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Nearly one year after the trucker convoy occupied downtown Ottawa — with many of its protesters showing disdain not only for vaccine mandates but also mainstream media — the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation hosted a panel of industry leaders to discuss building trust and protecting democracy.

Canadians’ trust in news has been in decline for years. According to the Reuters Institute’s 2022 Digital News Report, it decreased from 58 per cent in 2018 to 42 per cent in 2022 — a 16 per cent drop.

“Trust seems to be in short supply these days; polarization and disinformation are ascendant,” Catherine Tait, president and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, said at the panel, which was run in partnership with Simon Fraser University (SFU) and the University of British Columbia.

Having trust in others and in institutions, she explained, allows people to live “lives without fear.”

“Our society can’t function if Canadians don’t trust the institutions around them.”

Why is trust eroding?

Distrust of media organizations and institutions isn’t a new phenomenon, said panellist Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, a Canada 150 Research Chair in New Media at SFU. Sometimes it can be warranted — like during the emergence of mass media in the 19th century when “yellow,” or sensationalized, journalism was prevalent.

But with the rise of social media and what Chun called the “economics of clickbait,” it’s getting worse: people now make money off of outrage. Emotive posts online tend to generate the most clicks and therefore the most attention — and ad revenue.

Further, today’s distrust in institutions has led people to have blind trust in others, Chun explained. This blind trust can be weaponized by nefarious groups — like political operatives using small town Facebook groups to push political agendas, for example.

.@SFU prof Wendy Hui Ky Hun, @Linda_Solomon of @NatObserver, @jeanetteageson of @TheTyee, @PresidentCBCRC Catherine Tait & Jeremy Kinsman grappled with declining trust in media at a panel convened by @CBCRadioCanada

Social media algorithms also support this kind of weaponization by sorting people into groups based on “divisive hates,” in turn creating large audiences based on division.

“Polarization is a goal, not an error,” Chun said.

Declining trust is a problem that transcends borders, she added. Many Canadians get their news from sources outside of Canada — often from social media like TikTok or gaming sites.

Further, today’s distrust has been caused by global events, said Jeremy Kinsman, a distinguished fellow for the Canadian International Council. The 2008 financial crisis, he argued, was particularly damaging. While the U.S. government bailed out banks, it didn’t support the U.S. citizens who had suffered.

“It completely evacuated trust and confidence in the people that were running the system. Not only they didn’t know what they were doing, it turned out terrible for so many people,” he said.

Today, many people feel left behind and left out, which further diminishes trust.

“There’s a sense out there that things just ain’t fair,” Kinsman said.

(L-R): Tyee publisher Jeanette Ageson, SFU professor Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Canada's National Observer publisher Linda Solomon Wood, Canadian International Council fellow Jeremy Kinsman, CBC president Catherine Tait and host of CBC Vancouver News at 6 p.m. Anita Baithe. Photo by Hanna Hett

What are the solutions?

While there likely aren’t any silver-bullet solutions, trusted, evidence-based news is critical for maintaining and building trust, Kinsman said.

Further, people trust institutions where they seem themselves reflected, so journalists engaging with their communities is key, he added. People who don’t trust news often see journalists as elites who don’t understand the problems that matter to them.

“You trust somebody who understands you, fundamentally,” Kinsman said.

While the internet and social media have brought their own host of problems, panellist Jeanette Ageson, publisher of the Tyee, said it has also allowed for smaller, independent publications to come up, which have better capacity to engage with their audience.

“We know our audience, and they know us. We’re in a conversation with them all the time. We listen to what they say,” said Linda Solomon Wood, publisher of Canada’s National Observer.

“We’re building trust person by person, and article by article. And by providing reliable information that checks out with people.”

Media literacy in primary and high school education, she added, is important to address the problem of eroding trust holistically.

“Really getting people back to having strong critical thinking abilities that will protect them against what they're being exposed to constantly through the algorithms online.”

Keep reading

Mainstream news organizations like the Toronto Sun, National Post or Globe & Mail for example, constantly mislead Canadians by only reporting their right leaning agenda. Typically, these media organizations leave out information that doesn't fit their agenda. Take the "just transition" for example, written in a way that fuels disinformation that Trudeau wants to end oil & gas in Alberta and kill 2.7M jobs.

Anyone living in the real world knows this is not even close to the truth. Yet the disinformation published by mainstream media is happily being used by conservatives (UCP & CPC) to further push disinformation. Then the failing Canadian Media wonders why there is a trust problem.

Another issue with the above-mentioned news organizations is that they are clearly in the pockets of the conservative party. The so-called journalists they have are nothing more than propaganda disinformation generators for the conservative party.

