So much ink, so many articles, about the freedom of the press and the fact that one particular newspaper group, owned by one particular family, might be attempting to limit this sacred liberty. Newsworthy of course, and extremely worrying. But not at all surprising. We haven’t had a genuinely free media in this country for generations.
There are definitely pockets of free expression, and I’ve worked hard to find them over the years. But the idea that Canadian newspapers, magazines and television and radio stations are universally open to all sorts of expression is, frankly, quite laughable.
I used to be a columnist at the Globe and Mail. I was hired by the editor to write a weekly column, and this went on for a couple of years. The column was apparently controversial and provoked a great many letters. That is part of what columns are supposed to do. But a group of journalists at the paper didn’t like what I wrote. One week, when the editor and his deputy were away, this cabal assembled a petition and demanded that my column not run. They went to the acting boss, a man they could intimidate, and demanded their way. He caved in. I was told that I had to write a different column that week. I resigned soon afterwards and moved to the Financial Post.
Here I was given more room to do what a columnist is supposed to do, to say whatever he wants and to sometimes buck the system. It seemed too good to last. It was. After about a year I was told that I could no longer write about issues of family or sexuality. “But,” I protested, “you know how popular my column is, how many people tell you they only buy the paper because of it, how the surveys show so much support for me.” No matter. I was never, ever again to write about certain issues. I was later told that people in high places, with influence over the editor, held certain views and lived certain lives and were not pleased with me. I considered leaving, but my family’s income came first. I held my fire until the Sun group made me an offer.
When I arrived in Canada more than 15 years ago I was considered a literary journalist and biographer, and appeared on the CBC quite frequently. Then it became clear that I was also a Christian with specific moral views. Suddenly, no more CBC appearances. There was one absurd situation when I was, to my surprise, invited, but when I arrived at the CBC building was told by an embarrassed producer that they had changed their mind. “But you booked me days ago, I’ve made the journey here, this is crazy.” They don’t want you on, she said. “Who doesn’t want me on?” She did not explain. Unique? Not to anyone who knows the elites of Canadian media.
A CBC friend was staying at my house one night. I did not hear the car that dropped her off. I asked her about this. “I was worried that my workmates from the CBC who drove me might have known you lived here and turned against me for going to visit someone who was pro-life and not supportive of gay rights.”
The same occurs on the other political extreme. I know of a magazine where a writer of an article about immigration was told, “This won’t do, it’s far too balanced.” The same journal killed a moderate response to an article considered by many to be profoundly racist because the writer of the allegedly racist piece threatened litigation.Know the right people, hold the right views, do the right things, attend the right parties. Then the door opens. Otherwise, get in line and do what you’re told.