March 5th, 2021

Laying it Out: In a world of spin and lies, you can still see the truth

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on January 4, 2020.

If 2020 is going to be the year of perfect eyesight we need to start sifting through a whole lot of nonsense.

There seems to be a belief that journalism is about balance, that a reporter is obligated to provide commentary from all sides. While there are certainly subjective stories requiring that approach, the only thing that actually matters in journalism is the truth.

After writing on a competition among 300-plus early childhood development programs for what’s left of a budget taking a 25% hit, Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz suggested I should have reached out to her office for “facts” and that the “partners asked” for it.

I spent most of a week on that piece, combing through a 64-page document and talking to affected program directors who were definitely not among those asking for it.

I used the first half to present the facts, and the second half to present my case. Schulz suggested it lacked credibility because the News hadn’t sought her version of the truth.

Every fact used to make my points came from a government document I held in my hand, and I had already seen her version, which was either purposefully false or an admission of not knowing what’s true.

The budget for this programming is taking a 25% hit, dropping from $77 million to $57 million, as is clearly stated in the document her office issued on Nov. 7. One day earlier she told the Edmonton Journal the goal was to reduce the budget to about $65 million.

At no point has her office offered clarification on her numbers, nor has it requested a correction of mine. Someone needs to explain why facts lose merit if I don’t talk to a Children’s Services minister that either doesn’t know what’s happening in Children’s Services, or is prepared to give false information about it.

The same goes for Health Minister Tyler Shandro, who has doubled down on his budget “increase” so many times since I wrote about it that it’s starting to show up as unhinged Twitter rants. He uses the same debunked semantic nonsense that requires population growth and inflation to be imaginary, while accusing anyone who sees through it of being a liar.

His government makes no effort to hide its plan to decrease per-capita spending on health care, yet Shandro continues to pretend that wouldn’t require a budget cut. It’s as astonishing as it is ridiculous.

Certain members of the “media” aren’t helping either. A columnist recently suggested the Calgary Board of Education got “their butts kicked” by Education Minister Adriana LaGrange because “they called her bluff” over cuts and lost. He also linked to a story from his own newspaper that debunked every five-word sentence used to describe this made-up Adriana Balboa vs. The Devil title bout he’d just witnessed.

The simple truth was LaGrange had given boards a one-time chance to transfer maintenance money into areas of budget pinch. The CBE is taking that opportunity to undo 300-plus layoffs of temporary teachers – hardly a knockout blow from the minister’s office.

My point in all this is that even in a world full of crap, we can find enough truth to form a proper opinion. All I’m trying to do is remove some of the nonsense and provide clarity in the face of an effort to add mud.

Maybe Schulz isn’t a liar but, according to the facts, that just means she doesn’t know the ins and outs of her own ministry. Maybe Shandro really does understand mathematics but, according to the facts, that just means he’s willing to lie. And maybe that columnist isn’t purposefully misleading you but, according to the facts, that just means he’s too lazy to read his own paper.

Why does it matter which is which, when the result is awful either way? As media, we simply must stop letting these people off the hook.

Take Premier Jason Kenney, for instance. With more than $200,000 in fines handed out over a “kamikaze” campaign that had the sole purpose of getting him elected as party leader, he has simply said he wasn’t personally aware of any improper tactics organized for his benefit. Why do we need an investigator to reveal the truth to know it’s either A) He’s lying, or B) He lacks the competence to detect organized cheating occurring right under his nose? One choice means he should be ousted as premier, like, yesterday, and the other means he’s not a very savvy individual.

Either way, it’s a terrible look that was only made worse when the UCP removed the investigator from the equation. How horrible were the findings if Kenney was willing to look completely corrupt in order to avoid you finding out? And how is he ever allowed to leave a room without having to answer pointed and difficult questions about that?

The conveyor belt of bull sent your way needs to stop. If the media doesn’t provide that for you, who will? I realize trust is an issue these days, but let’s you and I make a deal. If you can show that I have used false facts to make my case, I promise to print a correction that includes a proper explanation of where I got it, and why I used it.

