Fit to print
Earlier this week, the Globe and Mail ran an ad promoting a new member of staff at the newspaper, Tanya Talaga. She certainly has a high-achiever’s background: nominated five times for the Michener Award for public service journalism and twice a contributor to stories that won National Newspaper Awards. As an Ojibwe, Talaga brings a particular perspective, said the ad, “to give voice to those who were not being heard.” Moreover, she will set “the record straight on Indigenous peoples’ lived experiences.”
This is all very commendable, but is this the right job for a newspaper? Can such a role as an advocate be properly carried out with the necessary objectivity and lack of bias that readers deserve? Will her pieces appear as bylined news stories or will they be labelled “Opinion” or “Insight” to set them apart as a point-of-view presentation rather than something based on straightforward research and fact-gathering.
To be sure, there is already advocacy in some journalistic areas, such as sports. Sports writers and broadcasters are referred to as “homers” because they rarely criticize, usually taking the side of the local team. In the Jays’ first playoff game, star pitcher Matt Shoemaker was pulled after only three innings. I was listening to the radio broadcast where those calling the play-by-play quickly embraced the party line that this decision was not made by manager Charlie Montoyo acting alone. Upper management was involved, they said, so don’t make Montoyo into a scapegoat. The Globe followed suit on Friday with an equally palsy piece under the headline “Early exit stings, but Jays exude confidence.” And here I thought the team barely made the playoffs after a disappointing year.
When does that kind of mollycoddling become advocacy? Business reporters shouldn’t take it upon themselves to explain away poor performance by floundering corporate executives. Political writers can’t promote a party’s propaganda. Journalism should always be fair, balanced and accurate. Advocacy is for lobbyists and the like, not the pages of my morning paper.