Just what do we think journalism is for?
Here in the fishbowl that is any small town (Wakefield Folks, you know who you are), I’ve heard a lot of grumbling over the last week about the Low Down’s cover story that included a picture of a local, former nurse standing on stage in the middle of the Freedom Convoy occupation (“Wakefield nurse fires up convoy,” Feb. 9 edition).
A few prime grumblers unabashedly declared they hadn’t bothered to read the article. Hmm. That alone is its own opinion piece. Too bad they didn’t read it though because the story was one of the most comprehensive accounts of the occupation I’ve encountered. If the Low Down has an opinion, I couldn’t detect it. Why? Because the article was written with journalistic integrity: just the facts, with interviews from stakeholders on multiple sides, multiple angles. It provided, dare I use the term, verifiable information.
If the doctor’s oath is “do no harm,” the journalist’s oath is “inform the public.” We watch news and interviews in which journalists are right there on the frontlines, risking their safety to give us access to information we couldn’t get otherwise. Usually, we are appreciative. A Low Down reporter interviewed a convoy protestor – inside his rig – and conveyed his thoughts in our local paper. Amazing! Who doesn’t believe that if there is a large cross-country movement blocking trade, traffic, activities of daily life, we would do well to understand why?
So often these days, journalism is a soundbite, a snack that can be consumed on our phones in between Tinder-swiping and Candy Crush.
I find myself wishing the articles I read would answer some of the questions they raise, such as the actual effect on small businesses in the occupied area after an occupier said it was nil? After getting a quote from … Bethan Nodwell that businesses in the market have no trouble being open, the Low Down followed with a statement from local business owner, Dave Mangano that his business is down 80 per cent and his staff have been harassed. This is what I want from my journalists — give me the facts, tell me the whole story, let me decide. Regardless of what side of an issue you fall on, what could be more democratic than that?
And let’s remember that we live in a town in which we are lucky enough to have an award-winning small-town paper. Consistently, year after year, the Low Down is recognized for its journalistic integrity, for covering real news and covering it well. I like a cat-rescued-from-a-tree story as much as the next gal, but I, for one, am grateful my local, grassroots, multi-generational, award-winning newspaper is the real deal.
Una McDonnell is a Wakefield business owner and resident.