A Canadian Press story inadvertently proved a recent Leger Marketing poll about media practices correct. The story, which appeared in the May 6 Toronto Star, began, “Canada may have the reputation of being somewhat bland, but a new poll suggests many Canadians think their media are sensationalist and biased.” How ironic is it that a news report about a poll on the public’s view of the media doesn’t get the real story, which is not about sensationalism but credibility?

First, it should be noted that the reporter, Nelson Wyatt, makes light of a very serious issue: how credible the public believes the media to be. Second, after missing what the survey did say about credibility, he reads more into the poll than was there by trying to contextualize the findings. For instance, when he notes that Quebecers are most likely to find that the media resorts to sensationalism, Mr. Wyatt himself invokes his own sensationalism by noting the “diet of crime news served up by its racier print and broadcast media.”

Robert Cribb, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists (and a Toronto Star reporter) interviewed for the story, suggested Canadians may confuse the sensationalism in the U.S. media they see with the (implicitly) more responsible Canadian media. Such a response is both self-serving and smug.

In pushing the sensationalism aspect of the survey – 62 per cent of Canadians found media coverage too sensational -the CP story largely ignored survey’s findings on the issues of media bias, influence of ownership on reporting, what media are most trusted, and the perceived improvement of coverage over the last decade.

When asked if they agree with the statement, does the “Canadian media always present unbiased information about current events,” 35 per cent of respondents in the Leger poll said yes. Frankly, I’m surprised there are that many gullible readers, viewers and listeners of the Canadian media. But I’ve met people who believe a steady diet of Macleans, the CBC (both TV and radio) and the Toronto Star is all some people feel they need to know what’s going on in the world.

It has long been obvious that the media has a bias in favour of abortion, or at least against those who speak up against it. When journalists for The Interim and several Christian papers were harassed by the police outside a Toronto abortuary, it was practically impossible to get the so-called mainstream media to take notice despite their constant advocacy for freedom of the press. Sometimes the bias occurs in subtle ways, such as when the Ottawa Citizen reported that just 600 people took part in the March for Life on May 10 when there were at least four times that number. Or the number of news outlets that left the impression the March was a demonstration against embryonic stem cell research, ignoring the fact that the federal government’s announcement roughly coincided with the 33rd anniversary of the passing of Trudeau’s Omnibus Bill that legalized abortion, which was the real reason pro-lifers took to the streets of Ottawa.

The Interim began publication in March 1983 because even then, the media did not give the pro-life cause a fair shake: they did not tell the truth about abortion, they ignored the reality of more than 100,000 babies killed in the womb each year, they treated pro-life activists with disrespect. Now, two decades later, the situation is worse. Instead of treating the pro-life issue with contempt, the media just often ignore it (unless they think they can tarnish pro-lifers, such as when the national media attacked Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day over abortion).

Media bias would be less of a problem if the mainstream press admitted that it existed. The Interim has a definite view but we don’t hide it. We exist to make the case for the protection of life and family.