Last week The Globe and Mail gave the general public another reason to be wary of journalists.
In a front-page story, the Globe stated that there had been a reversal in a policy regarding same-sex couples who travelled to Canada to marry. But this was not exactly the case, as pointed out by Kevin Kindred in a J-Source article. It turns out that there was never actually a reversal in the “tourist” marriages policy. Canada has a long-standing law stating that the government will only recognize a “tourist” marriage if it is valid in the place where the couple resides.
The Globe and Mail didn’t seem to be aware of this fact, and published an article that not only caused some considerable controversy, but left the prime minister labelled a homophobe. And journalists wonder why trust in their profession is so low. As an Ipsos Reid polI released in early January reported, only 31 percent of the general public trusted journalists. While the profession did surpass lawyers in public trust, journalists were still considered less believable than chiropractors and financial advisors.
This same-sex mixup may be a perfect example of why this is the case. Let’s believe that this was a simple Globe and Mail error. As Kindred puts it, “law is hard.” When writing a potentially controversial article, should a journalist not stop and think “What are the implications of this piece?” If it seems potentially volatile—the Globe story drew over 2,000 online comments—there should be some extra care when it comes to verifying the facts. That should be a principle widely practised in journalism to begin with. We can understand the crunch of the 24-hour news cycle, and can appreciate that mistakes happen, but it is our job, as journalists, to be accountable to the public.
C’mon, people. Let’s prove that we can be more trustworthy than plumbers.
Lead image via Flickr user bee721.