Censorship isn’t how a newspaper should conduct business.
On the heels of World Press Freedom Day – a day designed to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind leaders of their duty to uphold and respect the right to freedom of expression – I’m reminded I shouldn’t have to point that fact out.
Isn’t it 2018? Aren’t we all preaching for acceptance of diversity, as well as diverse thoughts and points of view?
Not according to some, and that was on full display in the community last week.
A group of individuals were angry a particular letter had been published in our Letters to the Editor section for it expressing an opinion they disagreed with. Rather than contact us directly and speak with us about the rationale behind why the letter was published, they decided to use social media to slam the Lacombe Globe as if we endorsed the letter or were using it as a “publicity stunt.”
Suddenly, the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index and its ranking of Canada (18th, considered a “satisfactory” situation for press, but not a “good” situation), made complete sense.
In a world where people gravitate towards social media as opposed to media outlets for news, many are starting to believe the only news or opinion that belongs out there is the kind which validates their own personal beliefs. Facebook, Twitter etc. are designed to put everyone in an echo chamber of people who think much like themselves, making us all less open to diverse opinions and trains of thought. The second someone steps out of line, it’s trial by social media – everyone gangs up on those with a different opinion in attempt to make them conform.
Now, some believe a newspaper should act that way as well, filtering out thoughts that don’t conform and if it doesn’t, it’s as bad as the letter writer.
That isn’t freedom of speech. It’s not democratic. It’s censorship and not how a newspaper should act.
Consider the video of Kelly Pocha yelling racist obscenities at a Denny’s in Lethbridge. I don’t see anyone up in arms over the video itself being published. I don’t see people grilling Lethbridge News Now, CTV, Global News or others that aired the video over the choice to do so.
The content, like a letter, showed insight into someone’s thoughts, point of view, however controversial and misguided some may believe it to be. It opened up bigger questions about discrimination, racism. It prompted discussion about trial by social media, how media outlets should approach a story like that and other poignant topics.
This is the very heart of what a Letters to the Editor section is. It is a forum for community discourse, debate. Its function is to encourage or start discussion on a range of issues. It’s not part of some big publicity stunt or scheme. It’s not there for “shock factor.” It is there to open discussion for the purpose of gaining insight into how different people in a community think, how they view the world, what’s important to them.
Why is this important in a newspaper? Well, to put it simply: journalism is the study of people doing things. Journalism is not the study of people only doing what we’d like them to do, nor thinking only the way we believe they should.
If you like everything you read in a newspaper, then it isn’t doing its job in gaining both sides of a story, or publishing a variety of opinions. You’re welcome to have your own opinions, thoughts and feelings on the content within the pages. The letter writer in question came into the office and signed his name behind his. You’re encouraged to do the same.
Understand, however, that a newspaper should share the good with the bad, not tailor its content to line up with an individual or group’s way of thinking or censor those we don’t agree with.