I received an interesting email the other day. It was from someone complaining that the Richmond News printed comments from people who are “obviously so Pro-China.”
In particular, he was offended that, following the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, we ran a story about a Richmond group protesting her detainment.
The protesters argued that Meng’s human rights were being violated. They were calling for her immediate release.
The email writer said it was “sad that Richmond News prints these stories,” and accused our reporter of being a “puppet.”
My first reaction was, “Ya, sure, shoot the messenger.” Making space in a paper for certain viewpoints is not the same as endorsing them -- duh.
But not so fast. We are responsible for making that distinction clear. At the time we ran the Meng protest story, there was some discussion in the newsroom about the front page headline which stated “Free Meng.” Some thought the quotation marks were unnecessary, that given we were running a picture of protesters holding up a banner saying the same thing, it was obvious the headline reflected the protesters’ position, not the paper’s. However, others thought that while that is probably the case, the quotation marks further stress that fact. Point being, there can be ambiguity.
I have also heard people say that while they may not think the paper actually endorses certain views, by giving them coverage we perpetuate them.
A couple of years ago, there was a demonstration against racism held at the Canada Line Brighouse Station. Three men from the anti-immigrant group, Soldiers of Odin, showed up and appeared to be looking for a fight.
We reported on the event, but later some of the demonstrators complained that while there were vastly more demonstrators than agitators, it was the men in black hoodies shouting menacing chants who got most of the media coverage.
Again, fair enough. We need to guard against misrepresenting a situation by focusing on the shocking and appalling. Actually, the same thing was said during the school board’s debate regarding a policy for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI).
But despite all these valid points, I would contend our greatest enemy is ignorance, and ignorance thrives in darkness.
While the media can fail in various and spectacular ways, it can also be a public space where all ideas are contested. At its best, it is a space where good ideas can gain traction and bad ones are shown for what they are.
We could censor ideas we don’t like and just write “good news” stories. But, frankly, that’s the height of cynicism. It takes bullish optimism, to believe we can hear things that make us uncomfortable, that we can have impassioned yet constructive discussions with those we disagree.
In this age of filter bubbles, echo chambers and the habit of only forwarding articles we know our friends will agree with, healthy debate is not something we can take for granted. In that light, I make no apologies for bringing a vast range of voices into the conversation.