Misconceptions About What The Press Can Publish


I feel it is really important to clear up a few misconceptions about the function of the press, or more accurately what the press is not. It is an independent business, typically. In a democracy, the press is not funded or operated by the government. (That’s why the Trudeau government’s media bailout is so alarming.)

The press is not obliged to consider your feelings. They don’t require permission to publish information about you or your family. As long as they are not INTENTIONALLY defaming someone, or identifying a young offender or sexual assault victim, they’re pretty much golden.

I remember in a journalism ethics class, iconic photos in history were shown and the class was asked if those photos ‘should’ have been published. Men and women falling from the burning World Trade Centre on 911, dead bodies strewn after a mass shooting, two grief-stricken parents clutching the lifeless body of their drowned child.

Many new students felt strongly that it was too intrusive to cover someone’s last terrifying moments of life or the raw grief of a family of a child.

Maybe not surprising to some, I was one of the few students who felt those images needed to be published…for the greater benefit.

It seems heartless to be the person there in the midst of tragedy, taking pictures, but when the readership can feel that intensity of someone else’s pain, feel empathy, then you have shared their pain in an effective way.

I once covered a ‘don’t drink and drive’ presentation at our high school. The guest speaker was a young man whose 18-year-old sister had been killed in a gruesome car accident because the guy behind the wheel was impaired and slammed their car into a tree at incredible speed. The beautiful, popular teenager was demolished when the impact split the car in two. The brother was broken up, describing how his mother could not even see her beautiful daughter’s face when they went to the morgue, only her hand was visible for the mother. Because of the trauma to her entire body, it was covered in a sheet.

When I wrote his account, I cried many times, imagining a mother’s grief, if that were my mother going through this, etc..

I got backlash from the family. I am a sensitive, empathetic person, and it bothered me a lot when the mother of the girl came to the office in tears. It was truly an awful feeling to know you had caused pain, re-opened old wounds.
Thankfully, my editor explained to her how that story had elicited him more feedback than most stories published during his time as editor, and that it had been a conversation starter for parents and teens.

By the time our conversation ended, the mother said that the pain it caused her was worth it if it helped spare someone else that pain…

My journalism professor told me that the ethics that govern a reporter’s work basically can be summed up by whether or not you could look in the mirror and like the person you see..

So, just remember, Pino doesn’t owe you permission, nor does he owe the police or government or any business permission to post. If you don’t like what he reports, think he’s insensitive or find his style unprofessional, don’t be a consumer. But you should not try to stifle a news source because it offends you.

Your tax dollars aren’t funding his page, that is the principle of a free press, and I blame the mainstream media for giving people false expectations by being clearly in the pocket of police and government…and now even accepting government assistance.

That is not historically how press operated or was ever intended to operate.

Just my thoughts. I feel like I have wasted too much of my life these past three days I’ve been off work, arguing with people who seem to harbour certain misconceptions about their rights and whether or not Pino has the right to publish what he likes. Well he does.

Jessica Smith – Journalist


8 Replies to “Misconceptions About What The Press Can Publish”

  1. excellent read and as a reader I appreciate the effort.

    I do wonder why the comments are so stifled? I know theyre pretty open but I have submitted things that were pertaining to a hot topic but certainly not un-displayable. I know everyone thinks their comments are OK and should be displayed because they are right and everyone else is wrong.. but.. seriously..why so sensitive??

    1. Great question/response, Walter.
      Pino, you should allow all comments on this site. It’s not YOU that’s writing them. Let us Dumb Morons make a fool out of ourselves.

  2. Well written Jessica… Pino is doing a great job and we are very lucky to have TRCCTB!
    As you said, if you don’t like something about it, don’t visit the site.

    1. I would agree with Jessica on her point of writing about a given event. Writing allows the author to show empathy and even offer condolences when appropriate to do so. However, when it comes to publishing a photograph it requires more skill than 99% of journalists will ever have to make a photo of a gristly scene “empathetic” simply because it conveys a partial second ( in many cases 1/250 of a sec.) of the whole event. A great deal more restraint must be shown in those circumstances. I would hate to see things go back to the good old days when photography was first introduced to daily newspapers and they competed to publish postmortem photos of murder victims, prisoners being executed or some unfortunate’s dead baby all in an attempt to shock readers and sell more copy.

  3. I completly agree that the government should not be funding media, this is the reason i fully support the selling of CBC. Media should be completly free from any government strings. I am also opposed to media monopolies such as we have here in Thunder Bay other then Trcctb. Good job to all, keep up the good work.

  4. Hi Jessica, while your thesis may be accurate there is a place called the real-world. If you post something upsetting, even if some-words-on-a-piece-of-paper-in-some-archive say you can, expect and learn to deal with criticism. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from critics. God bless.

    1. Exactly. Innocent until proven guilty. Hearsay doesn’t mean anything unless proven otherwise.
      Why damage the rep of a decent citizen, because of a lie?

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