By MEL ROTHENBURGER
Canadians need to start subscribing to newspapers again, support local news and hug a CBC reporter if they don’t want to see our country slide into the era of fake news, says a veteran broadcast journalist.
Terry Milewski, a long-time radio and television reporer who spent several decades with the CBC, was the keynote speaker at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver today (Sept. 27, 2017).
In a fact-filled, insightful and often humorous speech, Milewksi focused on what he called “decision-based evidence making,” his phrase for fake news.
He sprinkled his address with anecdotes about his experiences interviewing world leaders, observing wryly that “for some reason, democracy is not sweeping the globe.”
On the other hand, he said, “I’m not here to preach that democracy is on its death bed,” but added, “Nationalism is turning out to be what’s normal.”
With President Donald Trump at the helm, the U.S. is retreating from its role as the champion of democracy, Milewski said. A poll in Germany recently showed that 21 per cent didn’t think the U.S. is trustworthy. The same number didn’t think Russia is trustworthy.
Such impressions result from the current “information smog,” the broadcaster said. Even scientific facts like climate change are under attack as politicians like Trump question the validity of efforts to stop it.
“If it turns out that climate change really is a hoax we’ll have built a better world for nothing,” Milewski joked.
Lest we get too comfortable with the notion that Canada is immune, he talked about some of the ultra-rightwing online commentators who spread false information here at home.
The vehicle for all this, he said, is Facebook, which has two billion monthly users and brings in billions of dollars in revenue every year. In his view, Facebook doesn’t do enough to control how people use it.
What can the rest of us do?
“Name and shame the liars, ruthlessly,” he said. Bring lies into the daylight, support honest media so they can hire more fact checkers and share their findings.
Milewski received a standing ovation at the end of his speech.