A complaint to the National NewsMedia Council during the recent federal election campaign questioned a news organization’s right to endorse a political candidate.
The complainant insisted that Postmedia’s endorsement of Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer demonstrated bias, and was an unethical attempt to influence the electorate.
The complainant noted that the newspaper’s editorial listed concerns with Liberal party policy and leadership, and explained its reasons for supporting Scheer and the Conservative Party. However, the complainant argued that editorial endorsement amounts to the media’s attempt to manipulate facts and electoral outcomes.
The NNC rejected that view, and supported the widely-accepted journalistic standard of allowing editorials and opinion pieces that express unpopular or partisan views.
The NewsMedia Council responded to the complainant by stating that news organizations have the prerogative to take an editorial stand, and that many have been clear in their support for one party or another.
In fact, many newspapers in Canada were established for the purpose of influencing the electorate, whether on the Confederation question in the 1800s, or since then to promote a more conservative or more liberal point of view.
A news organization’s prerogative to publish clearly identified editorial and opinion articles that express differing points of view facilitates important public dialogue in a democratic society. This widely-accepted standard is balanced by the equally widely-accepted standard that news articles will be objective, regardless of the organization’s editorial stand.
There is no compulsion on the reading public to act on a newspaper’s editorial view or opinion piece. The public may be convinced by an opinion article or not, but in either case examining the issues from a stated perspective is the job of opinion journalism and analysis.
In this case, the news media organization followed best practices by providing a clear and appropriate label for the editorial article and by placing it in the opinion section. The NewsMedia Council found no breach of journalistic standards, and no grounds for a complaint.