Sunday, December 21, 2014

Propaganda Posing As Journalism

   Canada’s federal government continues to pour millions of taxpayer dollars into one of its most notable successes: blurring the line between journalism and propaganda.
   Public Works Canada is paying $1.25 million for a publicity outfit, which looks like a real news operation, to write and distribute powder puff stories that “inform and educate” Canadians. This is nothing new or unusual. Governments for decades have used our taxes to buy distorted stories that make them look good.
   Usually government departments have staff publicity people to do this. Now there is a trend to contract out flacking to private companies that try to look like genuine news operations.
   One of those companies is News Canada Ltd., which is writing and distributing “news” for Public Works Canada. The company name is part of the illusion that this is a real news agency, which it is not.
   The company president, Shelley Middlebrook, aids the illusion by referencing her company’s work to The Canadian Press (CP), a genuine news service that has been providing professional journalism to print and broadcast media for 100 years.
   Ms. Middlebrook told Blacklock’s Reporter recently that News Canada gives media outlets free stories, paid for and vetted by the federal government, bearing a “News Canada” credit – “just like Canadian Press. . . . We follow Canadian Press-style rules of writing, and articles have to be marked as ‘News Canada’ just like CP.”
   I’m sure Ms. Middlebrook was not trying to indicate that her company is the same type of professional journalism agency as The Canadian Press. No doubt she was just trying to show that her company follows high standards of writing style.
   The government, however, wants the public to think that its bought stories are balanced just like the real journalism produced by real journalists working for real news operations like The Canadian Press. Regrettably, the government is becoming successful at blurring that line between propaganda and journalism because more and more people no longer see the difference.
   Here is the difference:
   A recent government-paid-for “news story” on Aboriginal land claims extolls how “Canada has made a commitment to reconciling relationships with First Nations people . . . . The future looks bright. More win-win solutions are in the works to bring closure and justice for all.”
   At about the same time, the Toronto Globe and Mail produced a major piece of journalism on the suicide of Eddie Snowshoe in a federal prison. The story noted that the suicide rate in federal prisons is seven times higher than in the public at large. This was one of a number of news stories produced by real news operations this year telling how federal government policies and practices are harming, even killing, Canada’s native people.         
   Canadians are doing little to stop the government from using their tax dollars to distribute information that is not balanced and not completely accurate. The more we accept the use of government propaganda, the more we lessen our democracy.

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