But if an elected official’s response to my work is that I’m full of it, and you don’t see a subsequent correction in the News, just please ask yourself one question.

Which one of us has more to gain by lying, and more to lose if you learn the truth?

Scott Schmidt is the layout editor at the Medicine Hat News. Contact him at sschmidt@medicinehatnews.com. All opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the News’ editorial board.

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DW2159
DW2159
1 year ago

Great opinion piece and I think that a lot of other journalists, especially some who write for the Calgary Herald, would do a better job by adopting your journalistic principles.

sambar
sambar
1 year ago
Reply to  DW2159

The Medicine Hat News may become the go to source of truth in Alberta. It’s great.

ingamarie
ingamarie
1 year ago
Reply to  DW2159

Insisting on the truth as opposed to some inane idea of balance between all sides, some of them fanciful, some of them pure hokem, is refreshing. It’s what folks of my generation thought journalism was about, before the days of ideological bullying, endless spin and a public climate that made everyone’s ‘perspective’ equally valid. As the saying goes……….’you’re entitled to your own opinion, you aren’t entitled to your own facts’. Our novice government ministers should keep that in mind.

Nora Abercrombie
Nora Abercrombie
1 year ago

This is an important comment and I hope it is spread widely through social media. Meanwhile, I am going to go through the entire Medicine Hat News to see what advertisers I can support. Real journalism is going the way of the dodo and with it goes our democracy. Everybody needs to step up to support the Medicine Hat News.

Les Landry
Les Landry
1 year ago

Scott Schmidt just moved to the top of the list in Kenney’s “War Room.”
And if anybody thinks that war room of modern-day McCarthyism is all about the oil and gas industry, just watch how much information they’ll have on anybody critical to their agenda in the next election.
Personally I think the Kenney government will be the first “one-term” conservative government in Alberta.
Watch how many jump ship just before the next election.

sambar
sambar
1 year ago
Reply to  Les Landry

” just watch how much information they’ll have on anybody critical to their agenda” And watch how much of it is lies. If Peter Lougheed was here he’d slap this corrupt government up side the head right quick.

ingamarie
ingamarie
1 year ago
Reply to  sambar

It’s perhaps a bit past time we reached into our history looking for a conservative premier to set Jason straight. The progressive has long been purged from conservative…..the modern variant of which has more in common with Trump than Lougheed……..it’s up to Albertans to reconsider their rush back into the fold of conservative tactics……….and as other commentators have suggested, consider the cost of the Klein cuts……….and how long it took our health care system…………and our educational system, to fully recover. The sooner we take the scissors away from the ministers who can’t do math…..or account fully for the actions of their departments, the better.

BS Detector
BS Detector
1 year ago
Reply to  ingamarie

Lock them up for lying about priorities.
Trickle down has never worked. It is established fact that austerity budgets during downturns makes the situation worse not better. Alberta has the lowest Debt to GDP ratio in Canada according to RBC.
Robbing the nurses, teachers, office workers, etc to favor the 0.1% is disgusting. Trickle up always works. Give the average worker a bit more money and they spend it. On houses, cars, clothes, food, hockey pads.
Imagine the horror … Sales go up, GDP goes up, taxes paid goes up, quality of life goes up.
BTW, Kenney has his sights set on somewhere else. His real interest is NOT in helping Albertans …. Ottawa? NYC?

Dwight Popowich
Dwight Popowich
1 year ago

Thank God there’s still people with the integrity and courage in the news reporting business. Thanks Scott Schmidt, for standing up for what is right and calling a spade a spade!

ReynoldReimer
ReynoldReimer
1 year ago

I’m happy to see that we have at least one publication in our province that’s willing to stand up to Kenney crowd’s nonsense. Does anyone know of others? It would be nice to know about them. Or are all the others owned by post media?