Fewer "Eyes" in Newsrooms Leads to Blind Spots - New Canadian Media
A sparser newsroom means less eyes checking controversial pieces such as the coded racist op-ed published in the Vancouver Sun, writes Fabian Dawson. Photo credit: Alan Cleaver / Flickr

Fewer “Eyes” in Newsrooms Leads to Blind Spots

These are not the actions of a publication that wants to promote hate. I am proud of their swift and decisive response

The publication and subsequent uproar over a recent op-ed in The Vancouver Sun and The Province is a testimony to the lack of “eyes” in mainstream newsrooms.

It has got more to do with how it happened rather than why it happened.

Many who chastised the newspapers want to believe that there is a sinister and calculated motive for the publication. That is simply not true.

Having worked there for over three decades, I can assure readers that the current leadership team at The Vancouver Sun/Province values Canada’s diversity and uses its power to promote pluralism.

A Barebones Editing Room

This recent diatribe authored by Mark Hecht, headlined “Ethnic Diversity Harms a Country’s Social Trust, Economic Well-being, Argues Instructor,” was not seen by the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Harold Munro, prior to its publication.

Previously, there were separate opinion page editors for The Vancouver Sun and The Province.

Now there is one – Gordon Clark.

And when Gord is not there, the responsibility lies with someone local given the acting position, or a national unit back east.

The papers were also once helmed by different editors and deputy editors. Now there is one smaller team for both newspapers.

I am not sure what transpired here and who was away etc., but among the first to denounce the article were my former colleagues who continue in their daily reporting diligence.

Munro quickly apologized to readers and removed the offending article from the newspaper websites.

These are not the actions of a publication that wants to promote hate. I am proud of their swift and decisive response.

Having said that, this is a wake-up call for our newspapers to watch out for those who want to use rhetoric that operates in code, that are silent about race but targeted to stir up strong racial emotions.

Sometimes they get too much publicity, but can you blame them? The Danes just seem to get things right. But even the Danes can make mistakes.

A decade ago the fundamental belief among Danes toward Muslim immigrants was that these newcomers would see how wonderful Denmark was and naturally want to become Danish as quickly as possible.

This turned out to be naively wrong. At least half of all Muslims polled across various western European countries believe today that their Shariah law is more important than national law, according to the Gatestone Institute. In other words, a not insignificant proportion of Muslim immigrants have no intention of assimilating into any western society, including Denmark.

Danes have pushed back. Losing the integrity of their society – one of the best in the world by all measures – was on the line. Requirements to obtain citizenship increased. A new insistence that immigrant children go to Danish public schools instead of religious schools was implemented. Social benefits were rescinded for those who didn’t comply. This was only the beginning. But the Danes are not alone.

– Excerpt from the beginning of the Op-Ed

Getting Away With Hate Speech

Writers can manipulate today’s thin newsrooms by lacing their submissions with coded appeals to racists, while giving themselves plausible deniability.

This is the case with Hecht, whose article peddled the politics of hate and resentment, without saying it.

The rigorous protocols that once used to underline pre-publication processes have eroded because newsrooms have been gutted of its resources and diversity.

There are not enough checks and balances because there are not enough “eyes.”

This is why Hecht’s despicable diatribe was published.

Its hidden message was not caught and it went from submission to publication without getting enough attention.

Publisher’s note: NCM is republishing excepts from the original op-ed in the interest of fostering an informed debate on the subject of immigration, which is an issue that is the topic of heated discussion in western democracies. We know all newsrooms struggle trying to strike the right balance on such an emotive issue.

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A multiple-award winning journalist, Fabian Dawson is an internationally acclaimed author, filmmaker and media expert. His work over the last four decades spans the globe and he also serves as a consultant/strategic advisor to a variety of international companies. As deputy editor-in-chief of The Province, part of the Postmedia chain, Dawson led initiatives within a special publications group to provide directed content for a variety of organisations. He was named the 2019 recipient of the Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award at Jack Webster Awards. Dawson has been invited by the governments of India, Malaysia, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and the United States to act as a media observer/advisor on a variety of Asian-Canada issues. Dawson, now operates FD Media, which specializes in harnessing editorial assets to revenue generating opportunities.

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