Op/Ed – Threats Against The Media (VIDEO)

Fraser Valley – I thought that in my 40 years of media, most of which was radio and now social media, I have never seen my industry under siege. Sure, in my radio years, I have had to deal with management muzzling a few jocks and trying to “steer” a newsroom ( I worked for a CBC affiliate in Victoria 1979-1983. Personally, I will never work for those people again), but never have I seen my industry in such a state.

Worried about personal safety while trying to do our job.

Isn’t this paranoia supposed to be reserved for media covering events in banana republics? Russia? Africa? Far East? China? Asia?

Not anymore.

The closest I have come to being concerned for personal safety was in 1995, working for an Ottawa radio station. On August 1, 1995, Ottawa TV Sportscaster Brian Smith was gunned down in the parking lot of the TV station after wrapping up the 6PM cast. He was shot and killed by a deranged man who “heard radio stations in his head” and wanted to kill the voices. The first person he recognized was Brian. We would find out later that Jeffery Arenburg, a disturbed young man, would be found not criminally responsible due to mental illness. He died from a heart attack in 2017.

What made this scary for me, was that for a time, he lived in an Ottawa project,literally around the corner from my old radio station. I was the one (ironically) who had to go on the air to announce that Brian had died. For months, we were afraid to draw open the blinds. Were we the next victims? Arenburg supposedly had a list of journalists who he didn’t appreciate.

Shortly before that incident, US President Bill Clinton visited Ottawa. We noticed the snipers on the rooftops around Parliament Hill. “We were not in Kansas anymore”.

In 2015, seventeen people were slaughtered in the Paris HQ of Charlie Hedbo magazine. The satirical magazine has a history of attracting controversy.

Fast forward to 2018. While we see the going’s on with US Politics and President Donald Trump, something similar is happening in Canada. The rhetoric has spilled over the border, and FVN is not the only one feeling this. Recently a paper shooting target was found near a Valley newspaper office and posted to social media. It doesn’t matter whether or not it was by accident or a prank. It was not appreciated.

In June, Five people were killed in a shooting inside the newsroom at the Capital Gazette, one of America’s oldest newspapers, in Annapolis, Maryland. The gunman had a grudge with the paper.

At the end of July, CNN reporter Jim Acosta was in the midst of a live hit at a Trump rally in Tampa. Crowds began booing him and chanting “CNN sucks.” While trying to take selfies with a few “fans” he had the finger in his face, on a few occasions, all caught on live TV. This after POTUS made another rant about “fake news” which riled up the crowd to a frenzy. Over the past 18 months, these “rallies” have had an eerie resemblance to the heyday of Nazi and Fascist rallies of  WWII from the likes of Hitler and Mussolini.

In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford’s Conservatives have created a fake news site called Ontario News Now.  A taxpayer-funded faux news site that amounts to partisan advertising at public expense (Quote from the Toronto Star). Basically it’s the way to shut out journalists from asking tough questions and voters are buying in. So far, nothing violent has come from this. But we have seen this movie, too (Thank you Elton John for that song).

The latest event in the States may inspire wing nuts everywhere to take lethal action. A caller to C-SPAN called for the shooting of CNN’s Don Lemon and Brian Stelter.

Slate.com posted the video/audio. A caller also mentioned MSNBC’s Katy Tur saying she and some of her female colleagues had received emails saying, “I hope you get raped and killed.” The “most recent note” she received ended with four letters: MAGA (Make America Great Again).

And now… CNN reports that a  man wearing a mask and hood entered a Wisconsin radio station early Sunday morning and opened fire on three disc jockeys in the broadcast studio.

WORT FM, a community radio station based in Madison, said in a statement that witnesses said five gunshots were fired, injuring one DJ in the buttocks and shattering the glass between studios.
The injured DJ was transported to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and later discharged, WORT said. No major injuries were reported and no arrest had been made in the case early Monday.
The station management was about to install security cameras.

Bottom line, journalists have a tough job. We deal with bureaucrats, politics and irate callers all the time. But when some people are egged on by elected officials and people of authority, and Joe Average buys into the hate, then…quite frankly… you really should be ashamed of yourself. What happened to morals? Dignity?

We are not a backwards banana republic. We are supposed to be the beacon of sanity.

Have we lost it?

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein said the words that many of us in our media industry dreaded.

This whole circus really is… worse than Watergate in 1974. Richard Nixon wasn’t a fan of the media. He made that clear since 1960…..he eventually resigned.

Our business shouldn’t have to… duck and cover, just to do our job.

Don Lehn, FVN Fraser Valley News

FVN’s Don Lehn during his News1130 Vancouver years.

 

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