This is a dark time for local journalism.
Dozens of community newsrooms were swapped and closed by the country’s two biggest newspaper companies late last year, a deal now being investigated by the Competition Bureau.
An increasingly troubled business model has left big markets like Thunder Bay with bare-bones reporting resources that leave local citizens uninformed.
This has been compounded by attacks on the credibility of the profession, especially in the United States. President Donald Trump has given ammunition to anyone looking to discredit pesky reporters by bleating the phrase “fake news.”
This is the climate Ontario Liberal MPP Bob Delaney waltzed into with his recent attacks on his local paper, the Mississauga News.
The dust-up began when the News published a story accurately reporting comments Mr. Delaney made at a constituent meeting to discuss the provincial budget last week.
In a testy exchange with a News reporter about rising debt, the MPP for Mississauga-Streetsville said, “With respect, that’s bullshit.”
“We have tripled [the debt] and we’re proud of it, because we can afford it,” he went on to say.
Faced with published evidence of his words, Mr. Delaney went on talk radio and said the News had their story wrong. He also ran a Facebook ad attacking the News for their “seriously inaccurate and incomplete” story and suggesting that those who believed it were “neo-cons.”
Unfortunately for him, the News had tape. Their recording confirmed the original story.
It takes a politician of a truly adamantine shamelessness to lie in the face of recorded evidence, and Mr. Delaney is no Donald Trump.
He has apologized to the News and admitted their story was accurate. But at this moment in the history of democracy and the press, even gaffe-prone politicians should know better than to try to smear journalists for doing their jobs, and doing them well.