By March 25, 2017 Read More →

Open letter to Heather Boyd: Ezra doesn’t deserve media accreditation

Ezra Levant, “Rebel Commander” at “Rebel Media.”

“Bottom line, as an online journalist I had to be vetted by the Alberta government and I have yet to hear a single good argument why Ezra shouldn’t be as well.” – Markham Hislop

Dear Ms. Boyd. Since launching online news site Beacon News in 2008, I have been accredited as a journalist by many governments, organizations, businesses, and events in both Canada and the United States. That experience gives me a unique perspective on media accreditation my colleagues working for national newspaper chains and electronic media networks may not possess.

Heather Boyd, former Canadian Press bureau chief for Western Canada. Photo: Heather Boyd/Twitter.

I won’t bother recounting the controversy that led to your commission by Premier Rachel Notley  to provide recommendations for an Alberta government media policy. Readers can peruse the background here and here.

In this letter, I want to make two general points.

One, the argument that governments shouldn’t choose who is and who is not a journalist is nonsense. Governments have been doing  this for decades.

But how would Canadian journalists know?

Most are employed by large newspaper chains, like Postmedia, or electronic media networks like CTV or CBC. By virtue of their size and their presence these news organizations have always been accredited and any journalist working for them can sling their credentials around their neck and attend a government media event without question.

Why wouldn’t they assume that online journalists like me can do the same?

I can’t. Or, at least, I couldn’t at the beginning of my online journalism career. I had been out of the industry for a few years and few people in the Alberta media industry knew me.

Check the sign up page for Alberta government media advisories. The message hasn’t changed since the NDP took over from the PCAA last year: “For accredited media only: Sign up to get government news releases and media-only event notices by email.”

That’s right, I couldn’t even get on the press release list without being accredited by government.
What did accreditation entail? Very little, really.
A bit of my background and experience, a quick check of my work, some info about our website (how may monthly readers, editorial focus, that sort of thing) – and I was accredited.
This is the process that terrifies Canadian journalists? That is what they worry about when they vow that “government should never choose who is media”?
If Ezra Levant and Rebel Media can’t pass this innocuous test, then they don’t deserve to be accredited.

Ezra Levant. Photo: David Climenhaga.

Ezra Levant. Photo: David Climenhaga.

Two, Ezra Levant doesn’t deserve to be accredited.

He is, by his own admission, a political activist.
Take, for instance, this excerpt from a letter Levant wrote to conservative pundit Michael Coren firing him for a positive sex-ed column on the Rebel Media website: “An important part of The Rebel – in both commentary and activism – is to be a champion for social conservatives and Christians; at least that they ought to be welcome in the public square.”
And here is an example of Ezra violating the Canadian Association of Journalists’ principles of ethical journalism; as reported by the Globe and Mail:
An Ontario Superior Court judge has delivered a stinging rebuke of Ezra Levant, declaring as part of an $80,000 libel judgment that the Sun Media personality displayed “reckless disregard for the truth” and “took little or no responsibility for the accuracy” of certain statements he published on his personal blog.

Finding that Levant acted with malice in his coverage of a 2008 British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, Justice Wendy Matheson said “he did little or no fact-checking regarding the posts complained of, either before or after their publication. Nor did he accurately report what was taking place at the hearing. And, with one exception, when he learned that he got his facts wrong, he made no corrections.”

Part of Ezra’s innovative defense during this trial – there have been others – was that no one should take him seriously – surely the opposite of a serious journalist’s intent?
In finding for plaintiff Khurrum Awan, who was at the time an Osgoode Hall law student, the judge also rejected a defence, put forward by Levant’s lawyers, that their client’s reputation as an “outspoken provocateur and troublemaker” would preclude most reasonable people from taking his defamatory statements literally.
For anyone who has followed Ezra’s career, this is hardly the most salacious story.
But it nicely illustrates the argument that Ezra hasn’t earned his spurs as a journalist.
As an outspoken provocateur and troublemaker, sure. As a political activist, in spades.
But as a practitioner of the craft we hold so dear? Not a chance.
That, however, is just my opinion.
Let him – and the rest of the Rebel gang – submit to the Alberta government media accreditation process. I can attest from experience it doesn’t hurt one bit.
If the government accredits him, so be it. Their circus, their monkeys, as the kids say.
If the government doesn’t accredit him, Ezra will thrash about on his website videos and sell enough T-shirts to conduct the next Rebel Cruise in fine style. His pocketbook will be fatter for the government’s good judgement.
Bottom line, as an online journalist I had to be vetted by the Alberta government and I have yet to hear a single good argument why Ezra shouldn’t be as well.
I suspect you really haven’t, either.
Markham Hislop
Canadian Energy News
American Energy News

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