On the vapour trails of rumour
Over the past few weeks, three journalists took action against the Centre for Faith and the Media based on allegations and assertions which lack truth and are closer to rumour-mongering than anything resembling journalism. None of these journalists called me or anyone at the Centre to verify their facts before writing these articles and blogs, which are potentially damaging to the good work of this organization.
It seems that the basis of good journalistic practice – checking facts with original and multiple credible sources – has gone the way of the typewriter.
At issue is the fact that the Centre for Faith and the Media has received a contribution agreement from the federal ministry of multiculturalism to provide media relations training to Muslim communities in Canada. This includes convening discussion panels where local journalists, journalism professors, and local Muslim spokespersons, leaders, and students, can engage in open dialogue about how Muslims are treated in Canadian media, and how that treatment can be improved.
In each of the eight cities where the project is (or was) taking place, the makeup of the panels has been varied. We have endeavored to involve people from many different Muslim traditions, and points of view within Islam. We have seen the participation of women wearing hijabs, women without hijabs, Sunnis, Ismailis, representatives of the Islamic Society of Nova Scotia; the Muslim Students Association of Concordia University; the Canadian Council of Muslim Women; the Muslim Council of Calgary; Islamic Social Services Association Winnipeg; the Muslim Social Services Network Toronto; and CAIR-CAN. In Ottawa, we hosted Maher Arar and his wife Monia, who spoke about the role of the media during their ordeal. In our final events in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, we will engage Shia, Ahmaddiya and Muslims from other groups and organizations.
We have had excellent journalists participate on our panels: in Winnipeg, Terry McLeod of CBC and Greg Lockert from the Winnipeg Free Press; in Toronto, Jonathan Kay of the National Post, Stuart Laidlaw from the Toronto Star, and Peter Kavanagh from CBC National Radio. In Halifax, Rob Gordon of CBC and Dan Leger from the Halifax Chronicle Herald. In Montreal, Jeff Heinrich from the Montreal Gazette, and Laurie Julie Perreault from La Presse. In Ottawa, Graham Green, editor-in-chief of the Ottawa Citizen, and Evan Dyer of CBC Radio. In Calgary, Graeme Morton from the Calgary Herald, and Faiz Jamil from CBC Calgary. In Edmonton and Vancouver, we will involve equally terrific journalists from local major media outlets.
The Centre has come under fire for having several members of CAIR-CAN on our panels. Because CAIR-CAN exists primarily to interact with the media on behalf of Muslims in Canada, it was logical to find that its members are articulate when it comes to media issues and not simply complainers about poor coverage. They are interested in helping the media pursue fair, balanced and accurate stories to reflect the diversity of Islam in Canada. At no time have they had work subcontracted to them by the Centre. They have simply been panelists contributing their own points of view.
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