On Tuesday, February 17th, the topic of conversation for WSIC audience members was Politics and Media Responsibility – hosted in our new venue, the Windup Bird Café. The venue was packed and WSIC attendees were treated to an exciting debate on the issue, all while enjoying delicious food and ambience.
Suzanna Kelley, Editor in Chief of Ontario News Watch, opened up the discussion by contextualizing political journalism as an important cog in the democratic political process; journalists serve the public, as opposed to any political party. Their role is so important because without clear factual information, the public cannot make informed decisions in what kind of society we wish to live in. Media has changed dramatically over the last 15 years with the advent of the Internet, which has put cost pressures on media organizations as a whole and the amount of money being spent on reporting. The Internet has been both a blessing and a curse, as information can be sourced immediately, however, sometimes at the expense of missing facts and mistruths. It is equally important to distinguish between Internet users who convey information as a matter of opinion, versus trained media persons who have triple-checked their information prior to reporting. According to Suzanna, there is a real need for an overhaul in journalistic ethics in large media organizations, and with ethical leaders setting rigid standards from the top down. We are living in extraordinary times and our democracy is facing real pressure. Further action must be taken.
Dave Hardy from Hardy Stevenson and Associates is a leader in communication work, working for both public and private clients and engaged in mediation and consultation across numerous sectors. His view is that in a healthy democracy it is important that media organizations retain certain key characteristics – namely, the ability to disseminate information to the public, fact-checking before printing and print retractions if needed. The role of media should be to connect with the widest possible audience and on the basis of real substantive information. Social media has its benefits in keeping the political class accountable. However, it can also dilute some of the truth in media and create confusion on behalf of the public by way of distilling fact from fiction.
WSIC audience members were clearly passionate about media responsibility and its role today in society, with various questions being posed to our panellists. Commentary on media distortion and questions on why certain individuals (for example, celebrities) were privy to as much media attention as trained scientists filled the room with conversation. Additionally, with new forms of media and media organizations, we are entering into an era of conflict with the older institutions, as they attempt to work together in the ever changing media landscape. Discussions on whether journalists should be licensed was another key suggestion offered on how to best preserve the integrity of journalism today and to ensure that what is being conveyed to the public is accurate and complete.
Overall, the evening was a great success due to the quality of our panellists and new venue environment. We look forward to future events at the Windup Bird Café and we thank our panellists for the insightful conversation!
Susanna Kelly’s Opening Remarks
Dave Hardy’s Opening Remarks