On June 1, 2019, more than 1,000 people attended the Life Hike event at K.R. Barkman Park in Steinbach. The large crowd was a powerful reminder that the pro-life movement is alive and well in Manitoba. Being pro-life myself, I was happy to attend this event and was impressed by the professionalism of the speakers and organizers.
However, when CBC cameras showed up, I knew the media would paint this event in the worst possible light. That is exactly what happened.
First, CBC didn’t use the actual name Life Hike and described the event as "anti-abortion" rather than "pro-life." Their story also highlighted recent abortion restrictions in Alabama even though none of the speakers or organizers made any reference to this state.
In addition, the story gave nearly equal attention to a handful of counter-protesters who showed up wearing handmaid outfits. All in all, the reporting was a typical example of CBC bias.
Left-wing bias is not limited to the CBC. I commonly see it in other mainstream media outlets such as CTV and the Winnipeg Free Press. Since many reporters and producers hold left-wing political views themselves, we should not be surprised at the biased reporting in their stories.
Biased reporting makes it hard for many of us on the right to trust what we see on TV or read in the newspaper. Some have even started referring to mainstream media as "fake news" and suggest that we should abandon these outlets entirely and switch to alternative media.
However, that would be a mistake. There is a world of a difference between media bias and fake news.
While the CBC report about the Life Hike event was horrendously biased, it was not fake news. The event happened at the time and place described in the story, the Alabama legislature had recently passed abortion restrictions, and there really were a handful of counter-protesters who showed up. In other words, nothing in the story was factually inaccurate.
In addition, the CBC story did not attribute false quotes to any of the speakers nor did it invent a group of fictitious counter-protesters. Any reputable news outlet would immediately fire any reporter who did these sorts of things.
Professional journalists are expected to check their sources and verify any information they receive. While this does not prevent bias from creeping into their stories, it does make it unlikely that their stories will contain blatant falsehoods.
This is why I have no problem using the mainstream media as a source of factual information. For example, I recognize that our hospital system is under significant strain from dealing with COVID-19 patients. The mainstream media did not invent a global pandemic, nor are they part of a government plot to secretly take away all our rights and freedoms.
In contrast, people who post random videos to YouTube have no such journalistic constraints. They are free to invent whatever they want. That is why I put more stock in a fact-checked CBC report about overflowing hospitals than in a random person who uploads a YouTube video claiming that COVID-19 is a hoax.
This doesn’t mean that I uncritically accept the media narrative. For the record, I think that most CBC reporters have a pro-lockdown bias that skews their reporting. These journalists need to be reminded that there is more to healthcare than simply keeping COVID-19 case numbers low. However, calling their stories fake news is not the way to do it.
While we should take mainstream media stories with a grain of salt, we don’t need to toss them out entirely. They might be biased, but they are not fake news.
Michael Zwaagstra is a high school teacher and a Steinbach city councillor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.