Throughout my career as a reporter, I’ve done my absolute best to do my due diligence when working on a story.
I try to ask the right questions, give all sides of an issue a chance to comment, do as much research as I can, and provide as much information to the public as I can, so readers can make informed decisions. Yet, the journalism industry seems to continue to have to fend off a negative perception of those who work in what people call ‘the media.’
What has disturbed me recently was contained in a Forum Research presentation, regarding the Kawartha Lakes Police Service (KLPS) community survey. As was reported in The Standard Newspaper recently, the results of this survey were released last month. The effort included an online survey and a few focus group sessions. It was in one of these sessions the following information was reportedly collected. “Some participants believe that it would be more effective for the police to communicate with the public using social media, instead of using conventional media. By using their own platform, the story is coming straight from the police and avoids situations where the media puts a spin on the stories, since conventional media tends to sensationalize and gets the story wrong.”
For starters, that itself seems like a very sensational statement. I’m not naïve; I know there are likely some organizations which are not too trustworthy. But being in the business, I’ve also seen and met many respectable reporters, who work very hard and do whatever they can to provide the public with the most accurate information.
That this concern is coming from sources within the community is, at the very least, concerning. But what concerns me about this statement are the possible implications of it. I’m not saying this police service would do this. Still, if KLPS decided to cut off communications with journalists entirely, they would be the sole people deciding what information the public deserves to know. That is undemocratic. As a third-party observer, I feel local journalism keeps governments and organizations like police services honest by providing unbiased information to the public.
Then there is social media. In Scugog’s 2021 municipal budget survey, the township found more people were using social media as a primary source for township news than newspapers. The KLPS survey also noted people were mostly getting their police news through social media. This, to me, is a concerning trend. Now, I use social media a lot in my job, and at times it can be a great source to find story ideas. But, it’s also a platform where anyone can post anything, factual or not. On most of these sites, there is no fact-checking process for posts. This platform is not truly dedicated to helping the local culture and sense of community be represented as a core value and has no real social accountability.
I’m tired of the negative and false perception of journalists, and I hope more people can see and appreciate just how important journalism is in local communities, cities, the province and in the country.