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Opinion: News media not on payroll of government

An op-ed from Western Producer news editor Bruce Dyck
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"I work with reporters on a daily basis as we decide what stories to publish. What the government does and does not want us to pr int is the last thing on our minds," says Bruce Dyck, The Western Producer's news editor.

WESTERN PRODUCER — Forgive me as I write my third column in a row about the role of the media in a modern democracy, but it is a subject that is near and dear to my heart.

Journalists, whether they work for a newspaper, radio or TV station or online service, have always taken flack from someone about what they write.

A journalism professor once told me that if both sides of an issue are angry about what you’re writing, it means you’re doing something right.

Lately, however, the mood in certain circles has taken a decidedly darker tone.

I first noticed this disturbing trend a few years ago when then U.S. president Donald Trump, not satisfied with calling the media “fake news,” began labelling them “enemies of the people.”

Trump has his supporters north of the border, but the vitriol spewed against journalists didn’t seem as obvious in Canada.

That appears to be changing.

There were the verbal and sometimes physical attacks on reporters covering the recent anti-COVID vaccine mandate protests, but it goes deeper than that.

Two weeks ago I wrote a column satirizing the belief among some Canadians that the federal government is paying the media to print what it wants us to print.

I took a lighter approach to the subject by pretending that this was real and told a fictitious story about the government moving a civil servant into my home to watch what I put in the paper, all the while eating my food and hogging the TV remote.

The goal was to point out the absurdity of the accusation in a light-hearted way, but the underlining foundation of such a belief is worrisome.

I’m bothered that we’ve come to a point where people can believe Western Producer journalists are paid off by the government to publish government-approved content.

I have no idea what business support The Western Producer may or not be receiving from the federal government. That’s none of my concern, and it certainly doesn’t influence what we cover.

I work with reporters on a daily basis as we decide what stories to publish. What the government does and does not want us to print is the last thing on our minds.

I can promise you that goes for the rest of the country’s news media, too.

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