Over the past 10 days, my inbox has been flooded with complaints about too much or too little coverage – too much Justin Trudeau in brownface/blackface and too little climate change.
First, several said that Greta Thunberg’s speech on Monday to the United Nations should have been more prominent.
“So, Greta was there yesterday. That happened and today the Globe online edition treats us to a headline story about sharing a meal with Scheer. The Globe does lots of good, focused and pointed series, but you treat climate change as just one other issue. Climate change should be in the headlines every single day,” one reader said.
One issue here is that the Globe and Mail homepage changes frequently depending on the news. A story about Ms. Thunberg’s speech was at the top of the homepage after it happened (and on Page 3 of the paper the next day), but it moved lower on the homepage as other news broke.
This week has included a considerable amount of climate-change coverage, including a story on a UN report on the urgent risks of warming oceans by science writer Ivan Semeniuk and a two-page comprehensive package on the climate effects young Canadians will have to deal with.
Yesterday’s focus was on Autumn Peltier, a clean water advocate from Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Ont. And coverage will continue today.
Earlier this month, readers wrote to me, asking for more coverage of the political parties’ climate-change policies in the current election campaign. Several had missed a two-page deep dive from Sept. 8, which I was able to send to them.
What I learned from these messages is that while more climate-change coverage is needed, what is also needed is for The Globe to organize and highlight content in a way that’s easy to find and navigate, amid the flood of daily breaking stories. Along with beefing up coverage, The Globe should consider a single spot on globeandmail.com to organize this content, as well as perhaps provide a newsletter that contains science and the environment stories
Ultimately, their messages serve as an important reminder that journalism is not just about news, but also public service, and this is one area where important issues must be tackled, even if there isn’t a daily news event.
There was more anger in my inbox about what readers saw as too much of the blackface controversy last Friday. A few slammed what they sarcastically described as “perfect” Globe and Mail columnists who were critical of Mr. Trudeau, while others railed about what they called an excessive amount of coverage, especially the seven pages in last Friday’s newspaper.
This “huge amount of space devoted to ‘Blackface Trudeau’ is way out of line,” one Manitoba reader said.
He argued that two articles in particular demonstrated the excess; one being a full page of reaction from Mr. Trudeau’s riding, where almost everyone said it was no big deal and another that quoted people from the Vancouver school where the incident happened saying there was nothing racist about it.
Another reader said that even the letters page predominantly included opinions that stated that while Mr. Trudeau may have been foolish, he was not racist.
I think the coverage was appropriate. In those seven pages, you read news and opinions, and through interviews with voters and Globe letters, you saw it was unlikely to have a huge impact.
In any major news, especially when it comes out of the blue, journalists and their editors jump on every angle they can find to give the most comprehensive coverage. When it is a partisan issue, though, it can feel like a pile-on, especially to supporters. But when the news breaks, that is the time to explore all the angles.
In this case, some questions remained. One reader wanted to know what motivated the person who leaked the original photo (this was covered on Friday), while another wondered who Mr. Trudeau was trying to dress up as in the costume revealed in the Global News exclusive video.
Three days after the story first broke, the coverage dropped off to just two pages: one Opinion section column and five letters, with a few more letters since.
I see no evidence that this coverage was partisan: It was a major international story and focus will always be greater on a sitting leader. But whether the balance of coverage is equally critical of all parties and leaders in this election campaign will be seen over the coming weeks.
This week, some felt a profile of Andrew Scheer was too positive and others were upset with coverage of the Liberal MP Eva Nassif, who was denied a Liberal nomination, and pointed out that all parties have had problems with some candidates.
On any given day or week, it seems like one person or party is under the microscope. Editors need to be constantly thinking of how to bring the same level of critical thinking to all.