Media Have Responsibility to Help Voters Get Informed

By Laura Farr
Published October 21, 2010

Increasingly today, we see a struggle for every voice to be heard - blogs, Facebook, twitter, news aggregates, YouTube - yet we still turn to traditional media outlets to find the information from the professionals.

Think about that influence at a local level. At what point did it become acceptable for an integral news source to promote candidates indirectly with skewed articles and online coverage?

The September 18 article "Getting to Voters 140 Characters at a Time", features two images: the Facebook logo, and a screen capture of the campaign page for only one candidate.

The October 6 article "Wondering Where to Vote? Ask Larry" writes about a tool on one candidate's campaign website that tells Hamiltonians where they can vote. The city website already does a very capable job of this.

The October 13 article "DiIanni Poll Puts Him in Front in Mayoral Race" actually reports a "leaked" poll from a candidate's campaign that puts the candidate in question in the lead. How this qualified as newsworthy and was printed baffles me.

We're hard pressed for local news, save a few mainstream sources. These sources rely heavily on advertising dollars for their publications, meaning they need to sell more to receive more. It's a reappearing dichotomy that some would argue has pushed the mainstream media's ability to report with journalistic integrity into something imperceptibly persuasive, except these days its not spend, buy, go - it's who to vote for.

Hard-hitting reporting has taken a back seat to fluff pieces:

While at times informative, these pieces have replaced the real issues and questions raised by concerned, engaged residents at debates. Coverage of candidate responses has devolved into attendance figures, humourous quips grabbed like TMZ-esque sound bites, publicity stunts, and sparring matches.

In this day an age, I would have hoped for change in our media coverage, much like the change people call for at City Hall. Technology enables news providers to cover elections in so many varied ways - streaming debates, live blogging with reader engagement, up-to-date accurate candidate information, clips or video of debates - of which we have seen too little in the mainstream media.

On the other hand, non-traditional sources of news like Raise the Hammer and The Hamiltonian and independent citizen journalists like Joey Coleman appear to be doing their utmost to maintain an ethical non-bias, allowing the people more access to the information to make up their own minds and engaging them in conversation, as Jason Leach mentioned in his recent blog entry.

One radio personality's "The Non-Incumbent Councilor [sic] Campaign" calls on Hamiltonians to "vote for ANYONE but the incumbent." That negative attitude leads to citizens feeling like this.

Knowledge is power - it's how knowledge is wielded that counts. A Municipal Election should be about electing the candidate who is the best person for the job - not creating a futures market in selling newspapers.

Laura Farr was born and raised in Hamilton, and loves her city. She has worked for all of the Elected Officials (pretty much) since 2008 at City Hall, and is an engaged citizen who ethically and professionally walks the line between employee and citizen every day. Most recently, she was a candidate in the 2018 municipal election in Ward 3, coming in second place. She is not related to Councillor Jason Farr, and has a Venn diagram to explain to anyone asking.


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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 10:38:35

While it's easy to pig out on the aural junkfood that CHML might feed you, there are other options for listeners who want more independent and community-centered views on our City.

CFMU 93.3FM (McMaster Community Radio) is one the few remaining independent radio stations that serve our fair City. When you first think of CFMU, you might think it's all about playing music no one's ever heard of, or Marauder games, but the station has been offering a variety of spoken word and community shows for years.

As many listeners know, Sunday is dedicated to ethnic programming, and hosts with roots in places like Turkey and the Phillipines reach out to their communities in Hamilton. Shows like Queer Hamilton (Mon @ 7pm) covers topics of relevance to the Queer community, and disRespect (Thurs @ noon) deal with the important issues of disadvantage and discrimination. Today I believe disRespect will even be playing an old show on Larry DiIanni from a few years back--as relevant today as ever.

So if you're looking for radio that's not dictated by profits and fealty to corporate overlords (like advertisers and local professional sports teams), check out CFMU's Programming Schedule at, find a show you like, make an effort to tune in weekly, and maybe become involved with the CFMU Community by engaging with host(s) or starting your own show!

