Thursday, June 12, 2014

Striking a Blow for Media Independence

When UNIFOR took a side in the Ontario election -- telling its members not to vote for Tim Hudak and the Progressive Conservative Party -- media impartiality and independence in Canada (or at least the public perception of it) was dealt a stunning blow.

All the mismanagement, scandal, and misappropriation of taxpayer funds by the Ontario Liberal Party suddenly didn't matter. All that mattered, suddenly, was UNIFOR's interests, and very clearly UNIFOR's interests are better served by a Liberal or NDP government.

So if sources complaining to the Canadaland blog are telling the truth, Globe and Mail editor in chief David Walmsley had absolutely no choice but to overrule the newspaper's editorial board in an alleged decision to obey UNIFOR's missive and endorse Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. Media workers at the Globe and Mail are organized by UNIFOR.

It's impossible to believe that when UNIFOR comes out and tells its members how to vote that this will not affect their reporting as well. This is why UNIFOR's decision to take sides in the election was so reckless, so unethical, and so utterly unacceptable. And it's also why Walmsley couldn't sit back and allow even the perception that the Globe and Mail's endorsement had been tainted by UNIFOR's don't-vote-for-Hudak directive.

Simply put, a free press must not only be free and independent, but must also be seen to be free and independent. When journalists start blatantly toeing the line openly drawn by union leaders, media brass must step in.

David Walmsley struck a blow for media independence. He did the right thing.

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