A new lieutenant-governor and a boil water advisory lifted

Also answer a reader question about media bias. “The very nature of bias is that it’s a perception — it’s something that people see.”

As mentioned in the previous issue, I will be breaking The Flatlander newsletter into two going forward in hopes that it will resolve an ongoing deliverability issue that those readers who use SaskTel emails have been having.

Reducing the size of the email seems to be helping, which is why I will be putting the “Photo of the Week” and the “Stories you may have missed” into a separate email each week from now on. 

In today’s issue, I also answer a reader question about media bias below. 


Photo of the week

The Canadian flag on the field before the game between the Montreal Alouettes and the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium on July 2, 2022. Photo by Brent Just/Getty Images

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Five stories from Manitoba you may have missed

  1. Anita Neville named new lieutenant-governor of Manitoba
  2. MacGregor-area farmer opens charity sunflower selfie spot for 2nd year
  3. Property crime rising in rural Manitoba: RCMP stats show
  4. Steinbach Pride organizer says community is evolving
  5. Boil water advisory that affected 6,500 Brandon residents lifted, city says

Five stories from Saskatchewan you may have missed

  1. RCMP says missing mushroom picker, 74, found dead in northeast Sask.
  2. Sask. Health Authority warns of ‘elevated risk’ of monkeypox
  3. Abuse allegations have put Sask. independent school funding in the spotlight. So how does it work?
  4. Northern Saskatchewan actor stars in ‘Predator’ sequel
  5. Saskatchewan companies see over $3.7 million in total tourism relief funding

Question about media bias

Flatlander reader Lloyd asked about the bias of The Winnipeg Free Press as I noted it does not seem to carry a particular agenda in the last issue of The Flatlander: “Are Prairie Newspapers Good for Democracy?”  

Lloyd wrote: “The Winnipeg Free Press is so Liberal/Social biased none of my friends look at it. Please tell me where you got your information.”

That’s a complicated question to unpack.

Firstly, although Postmedia papers have chosen to have a conservative focus, it seems largely regarding their editorials and syndicated columns that are published across the country. The local journalists at the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, the Regina Leader-Post and The Winnipeg Sun stick to the facts in the same way the Winnipeg Free Press does. 

For instance, both the Winnipeg Free Press and the Winnipeg Sun covered the same story about rural ambulances this past week. 

Winnipeg Free Press: Manitoba seeks rural medical transport service
Winnipeg Sun: Manitoba aims to alleviate rural ambulances with new patient transport service

I picked this story at random, and for the most part they are identical in terms of tone and content. The only difference is that the Winnipeg Sun includes a quote from the Manitoba Allied Health Care Professionals and the Free Press doesn’t. Either way, the same information is conveyed.   

Bias as perception

“The very nature of bias is that it’s a perception — it’s something that people see, and they base it on what they see,” Dave D’Alessio, an associate professor of communications at the University of Connecticut, told the Poynter Institute in 2016.

“There’s something called a hostile media effect,” D’Alessio continued. “Basically, whenever people are engaged in an issue . . . they see coverage as biased against their position, no matter what it is.”

He goes onto say politicians like to claim the media is against them, particularly when it comes to certain wedge issues, like gun control or abortion, to get voters behind them. 

“You want to rally the troops. Both of the sides know that the way to get anything done is to get everyone on the same page, so anything they can do to create an opposition is good,” said D’Alessio.

For my part, I like to look at issues without dragging politicians into the discussion (as much as one can) because politicians by their very nature make everything political.

Online media bias websites

One can use online media bias websites, like Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC), an independent website that rates the bias, factual accuracy, and credibility of media sources. You can read more about how they work and if they are useful here.

When I plugged the Winnipeg Free Press into MBFC, it rated it as having “a minimal bias and uses very few loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using an appeal to emotion or stereotypes). The reporting is factual and usually sourced.”

It went on to say the Free Press had a “reasonably balanced editorial page that slightly leans conservative.” 

The Winnipeg Sun is not in the database, so I looked at the Calgary Sun instead since they have similar formats.

The MBFC said the Calgary Sun is “moderate to strongly biased toward conservative causes through story selection and/or political affiliation. They may utilize strong loaded words . . . publish misleading reports and omit information reporting that may damage conservative causes.”

The Calgary Sun was deemed mostly factual because of its lack of sourcing, and because opinion articles can take “scientific positions that do not align with the consensus of science.”

The Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix were ranked as “moderately conservative in bias. They often publish factual information that utilizes loaded words … to favor conservative causes. These sources are generally trustworthy for information but may require further investigation.”

It flagged the StarPhoenix as having issues within their opinion pieces when it came to providing links to information that backed their assertations.

Ultimately, when it comes to MBFC, it seems tone and proper sourcing are important.


Until next time…

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Thanks for reading, and kind regards,

Kelly-Anne Riess

Important work at a critical time.

Over the last 20 years, on the Prairies and beyond,  local newsrooms have shrunk, which means not much investigative journalism gets done in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Flatlander is changing this.

 

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