Monday, 22 January 2018

Helping my readers distinguish the difference between facts and my opinions in my articles
Half a century ago, I was the copy editor in the afternoon shift of the Winnipeg Tribune. (It was closed years ago) Later I became a syndicated columnist with the Toronto Sun and later still, I was the producer and host of a television talk show and at that same time, I was also the editor of two magazines.

I have always believed in the importance of making sure that the facts I was writing or talking about are valid. To submit what has currently been referred to as `fake news.’ is to do a disservice to those who want the truth to be told to them.

Most days, I read fourteen newspapers a day for information. Now I don’t read every article in those newspapers; just those in which the headings have enticed me into reading their articles or the subject is one that I am interested in.

I then download the articles I have chosen into my computer and rewrite them in my own words. Sometimes I will  literally publish the newspaper’s article  directly into my blog but when I do this, I also publish the name of the author of the article or the newspaper that published it. Sometimes when I do this, I will add some of my own comments to the article which will be in italics.

I have to rely on the media’s dedication at arriving at the truth because if the newspaper published something that is false, I won’t know that and will also publish that same false statement in my own article. 

As far as I know, that only occurred once in my 1,500 articles already published in my blog. I wrote in one of my articles that a certain man had been convicted of fraud. Five months later, I received a phone call from this man’s lawyer. He told me that his client had filed an appeal and his conviction was overturned. I immediate returned to the original article, made the change and then I placed an immediate current update so that those who had read the original article would be aware that the man was innocent.  That is responsible workmanship. To leave the facts unknown would be committing a terrible disservice to an innocent man.

Labeling the articles

A great number of news publications are not doing enough to label their articles properly. They deliberately make some of their headings enticing while the articles are boring in hopes that the articles will still be read by the readers.  Here is an example.

A lioness attacks its victim at the zoo. Now a reader will presume that someone got into a lion’s pen and was mauled to death by a lioness. That wasn’t what the actual story was about. It was about a city counsellor badmouthing the head of the city’s zoo. BORING.

I try to make the headings in the articles in my blog enticing and at the same time, I write the articles that are in alignment with the headings. My regular readers will read the article in my blog despite what the headings say but those persons around the world who haven’t read any of my articles in my blog in the past are looking for enticing headings on the same subject I am writing about.  This brings to mind that old saying, “Come to my parlor said the spider to the fly.” Once the fly is caught in the spider’s web, it can’t escape.

I would never place an enticing heading at the top of one of my articles if that article is about a subject that most persons reading it won’t interest them. That is a sure way of losing potential readers.

The Washington Post is doing a good job in their articles with clear, consistent writings of its articles as many other newspapers and magazines do.

My opinions

When anyone gives you an opinion on any particular subject, they are in effect, giving you their belief as to what they want you to also believe. Their belief may be wrong, but if they are honest, their belief to them will be a valid belief.  

Now sometimes our beliefs are definitely wrong. Let me give you a simple example. When I was a young boy, I believed that Santa Claus climbed down every chimney in the world. Obvious, my belief was definitely wrong. But my belief was an honest one. When I told my younger brother that so-called fact, he believed me just as I believed our mother. Now our mother didn’t deceive us for bad reasons. She deceived us in order to bring validity to the Santa Claus stories. There is nothing wrong about that.

When President Donald Trump tells us what he has done or is currently doing, he deceives us for the most part. In fact in the first year of his presidency, he lied as many as 2,140 times. That means that his opinions are also suspect. His motives are self-serving—a trait that is clearly not presidential. 

As to be expected, telling the truth is extremely important to any writer of articles or authors of books.  But sometimes, articles and books may offend some people. That occurred once in my many articles in my blog when I began writing them in my blog beginning in 2006. 

Years ago, I read an interesting article published in the Toronto Star.  It was about a woman who was a supplier of meals to schools. According to the article, this woman was ripping off a number of the Toronto schools with respect to the shoddy meals  given to students in those schools. She was also a deadbeat who bill collectors were chasing after her.

I wrote an article in my blog about this woman and used words in my article such as “shoddy”, “mean”, ‘dishonest and” rip-off” in my article. That obviously angered her.

She sued the Toronto Star, me and another blogger for defamation of her character.  She wanted $5 million dollars in total from the three of us.

