By Treena Wood, RTDNA Contributor
Up here in Canada, when we say Donald Trump is #NotMyPresident we mean it literally, but when it comes to news coverage he may as well be. Trump is affecting our day-to-day editorial decision-making, and he’s also affecting our audience and how our listeners and readers feel about us. It’s an unprecedented era in journalism, no matter what side of the 49th parallel your newsroom happens to be on.
My radio station is in Vancouver, British Columbia, only about an hour’s drive from the border. Our listeners cross regularly, and from a cultural and political perspective we have a lot in common with our Cascadia cousins in Washington State and Oregon. It’s not surprising that Donald Trump’s first month in office has been a “huge” topic of conversation, and his Tweets regularly lead our newscasts.
We are certainly not immune to the conflict between the media and an increasingly vocal part of our audience that no longer trusts us to be impartial. My newsroom is routinely accused of posting “fake news” to our website – in one case from someone who use a fake email address to contact the station. In every instance, it’s a story that is critical of President Trump. I tell our journalists to cover Trump the same way they cover anyone else – impartially, free of emotion, and when it’s important to our listeners. He has made the free press “the enemy,” but we won’t do ourselves any favours by treating him as an opponent.
It will be interesting to see how the Trump era affects the political climate in Canada. In some ways, it already has. The right-wing Conservative Party is in the midst of a leadership race, and the newest entrant is an outspoken businessman with no political experience who’s made a name for himself on television. Sound familiar? Another candidate raised eyebrows when she suggested the government should screen potential immigrants for “anti-Canadian values.” And last month’s murders of six Muslim men praying at a mosque in Quebec City is also a chilling reminder that not every Canadian is as tolerant as we would like to believe.
As journalists across the US wrestle with how to cover the 45th president, many newsrooms in Canada are having the same debates, and dealing with the same fallout. It’s a story that unites us all.
Treena Wood is News Director at CKWX-AM in Vancouver, BC.