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  • Howard Law

Journalism through Yellow-Vest Glasses

It didn’t take long for the Conservative Party of Canada to pounce on the newly announced federal aid to local news.

In a fundraising letter penned by Andrew Scheer’s hand-picked national campaign manager Hamish Marshall -----at one time the news director of Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media---- Canadians are warned of the Liberal “$600 million media buy off scheme” in an election year.

According to Marshall, the Libs have poured “hundreds of millions more into the Liberal-friendly CBC since 2015.”

Even worse says Marshall, Unifor National President Jerry Dias, who “represents thousands of media workers at Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, and Toronto Sun,” is plotting to defeat Conservatives: “big media union bosses are coming after us.

Independent newspapers are disappearing,” Marshall also observes. “It means Canadians have no local alternative when national news organizations give Trudeau a free pass.”

We have debated this wisdom before, on offer from more conventional conservatives than the yellow-vester Mr. Marshall.

Yes, there is more money for our public broadcaster. The Libs gave the CBC a $150 million budget boost in 2016, restoring 20% of the $800 million Chrtien-Harper cuts during the previous 30 years.

The “Jerry Dias = mainstream journalism bias” equation, however, is barmy. The notion is that if journalists pay union dues to Unifor, they must be torqueing news coverage to please Dias. Ask yourself this dear reader: did you pay your federal taxes this month to placate Justin Trudeau?

But my favourite is Marshall’s claim that because independent news organizations are disappearing, honest folks have no alternative. Not much deciphering is required here: he means “all national news organizations” are against the Conservatives.

The biggest national news organization (by far) with the most journalists is Postmedia. That would be the same Postmedia chaired by Conservative patron Paul Godfrey, publisher of the National Post. The same fellow who directed his 36 major dailies in 2015 to endorse Stephen Harper’s re-election campaign. The same Godfrey who is publisher of the Sun Media tabloids in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Toronto: Mr. Marshall will blush to concede these are pro-Conservative outlets. Also Godfrey is the publisher of the leading (or only) broadsheets in these major metropolitan markets: the Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Regina Leader-Post, Ottawa Citizen, London Free Press and Montreal Gazette.

Okay, maybe Marshall got a little carried away, being a fundraiser and all. Maybe the number one national news organization is not an enemy of conservativism.

Next up, the Globe & Mail.

Owned by billionaire David Thomson, this news organization endorsed the Conservative Party in 2006, 2008, 2011, and 2015. In the last two months, the Globe did its best to eviscerate the Trudeau government on the SNC Lavallin scandal.

Detect a pattern? In the last four federal elections, the Conservative Party enjoyed the endorsement of leading Canadian newspapers 77% of the time.

Of course election endorsements don’t always give you the full picture about so-called media bias. That’s because writers don’t care what owners think. As a breed, journalists are more skeptical about power and privilege than most anyone else.

But journalists being accused of bias is not necessarily a bad thing. It probably means they are trying to provide the reader with insight into the well-camouflaged workings of powerful institutions. Nobody ever accused a weather reporter of bias.

In this sea of media bias, more journalism is good. Canadians can judge, choose, and even reward the news outlets they trust the most.

In fact popular trust in media is the litmus test of bias, whether Mr. Marshall likes the results or not.

Recent polling reminds us that the majority of Canadians place high trust in their journalists:

What you will notice about these polling numbers is that 69 % of Canadians trust mainstream media. Only 45% of Conservative voters do.

No doubt Mr. Marshall will regard non-Conservative trust in media as proof of the poll respondents’ left wing bias. Presumably because anyone who does not support the Conservative Party is left wing. Or, dear lord, a centrist.

Or maybe the high levels of trust in media are proof that all Canadians outside the Conservative tent have had the whammy put on them by union bosses?

Well, good work Jerry. Knew you could do it.

An under-investigated policy issue is how much money might be delivered by a Media Bargaining Code requiring Google and Facebook to share revenue with Canadian media outlets, otherwise known as pay-fo

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