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 firstname.lastname@example.org. All opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the News’ editorial board.