Post Media shouldn’t be endorsing Scheer

Journalism is called to be unbiased. Andre Forget (Wikipediacommons)

Post Media shouldn’t be endorsing anyone, as a matter of fact

By Sara Birrell and Taylor Balfour | News Editor and Op-ed Editor

Days before the toss-up federal election of 2019, the National Post chose to broadcast endorsements for Andrew Scheer across the front pages of their blank affiliate papers. This was relatively unsurprising – Post Media has always had a conservative slant, as well as a history of Conservative endorsements.

In 2015, one of Post’s most prominent editors, Andrew Coyne, resigned after the media group refused to print his endorsement of one of then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s political opponents. And since President and CEO Andrew MacLeod took over in early 2019, writers and editors at the conglomerate’s flagship National Post have reported receiving orders to move the paper further to the right. It was a given that the paper would endorse the Conservatives.

The move, to be frank, is appalling. As a media outlet that should be, by all accounts, unbiased, taking an endorsement for a political leader is horrifying to say the least. The media’s job isn’t to pick sides, to provide selective reporting, or attempt to sway the public into voting a specific way in an election. It is to report facts. Period. That’s it.

But it is also shocking. Free and independent media has many roles in a democratic society. They are meant to hold a nation’s power players to account. To ensure that the people are informed of things that might otherwise be concealed. They also provide important context, drawing on historical and contemporary parallels to the situations they report on and attempting to make sense of where we are and predict where we may be headed. They also offer opinions, and this is something we accept and even encourage. You are reading an opinion piece right now.

But an opinion is different than an endorsement, and a columnist is different from a massive cross-country media giant. An opinion is a point of view. An endorsement verges on being an advertisement – and advertising is fundamentally at odds with the honesty and integrity demanded of the free press. A columnist is another individual, someone whose name and politics are known to us. Columnists provide their opinions, and we can choose whether to believe them.

But when a corporation – and Post Media Group is, above all, a corporation – offers an endorsement as though it is a person, as though its best interests could possibly be the best interests of you and I and our families and our neighbours, that is a gross distortion of what the media is here to do. Post Media Group used its near-monopolistic control of Canadian print media to endorse a candidate they knew would cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy on the back of the worker while pretending that they were speaking for everyday Canadians “struggling to make ends meet.”

The truth of the matter is that journalism is called to be unbiased, despite the ever growing movement of news media becoming anything but. By accepting endorsements, especially from political candidates during an election cycle, journalistic integrity is called into question. If all it takes is cash for reporting to be skewed, it’s no wonder that trust in mainstream media is at an all time low. By that logic, anyone can have truths about them distorted or muffled.

It could be argued that more than called to be unbiased, journalism is required to be unbiased. It’s the very reason that journalism should exist: to report, not to sway. To give information, not to distort it. To be transparent when corporations, individuals, and groups want anything but, because that’s what we need.

The media, whether individuals consuming it choose to believe it or not, is to provide us with facts and information for our consumption. When the information they are providing us becomes distorted, and when they accept money to filter what they do and don’t say, that is when we cross a very stark line.

Post Media’s endorsement of Andrew Scheer demonstrated a brazen disregard, even contempt, for the principles and values of a free and independent media. They held hostage newspapers across the nation, forcing them to print an endorsement, regardless of whether the candidate could or would operate in the best interests of the communities those newspapers serve. They crudely violated the trust that needs to exist between the people and the media in order for the press to serve its purpose. It is well past time for Post Media to be broken up. It is well past time for a working-class revolution in Canadian media.

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