The job of today’s journalist is tougher than ever and it goes beyond shrinking newsrooms and limited resources.
Elected officials and people in a position of responsibility now either cry bullying or they attack the credibility of journalists whenever they find themselves in uncomfortable situations.
In the case of U.S. president Donald Trump, he immediately planted a seed — even with those who don’t take him seriously — labelling the press as “the true enemy of the people.”
Trump’s words caught on and quickly worked its way to Canada.
Here in the Okanagan, a school board recently claimed bullying by a well-known journalist (ironically, the two who complained have been described as such by colleagues for years). Unrelated, a local committee that’s presently under the microscope has done the same.
“Body language” is the catch phrase for the moment.
In both cases, the journalists were indeed asking hard questions, but they were fair and they required answers. Rather than give an honest response, individuals instead chose to attack the credibility of the person asking the question.
The problem in today’s society, and we see it time and time again — nobody wants to be held accountable.
Most recently, Boundary Similkameen MLA Linda Larson made unfounded claims of “outside influences” supporting the proposed South Okanagan Similkameen national park. Her revelation was made to CBC Daybreak host Chris Walker during a phone interview.
As any journalist would, Walker asked her to elaborate. Larson hung the phone up. If an MLA is unwilling to quote her source, it’s either (a.) nonfactual or (b.) she has no evidence to back her claim. Larson’s supporters — and there are many — have chosen to be critical of the journalist. (One comment: “Which politician hasn’t wanted to hang the phone up on Chris Walker?”)
The media has the responsibility to hold the powerful accountable. Judging by the recent spending scandal at the B.C. Legislature, the politicians weren’t doing a very good job at monitoring top-level bureaucrats. Fortunately, we can thank the media in Victoria for exposing the truth. It wasn’t an easy job, we’re sure. They would have faced tremendous resistance.
The average person lacks the skills, knowledge and time to file Freedom of Information requests and hold government and other public bodies accountable. The average person lacks courage and can be easily intimidated or thrown off the scent by skillful bureaucrats.
Bullying was an issue ignored by governments, education, police and society for years. In the past decade, it’s finally being taken seriously.
But, many are violating the bully card, playing it to their advantage.
Anti-bullying programs were designed to prevent suicide and depression, not to save people who find themselves in a jam.
Shame on those who have falsely played the bully card.
James Miller is valley editor for the Okanagan Newspaper Group.