Friday, October 2, 2009

Gullible? Who's Gullible?

Apparently the Supreme Court of Canada docket is ripe with freedom-of-the-press issues this fall. And not so surprisingly, the media types feel compelled to weigh in on the legal issues.

So tell me, does anyone else see a problem with this reasoning?
The most high-profile case arises from the arrests in 2006 of the "Toronto 18" terrorism suspects. While some details of the group’s alleged plans to blow up public buildings have emerged, a sweeping publication ban on evidence has produced more questions than answers.

Courts routinely restrict media reports about crimes, citing the need to rein in publicity that could influence the outcome of the case or make it tough for suspects to receive a fair trial. Judges have the power to suppress evidence presented at bail hearings and other pre-trial proceedings until the trial is over.

But is it necessary to delay the public’s right to know for several years, the time it takes most major cases to reach trial? Why do our courts treat jurors as if they are gullible enough to believe everything they read in the papers? And how effective are news blackouts in an era when the Internet and social media give citizens unprecedented power to share information about court cases?

Let me get this straight.

One of the points this columnist hinges his argument against publication bans on is that jurors aren't actually gullible enough to believe everything they read in the papers?

Presumably our columnist still intends for us all to read the newspaper he is writing in. He just doesn't expect us to be "gullible enough" to believe everything they print. I can only assume he would apply the same reasoning to what we see on the TV news, as well.

So which one of these definitions of "gullible" do you suppose he is using?

fleeceable: naive and easily deceived or tricked; "at that early age she had been gullible and in love"
easily tricked because of being too trusting; "gullible tourists taken in by the shell game"

Easily deceived or duped; naïve, easily cheated or fooled

gullibility - credulousness: tendency to believe too readily and therefore to be easily deceived

gullibility - The quality of readily believing information, truthful or otherwise, usually to an absurd extent

gullibly - In a gullible way or manner

"Easily deceived or tricked"?

"Easily cheated or fooled"?

Or "readily believing information ... to an absurd extent "?

Do you really mean to tell me that I really can't believe what I read in the newspaper?

But. But. But. I thought journalism was built on certain tenets. Subject to professional ethics and standards, like.

  • Like to "seek truth and report it".
  • To "test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error"
  • To "diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing".
  • To "identify sources whenever feasible: you know, so we will have as much information as possible on sources' reliability.
  • To "make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent".
  • To "not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context".
  • And to "distinguish between advocacy and news reporting", to make sure that "analysis and commentary [is] labeled and not misrepresent fact or context".
Gawd, it looks like I really am gullible, after all.

Either that or our columnist has taken his mandate to report truth to a whole new level.

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