Maybe it’s because I just finished my final paper for Ethics of Journalism class (the BEST class I have ever taken, I might add, and an important one to boot) but I feel like lately, I’ve been seeing an elevated number of sketchy ethical, journalism-related situations cropping up.
I was perusing my feed on my newly-acquired twitter when I spotted a story posted by CBC Ottawa. Apparently the Kanata Kourier Standard in Ottawa (clearly a standards-setter for journalistic and grammatical excellence) has decided to stop publishing a weekly column by a local city councilor. The column has been running for thirty years, and Councilor Mary Wilkinson is upset because, she told the CBC, “she uses the column to inform constituents and generate feedback about upcoming issues”.
OK, so maybe it was a little bit abrupt for the Kanata Kourier Standard – it hurts me every time to type in that second K – to pull the column without informing Councilor Wilkinson, but I’m more concerned about the fact that the column existed in the first place. Journalists should, as Bob Steele, journalism ethics professor for the Poynter Institute says, “Act Independantly.” They should, “Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise your integrity or damage your credibility” he tells us.
Thanks Bob. Now, as an important role of the media is to inform the public so they can make solid decisions and maintain a democratic society, I would suggest that such a close relationship with a politician is an association to avoid. I see the merit in a guest column, perhaps, in the editorial section, preferably when the need arises for a response by the politician to a specific issue. However, this relationship they’ve cultivated was a little too close for comfort. I applaud the KKS for pulling the plug.
According to CBC, publishing weekly columns by local city councilors was practiced across the city in community papers, until the Ottawa Region Media Group decided to use the space to, you know, cover more local news. What an idea.
Councilor Wilkinson, still bitter, suggested the city could consider discontinuing advertising with the Kourier Standard. Hey, editor: make amends with the rude councillor by replacing her advertisements with column inches on city hall. Give the public something real to chew on – instead of letting politicians spoon feed their messages to constituents.