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Journalism Event A Glaring Example Of How Blind Institutions Are To Entrenched Echo Chambers
A panel of journalists discussed the unprecedented and historical event known as the Freedom Convoy at Carleton University Mar 10, 2022. The conversation was called, Journalism Under Siege and was led by a panel of journalists who covered the events on the ground over the course of the 20+ day protest in Ottawa.
To attend the event in person, proof of vaccination was required. People could also watch a livestream online or the replay on YouTube.
The panel consisted of journalists primarily from legacy media outlets like CTV, CBC, The Toronto Star and The National Post. There were two freelance journalists in attendance as well, both who held the same general perspectives about the Convoy and the people who attended as legacy media.
The discussion consisted of each journalist sharing their experience reporting on the convoy in Ottawa. Throughout, there was also lengthy discussion around why members of legacy media were treated so poorly while on the ground in Ottawa, and why there seems to be a growing distrust in legacy media.
To be clear, Carleton University was effectively holding a journalism panel discussing why some members of legacy media were mistreated at a protest that wants to end vaccine mandates in a building that requires mandatory vaccination.
This is a glaring example of how completely blind and out of touch some of these institutions are to the echo chambers that have been created. Keep in mind, Ontario lifted its proof of vaccination mandate many days prior to the event.
Many of the featured journalist seemed confused as to why the protest happened and what was driving these people to be distrusting of legacy media. While myself and our team at The Pulse were on the ground in Ottawa, we spoke to over a 100 people about why they were attending the protest and what they wanted government to do.
I personally talked talked to a family of Hasidic Jews, healthcare professionals, members of the Sikh community, a youth at risk mental health advocate worker, a member of the LGTBQ+ community, indigenous people, truckers, and a physically disabled entrepreneur, just to name a few encounters.
It was consistently expressed that people had frustrations related to government policy around COVID, specifically vaccine mandates. Most, even many who were fully vaccinated, wanted all vaccine mandates to be dropped in Canada as they felt misled about government policy over the course of COVID-19.
There was also a consistent frustration with how COVID-19 was covered in the legacy media over the course of the last two years. This included frustration and confusion around the tone being taken in the legacy media about the Freedom Convoy and the tens of thousands of people who attended it.
In some of the early minutes of the conference, National Post writer Rupa Subramanya shared some thoughts on the framing of the event itself. She was unable to attend in person, but a pre-recorded call was played on a large screen for the audience.
“I found the framing of this event as interesting as the subject itself. The framing pointed to a particular narrative and a particular lens at which to see the protest, not that different from the PM [Prime Minister] and the Ottawa city council and large sections of the media. I felt they were all marching in lockstep again.”
Part of the event's marketing for the panel discussion read: "Some of Canada’s leading journalists will talk about the challenges journalism confronted during the so-called Freedom Convoy’s occupation of downtown Ottawa."
Subramanya further explains some of the other issues she spotted with how the event was presented.
“Calling it 'so called' was actually emblematic of lots of the mainstream coverage of the convoy which was sometimes with a snide and mocky tone.”
Even if someone completely disagrees with the Freedom Convoy and believes in vaccine mandates, it doesn’t take hours of analysis to figure out why some people may not feel truly represented in this discussion from the online event information.
Post secondary schools, media organizations and government facilities were once seen as the places designated in a society for debate, hard discussions, and the exploration of ideas. With the implementation of vaccine mandates where people were fired, or worse put on unpaid leave for refusing the vaccine, this effectively removed this role and entrenched already formed echo chambers.
Now there is no physical exposure to people in these locations that have another way of looking at these topics which informed their conviction to not comply. Think about that. With a single policy, these once considered sacred places used to decipher truths, put a final nail in the coffin of debate. Groupthink has been furthered.
Freelance Journalist Justin Ling did bring up some reasons these mandates were important to institutionalize.
“I am sympathetic to the argument that journalism has gotten a bit detached from the everyday concerns from the folks that live in this country… In some cases they are folks that lost their job but let’s be clear they are folks that lost their job because we wanted them to do something that would stop people from getting sick and dying. It’s not something we are arbitrarily imposing on them just to get our jollys off and crushing the little guy, it’s a measure done to make sure that our hospitals didn’t collapse. This was not a punitive measure.”
