Fake news? Free recourse exists

Long after Donald Trump is dead and gone, the fake-news label his tweets spawned will live on. Twitter, Facebook and their imitators will see to that.

The real-news tests taught in journalism school will still apply to traditional print and broadcast outlets, but their credibility has suffered. New York Times and Washington Post? Fake news to anyone who doesn’t buy the truth. The same goes for CBS, CNBC, CNN, and any other mainstream outlet with professional reporters and editors.

I see the same thing happening in Canada with the attacks on CBC, CTV, Global and print media. The new test for journalism: believe what you want to believe and disregard the rest.

I get a chuckle out of being singled out as a source of fake news. It’s a lot easier to apply a fake-news smear than it is to come out with one’s own account of what happened — or to seek recourse through established channels.

Of all the Canadian provinces, Quebec’s journalistic standards are the most demanding. The Quebec Press Act sets those standards. The Quebec Press Council, an arm’s-length tripartite body funded by the provincial government, the information industry and the professional body representing working journalists accepts complaints regarding news articles and opinion published, broadcast or posted by readily identifiable sources, including thousandlashes.ca on WordPress.

After deciding whether the complaint is founded, the Council’s secretariat contacts the complainant and the respondent to get their versions. The file is then assigned to the decisional tribunal. Once a decision is rendered, it is made public.

There is an appeal process if either side feels the decision is unfair. The Conseil also offers mediation.

So, rather than indulging in innuendo, the prudent course of action for anyone who feels wrongly done by would be to file a complaint with the Conseil de presse. The procedure can be done online and decisions are generally arrived at within a reasonable delay.

Another principle is in play, that of public comment by an elected official. Two years ago,  the issue came up at a training course for newly elected members of council. None of those giving the course could venture an opinion based on jurisprudence. All agreed it was a grey area and it might be preferable to take these matters to the Quebec Municipal Commission.

When I think of the hundreds of thousands in taxpayer money squandered the last time someone took an internal fight to the Quebec Municipal Commission, I’ll stick with the Conseil de presse. It’s free.


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