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By CHBS (anonymous) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 10:48:43

Why doesn't CHCH ever host Mayoral Debates?! I've seen several TO debates on CityTV, more on RogersTV (Toronto's 'Cable14').

Is it any wonder why voter turnout is so low? Maybe it has to do with our 'local' 12-Hour-a-Day-News station can't sacrifice one hour to local politics?!

I've seen more photos of Russell Williams in bras than I have any local candidate! Disgusting.
Maybe I should vote for the boxer-brief bandit seeing as I heard more about him yesterday than Bratina, DiIanni and Fred combined!

CHCH is a joke and has been since the early 2000's! No wonder Hamiltonians are stuck in suburban mindsets.

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By Paul (registered) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 12:43:45

No disrespect to CFMU, it is a great station with many great programs but it has yet to get the reach of our larger local media and currently it is they who are failing to inform the public thoroughly and as unbiased as possible.

Unfortunately CHCH is all soundbytes and being a regional station rather than a Hamilton station. The Hamilton Spectator has an ever better opportunity but it squanders resources on wire stories and pooling it's managing company's resources (Metroland) to write stories for multiple publications to cut costs while sacrificing local coverage and indepth reporting.

They can do it as they have provided award winning and fascinating stories but they are far too few and do not reflect the daily paper as much as it could.

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By nightmareinhamilton (anonymous) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 13:14:22

Why doesn't CHCH ever cover stories that effect Hamiltonians? Let me guess? Well remember the media attention in regards to The NIGHTMARE HOME built in Hamilton, by the Spectator, CBC Marketplace and Toronto Star ( and several other media, with the exception of CHCH ), another televised show will be aired Oct 27,2010. The homeowners do live in Hamilton, so I can only suggest CHCH is a regional station that will not touch a story in regards to activity as important as alleged municipal negligence, illegal activities in the new home industry, etc,etc,etc.

For those who missed the opportunity to view these stories, they are still available on The Spec website and CBC Marketplace website. Catch the action on Oct. 27, 2010 on Rogers cable network.

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By LauraF (registered) | Posted October 21, 2010 at 14:42:11

Funnily enough, today at lunch I happened to turn on CH, and there was Mayoral Candidate coverage!

Unfortunately, like at most of the debates, it was just a 90 second intro to who they are, platform etc. There was also a commercial for "Hamilton Votes!" coverage on CH.

It is a shame that with the resources that both the Spectator and CH have they don't/can't/won't provide the local coverage that they once prided themselves on.

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By Disappointed in Binbrook (anonymous) | Posted October 22, 2010 at 11:48:23

I have to say that I've even been disappointed by local newspapers the Stoney Creek News and Glanbrook Gazette. Kevin Werner from those organizations, has been reporting on the campaign in a very irresponsible way in my opinion. He reported on the Ward 11 debate in this week's issue in both papers and he wasn't even there for the majority of the event. Two separate people told me he only came in during the last few minutes. I told both editors of that paper that fact but they used his article anyhow. He also goofed and didn't actually do his research when reporting on Brenda Johnson belief that the Tradeport/firefighter layoff at the Airport was a federal issue as well - turns out Johnson was right and Transport Canada does oversee safety and the councillors have asked Tradeport to review their proposal with Transport Canada policies. He also uses old "biase" reporter tricks that hopefully most informed people recognized by talking about one particular candidate in the very first sentence and then again ending the article with a positive quote from that same candidate. Reporters have a duty to report and quote but also clarify and correct misinformation before publishing it. I think Kevin Werner missed that class in school.
He also had a huge miss in his article the week prior in listing the Hamilton and District Labour Council preferred candidates - he talked about every Ward BUT the very Ward he reports on....Ward 11 who preferred candidate is Brenda Johnson. I can only assume Kevin Werner is incompetent or he's biased - either way we can't trust his reports.
We are desperate for real information and responsible reporting and the newspapers are not giving it to us.

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By frank (registered) | Posted October 22, 2010 at 12:49:57

Disappointed...there's a ward 10 & 11 candidates debate this evening. Great place to go if you need information. the event is posted on the events calendar.

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