‘Fake news’ tag harms useful info

I have, for the first time in my 25 years at The Western Producer, heard from farmer-readers that the professional press, including us, is “fake.”

Lately, the term is being thrown around a lot.

I was sitting in the sprayer, not so very long ago, going back and forth, as these things do when everything is working correctly, and considering a couple of internet postings and an email related to this. These mimicked U.S. President Donald Trump’s catchphrases about the “fake” press.

And the more I thought about it, the more pre/post-headland misses I created with the sprayer.

There are some very large differences between what the U.S. leader believes, or says he believes, about the press and what some Canadian farmers believe, or say they believe.

But fake news is the media catchphrase of the day. It is very damaging language.

Imagine how it would be if our prime minister was referring to producers as chemical, corporate or factory farmers? What leaders do, their people will often follow.

When folks don’t like what we, the press, write, especially when it comes to our editorial opinions, they accuse us of bias.

Last week, about 350 newspapers in the U.S. wrote editorials pushing back against the “fake news” propogandists in leadership roles.

The press is here to report on and discover what the rest of us need to know and often would rather not, to ask the questions you would ask, if given the resources and the chance, to find out if your democracy is being undermined by the very few very privileged or extremist groups, even ones you might identify with.

There will be many days that you will be sure our editorial opinions are wrong. These might be about property crime and guns, railway policy, supply management or whether Canada should take positions on international human rights when it could interfere with trade. It even might be about the PMRA’s limiting your use of neonicotinoids. None of those opinions live in our news stories. And none are fake, designed to mislead, put one political party in power or remove it.

The Western Producer has an agenda: It is to inform farmers. I also have an agenda: to feed more people better food, the bulk of which I do through you.

I also think I need to upgrade my guidance system to include headland turns.

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Comments

  • ed

    I have been reading the WP for over 40 years and it is getting worse every year. I read it for sport as muxh as anything and there is still about 10-15% of the articals that are not completely false or at least very misleading. A good false narrative is quite often a goparcel of many marketing ploys and calling it fake is just a realy honest extention of that alto reality. Fake News is everywhere now as 80% of the news now is telling about, and or promoting products. There is in fact, very a little on the airwaves these days that is not misleading and commercial in nature. Good Grief Charlie Brown, Snoopy’s gone commercial!

    • Hi Ed,

      Could you share some examples of the 85 to 90 percent of our stories you claim are false or very misleading?

      Obviously, I respectfully disagree.

      Cheers,
      Paul – WP web editor

      • ed

        Many times in a single edition, one article tells a farmer to apply fungicide and two pages later an article lets a farmer know that he will probably be better off if he does not apply. This goes on and on in most publications on many different subjects. Two men say they’re Jesus, one of them can’t be right! Fake reports and News is real, and becoming more common all the time.

        • Hi Ed,

          Thanks for taking the time to respond.

          I was thinking about your comment on my drive in to work this morning. I think it’s possible that the crux of the issue you describe *may* be a misunderstanding of how journalism works.

          I see a lot of this these days, especially where the phrase, “fake news” is thrown around.

          It seems to me that many of those in the “fake news” camp think that we reporters just make stories up – perhaps to conform to some grand plan we or our paper may have to shape the thoughts of those who might read our stories.

          Reporters are not “experts” on anything. Though I would hope most have an above-average ability to craft sentences and paragraphs into an (hopefully) informative story.

          We rely on interviewing the experts to obtain THEIR thoughts on the many and varied subjects we cover.

          So when you hear one “expert” say “use fungicide,” and then another says, “don’t spray,” it’s important to note that those are the “opinions” of those individual experts.

          It’s our duty as journalists, in my humble opinion, to put forth a variety (at the least all that are competent/relevant) expert opinions on any given subject to help our readers determine what is best for their operation – either spray or don’t spray, so to speak.

          Yes, sometimes experts disagree – maybe even most of the time. And THIS may be what you are detecting within the pages of the Producer.

          It’s my experience that most of what we cover is not easily broken down as being either a black or white issue. The reality is most often the case that there are many shades of grey to an issue. And we try to present them all – at least all that are credible.

          We do our best to arm our readers with all the relevant information to help them make the decisions they need to make to make their farming operations succeed.

          We do this because if our readers succeed, we succeed.

          I’m no Harvard MBA, but it seems to me that knowngly providing “false” or “misleading” information is not a viable business plan, at least not for any business that hopes to stick around for a while.

          The Western Producer began publishing in 1923. I’m hopeful that our current staff of reporters are just the latest in a long line of reporters who appear to be doing something right.

          I’ll leave you with a link to our editorial code of conduct. A document we live by that provides guidance on how we conduct ourselves as ethical journalists. Hopefully, in concert with what I’ve shared above, this will help you understand our role here at the WP.

          Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any other questions about our paper, journalism in general, or anything I may be able to help with – paul.yanko@producer.com 306-665-3591

          https://www.producer.com/editorial-code-of-ethics/

          There’s no such thing as “fake news” here.

          Cheers,
          Paul – WP web editor

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