Here is where the importance of having a journalist on the panel who has not been vaccinated becomes glaringly obvious to anyone watching who has made this decision.
The argument can be flipped back on to Ling, and asked if he thinks those who have chosen to not be vaccinated have made this decision arbitrarily? With the pressure of job loss, the risk of social criticisms and societal expulsion, does he really think a human would choose these experiences on a whim?
Further, Ling saying it is not a punitive measure, reveals once again the lack of awareness about what the actual issues that need to be debated are. Those choosing to remain unvaccinated are choosing this from a perspective often informed by data. Yet these journalists feel it could have only come from misinformation and conspiracy theory. Is that an informed perspective?
Vaccine mandates are a punitive measure. Look at what has happened to people who chose not to get vaccinated.
This pushes us to the question: does the science show that vaccine mandates did what they were claiming to do under the guise of health and safety?
It was quickly well known that these vaccines do not stop transmission, that vaccinated people can hold the same viral load as unvaccinated, and that at best the COVID vaccine reduced symptoms. With the Omicron wave it became clear that those vaccinated were just as susceptible to getting COVID as the unvaccinated.
As far as protecting the hospital system goes, in a Gallup poll conducted in Aug 2021 it was found that American's overstated the risk of an unvaccinated person being hospitalized by 92 percent. The risk of hospitalization for an unvaccinated person is less than 1 percent. Yet the average person has a distorted perception in regards to the risk of hospitalization from COVID.
Have media and journalists been doing a good job of accurately informing the masses if the average person has a perspective of the dangers of COVID is that far off?
COVID-19 is a disease that affects people differently depending on their age and co-morbidity factors. A 70 year old with 4 or more co-morbidities has a much higher risk of hospitalization than a healthy 35 year old whose risk of hospitalization is incredibly low. In fact, some data is beginning to show that vaccines are likely more dangerous to healthy young people than COVID and its effects. This fact alone makes country wide mandates absurd.
Pfizer clinical trial data reveals a concerning signal around massive under reporting of vaccine injury by the Canadian Government. A recent FOIA request triggered the release of confidential Pfizer documents that show there were 40,000 vaccine injuries reported in the first three months the product hit the public, yet this data was hidden until the FDA was court ordered to make these documents public.
Most recently Vancouver Coastal Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Patricia Daly's wrote a letter stating that the vaccination mandates may have done more harm than good. In the letter it states,
“We have no evidence that those who have not complied with UBC policies [vaccines] have posed any public health risk to their fellow students, or staff, even during circulation of other variants.”
So were these measures really not punitive?
This is an example of why many people have lost trust in legacy media and events like Journalism Under Siege. Consistently, instead of addressing and discussing facts like the ones above, people are just told they are conspiracy theorists.
Yes, there are more extreme theories out there about these vaccines that create noise in the information landscape, but it doesn't disregard these facts. And when the mainstream does not want to address these facts, it pushes people to believe they cannot trust legacy media.
To be fair the event did feature a good faith effort to understand the Freedom Convoy on behalf of journalist Jorge Barrera who works for CBC’s Indigenous unit. He admitted late in the event that he tends to be attracted to events that push back against the system. Perhaps his indigenous roots and experience has him more open to holding space to question mainstream perspectives.
“My role that I took in this was to just figure out what brought people to Ottawa to park their trucks there. What brought people leave their houses in Petawawa for example and drive to Ottawa nearly everyday... And what I found was there seemed to be this complete loss of faith in institutions, a crisis of authority is another term, for various reasons they no longer trust what official health authorities have to say. Or what media has to say."
If legacy media really wanted to build a bridge of communication with people that have lost trust in the system, if they really wanted to empathize with those that do not trust them, whether the reasons are valid or not, perhaps it would be a good idea to have an event that they can attend or ask questions. Instead of an event that puts the journalists in the role of victim.
Further, there were many well respected independent media outlets who covered the Freedom Convoy for 20+ days like Bridge City News and The Pulse, why not have someone from either company there to discuss another side of this?