Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/1/2012 (2879 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Manitoba Press Council has folded after more than a quarter-century of service as a newspaper watchdog.
The council announced its demise on Monday, citing a decision by its newspaper members to pull out.
The Brandon Sun was among those that withdrew.
“Press councils are a creature from a forgotten age,” Brandon Sun managing editor James O’Connor said on Monday. “They once did serve a purpose, but over time they have become irrelevant.
“News organizations are held to account by their readers and advertisers.”
Press council chairman John Cochrane disagreed and argued that the council still had a role to play in resolving disputes and helping the public trust and understand media.
“It was set up as a means for the public to go a little bit further in terms of questioning what a newspaper maybe published about a specific story,” Cochrane said. “Why is that irrelevant?”
Perhaps pride is behind the pullout, Cochrane suggested: “Nobody likes to be second-guessed on what they do.”
The Manitoba Press Council was created by the publishers of the Winnipeg Free Press, the Brandon Sun, the Portage Daily Graphic and the Manitoba Community Newspapers Association 27 years ago.
The arm’s-length organization — made up of an equal number of newspaper industry and non-industry members — would rule on specific complaints about ethics from the public at no cost to them.
If the council made a ruling against a newspaper, the paper would agree to publish the result.
Cochrane said the council disbanded on New Year’s Day after the Winnipeg Free Press, the Brandon Sun and the Manitoba Community Newspapers Association (which represents about 50 newspapers) all withdrew.
The Daily Graphic had previously pulled out.
“They were the ones that started it,” Cochrane said of newspaper publishers. “If they don’t want to fund it anymore, then there’s not much point in continuing it.”
Cochrane said there weren’t many complaints made against Manitoba papers — he estimated a total of 11 complaints were made in the last five to six years.
He said that while there has been talk of forming a national council, there is now no body that does the work that the Manitoba council once did. Now, Cochrane said, legal action may be the only alternative for angry readers.
Member newspapers paid an annual fee or dues to be part of the council.
O’Connor said there have been a handful of complaints in the seven years he has been at the Brandon Sun and none were substantiated.
Responding to complaints was time-consuming and, even if they had been substantiated, they would have merely resulted in a correction being run.
The cost of being part of the council was questionable at a time when news organizations in general are tightening budgets, O’Connor said.