Whatever happened to the days around a televised news broadcast, where the host would call out or challenge a politician for misinformation. The number of times Pierre Poilievre would repeat misinformation, yet never challenged or called out by these media organizations. These same news organizations are quick to turn anything Trudeau does, like a fart, into the scandal of the day.

It's not surprising that Canadians don't trust news organizations and that true unbiased journalism is at an all-time low in Canada.

I am glad that the National Observer has not fallen into the same dumpster fire as other news organizations, pushing only right leaning agenda and disinformation. Reporting both sides of a story or issue is important to Canadians and demonstrates what true journalism is, as well as respect to the Canadian intelligence.

"Reporting both sides of a story or issue," a.k.a. the definition of "true journalism" is one of the problems though because we can ALL see that one side has basically lost its mind, which means that what used to be "journalistic integrity" has mainly enabled a political right wing that has never been more wrong, and so is disparagingly called "bothsidesism." But ownership of media by the more "erudite" business types in the right wing complicates everything, leaving journalists in an impossible, often deeply conflicted position, like so many employees of corporations generally, but that wildly successful corporate business model (bigger is better, right? ) now permeates society so thoroughly that even libraries try and follow it. Everyone wants to utilize money as effectively and efficiently as possible after all, especially public money.
So with end-stage capitalism consolidating everything, including the media, these online publications like this one and Tyee and Narwhal, etc. (interestingly all have women behind them) are restorative, but are also too far under the radar and competing for the same audience of critical thinkers.
Personally, I think it's like the political situation where the left has to get together to save us from the unscrupulous right, so do the online publications need to pool resources to survive and help us all survive. Because the vast majority of money and resources are very much in the grip of the right at the moment, and even though the Globe and Mail for example, (which we also subscribe to) tries to present as Canada's flagship newspaper historically, they have repeatedly endorsed conservatives at every election. They have only stopped lately because it just doesn't look that good anymore as the craziness manifests in that quarter.

Although many dislike Trudeau, it is and has-been Conservative politicians gaslighting and misleading us. Ford, Kenney, now Smith and Poilievre. Smith on the bandwagon now by this outright deliberate misleading interpretation of just transition and Post Media reporters have gone along with this farce. Why? Pure political fain. No wonder, I don't have faith in Post Media,

The factuality sins of the Trudeau government are of both commission and omission.
It wasn't the Conservatives who told us that we needed to buy an oil pipelines and build two more, to fight climate change.
It wasn't the Conservatives who cooked up the fancy plan baloney about using hydro power from an ill-conceived brand new dam, to energize gas fracking operations, and then claim that gas is "green," or to fund more, bigger and ever more damaging gas pipelines in order by a convoluted theoretical process to produce "clean" liquid hydrogen ... because somehow or other wind power and sea-water stock (a proven technology) couldn't do the job cleaner and better.
It wasn't the Conservatives who have relied upon Canadians' ignorance about "carbon counting" and Scope 2 and 3 emissions, to promote the idea that even as we are the world laggards in reducing emissions, it's all OK because somehow or other the fact that the stuff is made to be burned doesn't enter their brain-dead noggins.
They differ in the presentation of their lies, but in the end, they're both climate disasters.

I mean ... who do they think they're fooling? Mother Nature? Father Physics? Baby Belugas?

There needs to be an international definition, and internationally agreed-upon methods of measurement of this stuff. Because otherwise, Canadians will continue to believe the lies, whichever side of the political baloney they come from.

It's true that news media have been diving into partisan politics, often in non-transparent ways, and that erodes trust. Of course if you're an NDP supporter that's hardly new--what's new is that they're going after the Liberals, not just the NDP, and avoiding fact-checking fascist-lite memes.

And it's true that propagandists have been using social media to push a lot of weird, dangerous alt-right anti-media spin.

But there's a lot of misinformation and propaganda in the media that isn't about partisan politics. Some is flacking for big advertisers (something the National Observer, being ad-free and supported by subscriptions and donations, is not subject to). Some is just a sort of government-establishment spin, giving the received wisdom on international affairs or the economy whether there's any truth to it or not. Now, most people don't follow politics or the economy in general that closely, but a lot of people know about some aspect--they've got family in China or Latin America, they collect a paycheck and pay money for food. So when they start hearing the news media uncritically quoting the boss of the Bank of Canada claim inflation is caused by people's pay rising and so we have to stop it by putting people out of work and keeping their pay down, and they know their pay and everyone's they know ain't been rising much while food and rent goes through the stratosphere, they're gonna lose trust. Or when they start hearing China is like X, Y, Z to live in but their family back in the old country says it's like A, B, C. Or when they're told Venezuela is a dictatorship while Honduras 2009-2021 was a sparkling democracy when they know from their fam that it's the reverse. They might not know about ALL the falsehoods being retailed, but the one or two things they DO know about are gonna make them wonder about what else is misleading.

