COMMENTARY: Email gets news makers in trouble and erodes journalism

I’m Bill Kingston with today’s commentary. Email can be a very handy device to get the message out to many people. It can also be very dangerous when used carelessly or when compiling something as a quick thought, especially to reporters. Two times now we’ve seen where the keyboard has got councillors in trouble for inconsistencies or seemingly brash statements. If they had only picked up the phone (I know, shocking, using a phone nowadays) and explained to a reporter, maybe it wouldn’t have turned into the hornet’s nest or thorn in their side. Take for instance Brock Frost’s email from his iPhone with the now infamous statement “I live in Ottawa and don’t pay much attention to what is said in Cornwall.” Any reporter worth their salt would have challenged that statement to have Frost further explain it. But many media outlets take it at face value and report as such, which they are entitled to do. Upon further exploring, I found out the statement wasn’t exactly as it was meant and that it was about not paying attention to gossip in Cornwall.

Now Coun. Carilyne Hebert has found herself the focus of emails involving TAG when compared with an interview she gave with the Standard-Freeholder. News makers, or sources as we call them, need to treat email as a legal document that lasts forever and is admissible in court. Far more dangerous than a phone call and probably just as much time invested.

The other bad trend we are seeing is sources using email to “be fair” to media outlets by giving all the information at once. If one outlet does its due diligence of following up on a story or a lead, why should others be rewarded for their work? That takes the competitive nature out of journalism. That’s not being fair – that’s being homogenous.

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