Right in the centre - Standing behind words and actions


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Note: This column was originally printed in 2019, but it is even more applicable today. ~KW

One thing that the internet has done for us is to provide more information than we could ever process. One big problem is that much of the information we are offered is false or, at best, not always accurate.

It is tough to discern the truth, the facts, in amongst the mountains of stories we are offered. More and more, people are tuning out the flood of information, but along with that, is a subtle move back to local, generally reliable news, as it appears in local newspapers. The foundational truth is that, for the most part, local publishers don’t usually put false information into print. Once it’s printed on paper, it’s impossible to deny what has been written.

On the other hand, if it’s on the internet without permanent record, it can be denied and re-written. But more importantly, most internet sources are tough to track down. On the web, anybody can say anything, no matter how scandalous or outrageous, without the writer being identified or the “facts” being verified.

The newspaper industry, and especially the corporate newspaper part of the industry, is struggling with credibility and with profitability. It may well be that in order to have a newspaper, it has to contain news. It also needs ads and columns too, but it does need news. And it needs to be locally relevant and factual news. A person can throw anything they can dream up on a website and how do you know if it’s true or not? It can also be changed in an instant as well.

Newspapers have a sense of permanency and reliability because, once it’s in print, you can’t take it back. Now that is accountability.

Most local newspapers understand their mandate, which is, to state the obvious, local news. It makes no sense for local papers, be they daily or weekly, to regurgitate what was on TV or the internet the day before. With all the news channels and web sites available, local papers should leave the national and international news alone, unless they are short of news for a given issue of the paper.

Right here in some of our own communities, we have newspapers that have let things get totally out of hand in the quest to build readership. The Brandon Sun allows un-signed comments every day in their “Sound-off section”. I know exactly which publisher started that questionable practice and it has been going on for years, but it should be stopped. It’s dangerous, potentially libelous and allows people without courage to speak up.

The Brandon Sun and the Winnipeg Free Press also spend a lot of time and money on their web editions, which by the way, lose a lot of money. The stories that get posted every day are good enough, as they are the exact same wording, basically, as the print editions and that is all well and good. The problem comes in the dozens and sometimes hundreds of comments that get posted. Almost without fail, they are under an anonymous name. We have no idea who is commenting. On the odd occasion that I offer a comment, you can bet my name is attached to it. If you can’t or won’t attach your name to a comment, then maybe you shouldn’t be making it. For sure the newspapers need to step up and change this practice, as anonymous comments do nothing for public discussion.

Readers expect credibility and reliability in their newspapers. They deserve nothing less.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.