COLUMN: A Mirror is not to blame for what it reflects

Mirrors are interesting instruments.

Their reflected images can be the source of pride and satisfaction but at other times what they show can be deeply bothersome in nature.

But whether the reflections are complementary or vexatious is not the fault of the mirror; it simply reflects whatever it is shown.

The news media is like that.

It isn’t the job of any news outlet to create the news, they simply reflect what’s happened with the goal of keeping the public informed.

But that long accepted ethos has come under attack of late, often by those who are principles of a given story. It’s common now for these individuals to react to coverage by trying to discredit the messenger. They cry “fake news”, demand retractions, and work to impugn the character and professionalism of the journalists who report the news.

These tactics are particularly corrosive to a free press and an informed public.

Unfortunately, social media feeds can contribute to the problem.

The Sooke News Mirror (yes, Mirror, it’s a name the paper bears with pride), has, on occasion, experienced that phenomenon.

Last week we posted a demonstrably accurate story about what had occurred at the last District Council meeting. (That meeting can be seen on video at the municipal website and anyone inclined to do so could easily confirm the veracity of the story.)

But in one of the principles of that story, the narrative evoked immediate accusations of shoddy reporting and demands for a retraction. The Mirror declined.

Then came the online assault. No less than 26 posts were placed on the Mirror’s social media site, decrying the story as being false (it wasn’t).

Of course, like other news outlets, it’s not the first time that the Mirror has weathered this sort of attack. Nor, unfortunately, do we imagine it will be the last.

As is the case for any media outlet these days, we recognize it as a part of the job.

But make no mistake.

Attacks of this kind do nothing to further the public narrative.

It’s the job of every news outlet, including community newspapers, to speak the truth. If we get something wrong, and we will, we’ll acknowledge the mistake and correct it. But we will not bow to those who wish to control the content of the news to further their own agenda.

•••

Tim Collins is a Sooke News Mirror reporter.

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