I see all these news pieces bemoaning loss of trust in the media, and they always look at EVERY explanation--except, loss of trustworthiness in the media. They can see everything but the beam in their own eye, and it's everyone's fault but theirs. The one time this article mentions an actual media source of mistrust, it's from nearly a hundred years ago, plus I think it's probably exactly wrong. The "yellow journalism" back when probably didn't create mistrust in the media, because it was digging up dirt on prominent and important people no matter what party they were from, and exposing the heck out of them. Sure, a lot of it was pointless and salacious, but some of it was stuff that needed to come out, and either way people probably were generally pleased to see the powerful and prominent humbled. That "yellow journalism" was all about journalists NOT being stenographers to power, and I think it's interesting that this piece seems to see that as part of the problem.

Interesting. The NDP and the Liberals DO need to both get over themselves to actually save the day. Together they absolutely ARE stronger, truly, something they supposedly subscribe to in theory but not when it counts. Which is NOW. The egos of Trudeau and Singh are a problem, and damage THEIR crediblity. If they would unite and rename themselves the Progressive Party? Think of the relief. Democracies of all stripes have united against Russia, the common enemy, and it's the most hopeful thing in the world right now, so why can't these people recognize the common enemy is the conservatives. They're called "the cons" for gods' sake, how much more obvious can it be? For all intents and purposes, they're Putin....
We have had to become accustomed to parsing bullshit so much of the time now; most people have to do it with their JOBS, where there's little choice, but that's all they have room for because it's ultimately weakening, even soul-destroying at a certain level. The disparity between the corporations and the rest of us HAS reached critical mass now, but no one knows what to do to plow that "playing field" in order to level it. We could start with sorting our government though; this confidence and supply agreement is a tantalizing start.
I keep longing for some gut-level climate change campaign emblazoned in the sky to draw people's attention up into the atmosphere so they can take in and SEE that that eggshell blue is ACTUALLY our lives.

I want here to suggest that much use should be made of Citizens’ Assemblies as one technique to help overcome the looming disaster of a lack of trust..
The 2004 B.C. Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform was a huge success. It was composed of one man and one woman from the lists of voters for each of the electoral districts, chosen using a random process. No politicians were allowed. These were regular citizens volunteering to do a civic duty, spending weekends away from home, studying voting systems, talking with people in their districts to find out their values. They finally recommended a system formally called ‘Single Transferable Vote’ but called ‘Choice Voting’ in the USA. It gives about 90% of voters a representative they want and voted for.
In the subsequent referendum 58% of voters voted in favour of it, but the BC government declined to institute it.
The whole point of this letter is to emphasize that polling showed that it was that ordinary BC citizens who made the recommendation that gave it much credibility and that led to strong support in the referendum.

A second suggestion I want to make is that every region of Canada should build something like Vancouver’s Asia Pacific Room in the Wosk Centre to hold meetings. The seats are arranged in circles around an empty centre while a speaker is stationed at the periphery. Everyone has a microphone and can see presentations on a wall-mounted screen. The dynamics of such a room are completely different from that of a standard lecture hall. Each provincial and territorial capital should have one.

I believe that's what's called a "ranked ballot" and it delivers results not much different from other ways of counting votes to arrive eventually at a single winning candidate, who takes it all.
People voting for any of the smaller parties are just forced to choose between the two larger ones.
To understand how this is so, check out:
https://www.fairvote.ca/

The seating idea is a good one for sure, simple but transformative.
As far as restoring trust, laying blame seems to have become undesirable now I've noticed, possibly another aspect of "bothsidesism" where people prefer to position themselves "beyond the fray," but the right wing are still the ones responsible for the massive uptick in anti-government sentiment and its corollary of unprecedented violence. Quelling their influence by rallying and uniting the left is the only solution because conservatives are simply NOT the majority here or in the U.S. Most people, given a choice, are not inspired by what has been aptly described as "a gloomy pedagogy of ideologies in service to fragile psyches" whose compounded resentment has stoked some pure, male malevolence intent on wreaking havoc as revenge. Which is why they have now resorted to attacking democracy itself.
The majority rules actually makes it binary, which it now is, but for some reason people keep resisting that glaring reality, clinging to their narcissistic take.
Bottom line, the Liberals are NOT interchangeable with the conservatives. ONLY ONE POLITICAL PARTY DOESN'T THINK CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL.
But the NDP and the Greens ARE interchangeable with the Liberals.

We could use a man like Peter Mansbridge again. I know the CBC exec would rather stick pins in their eyes than create another one, but we really do need 'a person' to give us the nightly news.