Concern has been expressed that the ECA Review had not followed the Alberta Press Council Code of Practice. The press council, of which the ECA Review is a member, enriches newspaper standards while defending the established freedom of the press.
James Nibourg of Stettler recently opined that, on two occasions, letters to the editor in our newspaper proclaimed false information and discredited people.
He referred to The Alberta Press Council, Code of Practice, that states, ‘it is the duty of the newspapers to avoid publishing inaccurate or misleading statements and further, it is the duty of the newspapers to correct promptly and with due prominence, significant inaccuracies or such misleading statements’.
The ECA Review strives at all times to be accurate and to provide a fair opportunity for a reply. On review, we agree that the letter to the editor in the October 5 edition, titled ‘Democracy received a slap’, was unfortunate in its timing, the week before the election. For this unintended timing, we apologize.
In another instance, in the October 5 edition, the person expressed concern that the article titled, ‘Learning to listen….’ would have incorrectly misled readers into thinking it was a ‘letter to the editor’, when, in fact, it was an “advertorial”. We again apologize for not identifying it correctly.
It was a ‘paid-for’ campaign advertisement that had the appearance of a story or letter. All candidates are within their rights to purchase advertising prior to an election. We identified the writer of the advertorial up front, however, we failed to put ‘advertorial’ at the bottom of the copy. We apologize if we misled people into thinking it was an article versus a paid advertisement.
Mr. Nibourg felt that even using the word ‘advertorial’ was not a clear definition because advertorials relate to only product and services, however the word advertorial is derived from the words advertisement and editorial and one definition includes “text advertisement that promotes the advertiser’s product or services or special point of view”.
It is important our readers know that when we label what looks to be a story or letter with a headline, it is actually ‘paid-for content’ when we identify it as an ‘Advertorial”.
We strive to achieve balanced reporting in our articles, however in a ‘letter to the editor’, that is an individual’s viewpoint and fulfills the Code of Practice’s mandate “to defend freedom of the Press in the interest of the public, and to resist censorship.”
Often it is a dilemma. How do we determine who is right and who isn’t? How do we find the time and resources to check facts in letters to the editor? Take for example who’s right on their definition of what causes climate change?
Journalism Of Opinion, under the Code of Practice by the Alberta Press Council, states “that newspapers are free to exercise the widest possible latitude in expressing opinions, no matter how controversial or unpopular the opinions may be.” It goes on to state that “others should have the same latitude in expressing opinion”.
In saying that, newspapers have to be vigilant to ensure we are not opening up the door for libel or slander against persons. Mr. Nibourg took offence to the comment in Mr. Somerville’s advertorial stating that “councillors are spending money like drunken sailors”.
Is the writer calling the person or persons a drunk who drinks rum?; or, is it a colloquial simile being used to express an opinion ‘emphatically’ on the act of spending money, not on the persons involved?
The definition of a simile is: noun: 1.) a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid.
We maintain that a newspaper’s primary roles are to be a “government watchdog” and a “voice for the populace”.
Unlike Facebook and other social media, newspapers in our country are accountable to their readers and letter writers are also accountable.
Thank you to our readers and to Mr. Nibourg who keep us on our toes, provide us with feedback, and the opportunity to talk about our standards of practice.
Joyce Webster, publisher