Is it fake, or just not fair?

By Mike D'Amour

February 23, 2017 12:00 AM

We’ve been inundated lately with the term “fake news.”
It’s been uttered frequently by Donald Trump, the United States’ new president.
It would seem any mainstream news organization that doesn’t coddle the neophyte POTUS, or back and agree with his views, puts out nothing more than “fake.”
Newspapers have always been the place people could go to find out what’s happening locally, in the province, the rest of Canada and the world.
We in the biz are trusted to give the straight goods without emotion, bias or political leaning.
In fact, every journalism student used to have the acronym FAB drilled into them; it became a mantra.
FAB simply stands for fair and balanced, and every true reporter strives to meet that ideal.
Sadly, due to falling revenue and other factors, many newspapers have forgotten that simple tenet.
In the rush to be first, many have succumbed to the pressure and shoved stories to press long before they should see print.
Stories are being torqued—or sensationalized—in a way they never have been before.
(Trust me, I’m familiar with this; most of my career was with the Sun Media chain, as it was known, and we would never torque a story. What we were told was we were simply “maximizing the news value.”)
I guess you can call it what you like, but those stories still smack of sloppy work and lies.
Not quite fake, but nothing a true reporter could take any pride in producing.
Do we mess up from time to time? Hell yeah, and we’re embarrassed when we do.
But here’s the difference between the LLoydminster Source and the fake news: when we make a mistake, we fess up as quickly as possible and correct the error.
We also apologize for the mistake because, by printing anything that turns out to be less than true, we feel is a great disservice to our community that depends on us to get it right.
Case in point: there was, and still is, a very inflammatory story making the rounds in Lloydminster.
Many of you know what I’m talking about now, without me writing another word about it. Those who don’t know, well, you’re probably better off.
The story was put out a couple of weeks ago and to say I’m disappointed in the reporter and the organization that decided to release the story based on a single interview would be an understatement.
I’ve never called out another journalist on a story, but this one was just plain wrong.
Without going into too much detail, the story involved some highschool kids.
We, of course, heard about the incident, and got on the story right away.
Initially, we believed the story would gain national attention and knew we had to be careful with this one.
We had to be sure all our ducks were in a row before we printed a single word.
We interviewed family, the RCMP, school board bosses and others to get a handle on exactly what happened.
Regular readers of the Source will know I’m not the Mountie’s biggest cheerleader, but I’m absolutely confident they did a most thorough investigation of this incident.
At the end of the day, we had a story rife with accusations, salacious details, and pending criminal charges.
Still, something didn’t feel right about the story and we held it, waiting to see if charges were indeed laid.
They were not.
I’ve known plenty of lawyers over the years, and I don’t know one who wouldn’t take on a case like this, however, the local Crown prosecutor declined to lay any charges connected with the event.
If he would have had any belief whatsoever that he had reasonable expectations of getting convictions, he would have charged the accused.
But he didn’t.
The facts simply didn’t support charges.
It was then, after an intense newsroom meeting, we decided not to run the story. We felt printing it without every single fact in place would lead to public speculation, innuendo and false accusations.
That wouldn’t be fake—it simply wouldn’t be balanced.
Or fair.

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