinion and commentary should be confined to editorials, columns and the letters page.

A suggestion that anyone is "in the dark" in the context of council meetings, for instance, whether intended as humour or not, clearly hsnno place in news reporting. The intrusion of such motifs may be entertaining to some but can crowd out and trivialize issues as the Mayor rightly says. More insidiously, they can contribute to a downward spiral of public cynicism, derision and "alternative facts" as we have seen under the Trump administration, where our democratic institutions are corroded in a maelstrom of incivility, half truths and outright lies. Facts and opinions are not the same.

Adrian O'Connell

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