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Saturday, December 15, 2007

"Hey, WE didn't say it!"

Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: What do you think?

There's no real consensus on media accountability when reporting racist or hateful speech, even within the profession. I mention this because one of the northern bloggers I read, Way Way Up, has lost his patience with Nunatsiaq News.

Nunatsiaq News is the local paper in Nunavut. I have a hard time saying that there could be a "local paper" in any area the size of Nunavut, but they've done a reasonable job at creating a weekly paper with a local feel.

Southerners: This is Nunavut:
Way Way Up blogs from the northern part of Baffin Island, which is the long island in the eastern part of the territory. He lives north of the town I used to live in.

Anyway, Nunatsiaq News printed a letter from a charming fellow who accused white people of being Nazis who want all Inuit to fight each other. I always like it when people pull out the Nazi label right at the beginning.

Way Way Up is upset about this, and I can completely understand why. He wants to know why the paper would publish the letter. At this point, unlike Name of Paper Withheld, Nunatsiaq News has not reacted by blaming the writer.

Newspapers are responsible for the things they publish, but a good paper will publish a range of opinions on topics of public interest. That said, there's no obligation for any newspaper to publish any individual letter. In fact, I'd argue that they shouldn't publish every letter they get, only those that are in the public interest.

There's a difference between censorship and editing. However, a letter like this one is in the gray area. It's clearly inflammatory. It's clearly racist. The question becomes whether it benefits the public more to have this letter in the paper than to withhold it.

What do you think?

UPDATED: Matt & Kara in Kugluktuk's take.


Torq said...

I think that the real question is how on earth the paper is going to know what is really "in the public interest?"

There are a lot of books on the subject but they all tend to end up disagreeing with one another. I mean the article might increase Inuit solidarity. This is something which some might consider to be in the public interest, is it not?

The line between censorship and editing can often be very very hazy.