Fortunately for me, (and for the others) she was representing herself. You know what they say about those fools. The have a fool for their client.

First of all, she failed to send me a “Notice to Sue” document that has to precede an actual claim. The Libel and Slander Act of Ontario states that no action for libel in a newspaper or in a broadcast lies unless the plaintiff has, within six weeks after the alleged libel has come to the plaintiff’s knowledge, given to the defendant notice in writing, specifying the matter complained of, which shall be served in the same manner as a statement of claim or by delivering it to a grown-up person at the chief office of the defendant. This she did not do.  Incidentally, this law also applies to claims against bloggers.

Secondly, after she showed up for a pre-hearing arranged by the Toronto Star, she lost and had to pay the Toronto Star $200 dollars to cover the fees of their lawyer with respect to the hearing. Her case was soon after dismissed against the Star when she failed to make the payment. Her  case was also automatically dismissed with respect to her claim against against me and the other blogger because we were all on the same claim. The last I heard of her was that she went bankrupt and disappeared.   

In my defence I prepared, (I represented  myself as I taught law to law students before I retired) I stated that my comments were not defamatory because they were strictly my opinion and not stated as facts.

In Grant v Torstar Corp, which is a 2009 Supreme Court of Canada decision on the defences to the tort of defamation. The Supreme Court ruled that the law of defamation should give way to the rights of a party to speak on matters of public interest, provided the party exercises a certain level of responsibility in verifying the potentially defamatory facts. This decision recognizes a defence of responsible communication on matters of public interest.

Madam Justice, McLachlin of that court stated that the defence of responsible communication was a new defence, and not a modification of qualified privilege. She then ruled that defence should be known as 'responsible communication', as it is not only journalists who should benefit from the defence, but bloggers and other people who disseminate information regardless of their status in established media.

She pointed out that the author’s article must be a story that was sought and accurately reported. Since the original author of that woman’s story was written by a highly respected investigative reporter, and published in a highly respected newspaper, I was satisfied that what I read was accurate and therefore, I could safely use it as a source for my own article.

When I give my opinions in articles I write in my blog, they are my honest beliefs. This does not mean that I have to be careless in determining my beliefs.

When I wrote in my article about the birth of Jesus, I said that he wasn’t born on December 25 in the year one AD. I researched this event very carefully and came to the conclusion that he was born sometime in November of that year. Even religious scholars believe that. 

My belief was a valid one. If I on the hand had lied and said that he was born on October 27th .the same day I was born so that I could imply that great men were born that day, it would be immorally wrong on my part. Of course if Hitler was also born on that same day of October, I would not want to bring it to anyone’s attention less someone tries to say that Hitler and I were and are somewhat similar. On the other hand, President Theodore Roosevelt was born on October 27. Now shall I compare his magnificent traits with my own?  No?

Canada’s Freedom of expression represents society’s commitment to tolerate the annoyance of being confronted by unacceptable views. As stated by the Ontario Court of Appeal in an early Charter case “The constitutional guarantee extends not only to that which is pleasing but also to that which to many may be aesthetically distasteful or morally offensive: it is indeed often true that one man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric”. More recently, the Supreme Court of Canada emphasized that “freedom of expression must include the right to express outrageous and ridiculous opinions” and that as public controversy can be a rough trade and for this reason, the law needs to accommodate its requirements.”

My statements in my blog about the woman who provided meals to schools were obviously very nasty and insulting to her but they were strictly my opinion as to what I thought about her and her conduct. Nevertheless, I am protected by the Freedom of Expression that is in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms to express outrageous and ridiculous opinions in my articles.  

If I had stated in my blog that the woman was a criminal, she would have valid grounds to sue me because there was no evidence that she acted as a criminal. However, if I said that her actions were bordering on criminality, that would be construed as an opinion and she would have no grounds to sue me.

You will note that the title of my blog is dahn batchelor’s opinions. But to make sure that everyone that reads my blog understands that what I write in my blog are strictly my opinions, I added the following words at the sidebar on that left of the blog which says,  “What's in my blog are strictly my opinions.”

Whenever columnists with the National Post submit their articles to that paper, the editors place the word OPINION above the articles so that the readers are aware that the authors of the articles are strictly offering their readers their opinions with respect to the subjects being written about. 

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