OPINION: Comfortable ‘news’ not hard to find

OPINION: Comfortable ‘news’ not hard to find

If you seek only news that confirms your political sensibilities, there are many options

There’s a certain comfort people in other parts of the globe have when getting their news from their media outlets of choice.

It’s been obvious to those seeking news in the English-speaking world this week, as major political news hits the United Kingdom and the United States – one for a so-called snap election and the other for an administration said to be in chaos.

With our own deadlines and responsibilities, you’ll no doubt guess that this opinion column was written hours before the U.K. elected a new (and presumably returning) federal government and the U.S. heard President Donald Trump’s reaction to Senate-hearing testimony from his fired FBI chief James Comey.

But I’m willing to predict that Brits who support their honourable incumbents will be comforted tomorrow morning by the pages of the Daily Mail, and that Americans who support their tremendously great president are finding little to sneer at by tuning into Fox News.

In contrast, the Daily Mirror will no doubt lament how unfair opponents have been to their righteous Labour Party challenger, and CNN will highlight unhinged, un-American behaviour of Trump and his unwavering family of supporters.

Here, at home, most mainstream Canadian media – and, no, ‘mainstream’ does not deserve to be a tainted word – pride themselves in not taking sides, in presenting opposing viewpoints objectively.

Their successes, of course, are up for debate.

Here, at Peace Arch News, we’ve certainly been accused over the decades of taking sides. Some readers – many an elected official among them – view reports quoting dissenting opinions as support for said opinions.

(Bizarrely, we even had one mayoral hopeful aver that quoting and photographing the incumbent during the previous term of office was tantamount to supporting him, but that’s a column for a past day.)

Others suggest that highlighting the bad things that go on in our area – the crimes, the tragedies and the often-petty politics – suggests a disproportionate amount of bad news in an otherwise good community.

Most feedback, however, suggests the news is consumed as it’s intended – news; things that one wouldn’t necessarily predict.

When politicians and their supporters have asked in the past why certain comments and events weren’t reported in our pages, I ask if there was news value in what was said or done. A politician supporting his/her party leader is to be expected; critical comments less so.

Reporting of homicides, fires and leaders’ questionable comments shouldn’t suggest they are commonplace. It should suggest they’re news.

I remember looking through one U.S. city’s daily newspaper and discovering homicide reports reduced to barely a mention on inside pages. I wouldn’t want to be a newspaper editor in a community where that news judgment could be made with a clear conscience.

Meantime, if you’re a big supporter on the international stage of the right-wing or the left-wing, and you don’t want news that sometimes makes you a little uncomfortable and question your own political sensibilities, you know where not to look.

Lance Peverley is editor of the Peace Arch News.