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In October, 2022, The Globe and Mail reported that the ArriveCan app was ballooning in cost and that most of the work had been awarded to a company with only five employees, which then subcontracted the work to dozens of others.

On Monday, the federal Auditor-General delivered her report on the scandal, which found a “glaring disregard” for management practices as the cost of the app has grown to nearly $60-million. Her audit followed a motion in the House of Commons in November, 2022, shortly after The Globe’s initial reporting.

Pardon me for tooting my colleagues’ horn (horns?), but it feels necessary in this moment following the huge job cuts announced by Bell Media last week – and some of the responses to those losses. In even a quick sojourn onto the hellscape that is now called X, one was subjected to these just-laid-off journalists and their devastated colleagues being called state propagandists, pathological liars, lying hacks and some stuff we can’t print.

If a dearth of empathy was evident in these comments, so was a genuine distrust in mainstream media. Some of those who were rejoicing at lives being upended harbour a real belief that the media is to blame for upending theirs.

The truth: there is no great arm of the government telling MSM overlords what to report (or not report), which then trickles down to us lowly writers in the form of directives, or even suggestions. This is not happening. If it were – if the MSM was truly the arm of the Liberal government – why would The Globe, for instance, have exposed the ArriveCan app issues? Or the SNC-Lavalin scandal?

Or wait – were these just politically safe covers to make it look like the media is holding Justin Trudeau’s feet to the fire, when really the MSM is spreading messages that he and his cronies are quietly dictating? I imagine there is some conspiracy theory out there to that effect.

With today’s race-to-the-bottom discourse and the siloed trajectory of the media, the loss of “mainstream” – i.e. not biased, not niche – media will only lead to more preaching of incendiary baloney to the choir. Increasingly, people will read what they already believe, the algorithms offering up stories to support those beliefs. The confirmation bias will further skyrocket as people avoid venturing outside their ideological comfort zones for a different perspective. This is already happening.

Is mainstream Canadian journalism perfect? Of course not. But there is no grand deliberate attempt at misinformation at play. And the work reporters do is crucial.

TSN, a Bell Media property, first broke the story of an alleged sexual assault involving Canada’s 2018 world junior hockey team, as well as accompanying lawsuits against Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey League. That was in May, 2022. Five members of that team were charged criminally in January.

What would have happened had TSN not exposed the lawsuit? Had The Canadian Press and The Globe not followed with reporting about a Hockey Canada fund that dealt with sexual abuse claims, paid for in part by hockey parents’ registration fees for their kids? Gutted newsrooms will mean less of this kind of reporting. This is not just depressing. It’s dangerous.

Do we really want to get our news from influencers in flashy 60-second TikTok videos? Is this who we are going to trust to explain a Middle East conflict or to analyze the next federal budget? Is this who will guide Canadians into the next federal election?

In a media scrum following the Bell cuts, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre accused a CP reporter who was asking him a question – i.e. doing her job – of being a mouthpiece for the Liberal government. “You are a tax-funded media outlet and spreading Justin Trudeau’s message,” he declared. The Canadian Press, a wire service, writes straightforward news stories that subscriber publications run in their newspapers or online sites. This includes the CBC – which Mr. Poilievre brought up in his pushback. He wants to significantly cut government funding to the CBC. He could very well be our next Prime Minister.

In that same exchange, Mr. Poilievre accused the federal government of buying support from the media, with the media taking “marching orders” from the PMO.

Social media allows governments, political parties and other organizations – such as professional sporting bodies – to get their message out directly. Do Canadians really want to hand the keys directly to the newsmakers? Without any opportunity for fact-checking, analysis, context or challenge?

We are in real danger of having a Big Yellow Taxi situation on our hands. Journalism isn’t cheap, especially investigative work. But its value is vital. Let’s not wait until it’s gone to realize that.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he's furious over Bell Media layoffs, calling it a 'garbage decision.' Trudeau said on Feb. 9 the company should know better, while radio stations and small community newspapers are increasingly being bought up by large corporations that lay off journalists and change the quality of their offerings.

The Canadian Press

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