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May 27, 2009

Can You Reclaim Editorial Neutrality Once You've Lost It?

Here's an interesting journalistic case study, courtesy of Peterborough This Week (a.k.a. MyKawartha.com).

First they back Dean Del Mastro's Little Lake Proposal (after first spelling out many of the proposal's fatal flaws).

Voting on the future of Little Lake  MyKawartha.com, 4/21

Votingonthefutureoflittlelakeouropinion MP Dean Del Mastro cannot seem to dodge criticism on the idea of developing the Parks Canada land along Little Lake's shore.

He brought the idea to council without checking with the public, some critics say. He is promoting a complex that will only benefit a private developer, say others.

He will ruin the lake. He will only bring low-paying service jobs to the community. He is selling an idea that will never fly!

We've heard them all. At least he has the courage to try....

[Del Mastro] has always been entrepreneurial and this is a wonderful example of him seeing the potential in a waterfront property with good road access and a water taxi in the summer.

So, we can take a chance and do something really creative or we can turtle.

In the past, we have voted on the side of caution. Is that what we really want?

Then, one month later, they (attempt to) adopt a more neutral editorial stance.

Open Your Mind and Join the Debate  MyKawartha.com, 5/20

Openyourmindandjointhedebateouropinion The best decisions are made when the people making them have information and understand that information. As the community newspaper that reaches all 91,000 voters, we feel responsible to deliver that information in a way that is clear and neutral.

We're hoping that voters will judge the project on its merits and not get caught up in the partisan who-said-what hooey that, frankly, is takes the level of debate down a notch.

So here's my question. Can a media outlet reclaim its editorial neutrality once it has lost it? If so, how long does it take to get it back - to earn back audience trust?

Please Note:
Screen captures were added 5/31 to address a reader concern raised in the comments section below. Please note that each piece contains the tag "Our Opinion" in the story header and each is written in the style of an editorial opinion piece (e.g., "We've heard" and "We're hoping") as opposed to a news story.

Related:

Canadian Broadcast Standards Council: Decision re: CJCH-TV (CTV Atlantic) re CTV News at 6 (St├ęphane Dion interview)

Canadian Broadcast Standards Council: Decision re: Mike Duffy Live Prime Time (St├ęphane Dion Interview)

Press release summarizing above two decisions


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Comments

Lesson #1 in journalism: Don't cherry-pick your facts. The first sample is from our editorial page where the newspaper states its opinion.
The second one is from a news story with lists more facts -- without bias -- than any other media outlet has shared.
Ann, you know better. Who is skewing information now?
Lois Tuffin
Editor in chief, PTW

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