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County ignores request for journalistic integrity

Given the revelations in Jessi Gowan’s February 28th article, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that Council voted down a motion to improve the County’s media policy by including anti-discrimination principles and clarifying its wording. I am, however, appalled at the self-serving nature of their decision.

Very few media outlets cover the County’s news. Rocky View Weekly is the main source accompanied by a few surrounding area papers that weigh in on County issues from time to time. There is one on-line news source, County News Online. Since Calgary media largely ignore the County, we are not talking about an overwhelming flood of media requests. This casts serious doubt on the credibility of the emphasis County staff placed on concerns about overwork caused by excessive media requests.

Council seems bound and determined to undermine the core principles of democracy – freedom of the press and the importance of acknowledging and accepting differing opinions. Instead, they prefer to have one group controlling the narrative – Rocky View Council.

There is a clear difference between advocacy journalism and bias – County News Online practices the former. In a County where residents’ concerns and interests are so regularly ignored, there is a clear need for resident advocacy. From Council’s perspective, this raises awkward and embarrassing facts on a regular basis. Their solution – refuse to respond to legitimate requests that County News Online’s journalist has a perfect right to make both as a journalist covering Rocky View issues and as a resident of the County.

As a fellow County resident, I find this deeply disturbing. Access to information should not be dependent on whether the County agrees with the recipient’s viewpoint. It is the media’s responsibility to question political decisions if and when it sees fit. Censorship starts with the withholding of information. Council just gave that a green light.

Janet Ballantyne

Rocky View Forward

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