June 25th, 2024

Mansbridge talks media in college Disrupter series

By Trevor Busch - Lethbridge Herald on March 12, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDtbusch@lethbridgeherald.com

Long-time media personality and former chief correspondent for CBC News, Peter Mansbridge, headlined Lethbridge College’s AgENT Disrupter Series on Thursday.
Mansbridge spoke virtually with local media prior to the event and focused largely on the state of the media industry in Canada in 2022, the future for young journalists, and how mainstream media can start to regain the trust of their audience.
“We didn’t fall into this overnight. There’s been a pattern in the last 5-10 years where you’ve seen a tracking of the trust factor, for all professions, but journalism is especially worrying,” said Mansbridge. “If people don’t believe us or think we’re making stuff up, or that’s it’s all fake, then that’s not just a serious problem for us, it’s a serious problem for democracy. Journalism is one of the pillars of democracy, so if we don’t have the trust and the faith of the people that depend on us – viewers, readers, listeners – then literally we have nothing.”
Lethbridge College’s AgENT program highlights those who have broken new ground, led in innovation and created opportunities for themselves and others.
Mansbridge’s career spanned 50 years with the CBC, and he retired as chief correspondent and anchor of The National in July 2017. During that time Mansbridge covered major Canadian and international events, from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and everything in between, including 13 Olympic Games, 34 Canada Day celebrations, 12 Remembrance Day ceremonies, four D-Day anniversaries and every federal election since 1972. He has conducted an estimated 15,000 interviews in his long career.
Journalists, said Mansbridge, have to work hard to regain the trust of the public that has been eroded over the past decade through social media and other factors that are impacting the ability to tell the stories that matter.
“You’ve seen those trust numbers dipping, as I said, over the past decade, to the point that there is no shyness on the part of the public in challenging journalism. We’ve seen it play out in different parts of our country, and certainly in other parts of the world, where journalists have become a target. We have to earn that trust back. I think there’s been some great journalism, especially in the past few years, and there is right now some gutsy, courageous journalism that’s going on. But we have to be able to convince our audiences that in fact that is what it is; that what we’re dealing with is true. That what we tell is the truth. And we have to separate ourselves from some the unfortunate circumstances that social media has led us into.”
Key to regaining that trust, argues Mansbridge, is more transparency about everything that journalists do in Canada’s modern media mosaic.
“Explaining how we make decisions, no matter whether we’re in television, or print, or radio, or online, we have to be more transparent about how we tell our stories. The decisions we make about what’s news and what isn’t, how we determine who we’re going to talk to, who we’re not going to talk to, who we’re going to give anonymity to, which is always a big issue for a lot of people. All those things contribute to this issue of trust and the more open we are the more trust, I believe, we can achieve. The media is not a monolith. We all operate differently…and the public has to determine who they believe. We’re in a era where truth matters – truth is all that matters – and when the audience, and the public, are making their determinations about who they trust, where they place their trust, we want to be at the head of that line, not the back of it.”
Small town journalists, working the unglamorous trenches in many a rural community in Canada, are the veritable lifeblood of today’s media landscape.
“They’re incredibly important,” said Mansbridge. “Small-town journalism is the lifeblood of journalism, and I’ll explain why…the issues that matter to people, whether they’re in a small town or large, are kind of similar. And you go to the small town to see just how important those things are. Roads, sewers, school boards, all of those kinds of issues directly touch upon the people we serve. We tend to think as journalists we have to get to Ottawa, or we have to get to Toronto, London, England, Washington, you name it – and sure, those places are great and I’ve been in all of them and done stories from all of them. But you never forget that it’s those touchstone issues that are most prevalent at the local level.”

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