Editorial: Andrew Scheer not telling the truth about Canadian journalism

Facts are facts.

It is such an important thing to remember, with Canadians soon heading to the polls in what will be their inaugural election of the post-truth era.

Post-truth politics is a culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion, disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored. That’s according to Wikipedia, and Wikipedia doesn’t lie.

Be like Wikipedia.

Consider the following exercise on how to assess and use facts.

On the table there are 10 apples. How do you know there are 10 apples? You counted them, of course.

You counted them several times, just to be sure. The number is always 10. There are 10 apples.

Ten apples is a fact.

It’s perfectly acceptable and even desirable for people to debate the apples.

One person could put forth a legitimate argument that 10 apples isn’t enough apples. Another could make a strong case that 10 apples is way too much fruit.

What happens to the apples is a fair point of disagreement. The apples could be arranged in a bowl and used as a decorative and nutritious centre piece. They could also be tossed in cinnamon, sugar and oats, thrown in the oven, then served with ice cream.

For sure, there is going to be one voice in the wilderness demanding we forget apples altogether and count pomegranates.

But there’s still only 10 apples on the table.

A fundraising video for the Conservative Party, featuring its leader Andrew Scheer, has been making the rounds on social media.

In the 3:44 minute clip Scheer makes numerous claims regarding journalists, the country’s third largest union, and a recently announced $600-million federal program to support news organizations through tax credits, over five years.

Scheer states on tape that there are 15,000 journalists in Canada who are represented by Unifor, an organization that has publicly declared it will work to defeat the Conservatives in the coming vote.

Yes, Unifor leadership did say that. That’s a fact.

However, there are NOT 15,000 journalists in Canada. (It sure would be nice, though.) There are actually 12,050 journalists working in Canada and that fact comes from Statistics Canada – the people who count stuff for a living.

Further, while Unifor is the country’s biggest media union, it certainly doesn’t represent all journalists.

Unifor has over 11,900 members in its media sector, comprising approximately four per cent of the union’s total numbers. But those people are employed in broadcast, film, printing and graphic arts, as well as newspapers. There are reporters, but also advertising sales people, costume designers, administration personnel, press and pre-press workers, website operators, camera people, and so on. That information is readily available on the union’s website.

It’s wrong (also silly) to suggest that a professional journalist would allow labour affiliation or eligibility for a corporate tax credit to influence how he or she approaches the job.

And any discussion about potential nefarious ramifications of the so-called newspaper “bail out” (that, arguably, is like describing an inch as a yard) is not complete without considering the approximate $1 billion taxpayers contribute annually to the CBC. It also overlooks the $75 million the government spends each year, through the Canadian Periodical Fund under Heritage Canada, to subsidize Canadian print magazines, non-daily newspapers and digital products. That program has existed, in one form or another, for decades.

Journalists care about apples. And that’s a fact.

– Similkameen Spotlight

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