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OPINION: First, we kill all the journalists

BY TERESA MALLAM

Mallam Unmuzzled

Roads are paved with good intentions and  recent road kill includes some of our most gifted and qualified reporters and editors.

They are falling like flies. Swatted and squashed. So many now it’s hard to keep count of the fallen amid the cries for retribution.

The latest career casualty: veteran CBC reporter and investigative journalist Wendy Mesley. Fallen from grace because of what she herself calls her “careless” use of language.

To wit: One word, among what must be millions of words used in her 40-year-career. What word? We don’t know. Big secret. Pass it on.

Close the ranks, huddle in the meetings, mitigate damages. In the meantime, CBC brass has yanked Mesley as host of The Weekly news show while they investigate “the incident.”

CTV veteran investigative reporter Peter Ackman lost his job in February for his racist “joke” in a tweet about coronavirus and a visit to his Asian barber. He apologized … but it was not enough.

Bon Appetit magazine editor-in-chief, Adam Rapoport, resigned after an old photo of him in “racially insensitive (Halloween) costume” surfaced and questions arose about lack of content inclusiveness.

Refinery 29, a US magazine, saw its co-founder and EIC, Christine Barberich, resign after former staffers accused her of hypocrisy for using a black cover to show solidarity with Black Lives Matter but confusing Black staff members.

Barberich listened, then stoically accepted her fate: “We have to do better and that starts with making room…(and stepping down) to help diversify our leadership in editorial.”

The four journalists were brought down by an outcry of … does “racial insensitivity” cover it? Probably not. As for Mesley, it appears to be a momentary lapse, using “a word that should never be used,” she said.

The word was not hers, she was quoting a potential guest during an editorial meeting to discuss racial issues for an upcoming Black Lives Matter segment. Medley gave a profuse apology to co-workers and on social media.

The issue came to light through Canadaland podcast network and was picked up by other media outlets. The word at issue is not known, we only know Medley is silenced because of it.

At this rate, we stand to lose many more talented journalists who are now held to an impossibly high standard of care in both their professional and personal life. Nothing short of perfection.

Journalists, who have worked for years to hone their skills, to bring news, features, commentary to readers face more pressure points to get it right than ever before.

Deadlines are now the least of their worries. Political correctness has seen to that. It lurks around every corner, hides between lines and requires a whole new vocabulary to keep up.

I can only imagine that we will never hear from many would be reporters and emerging writers who will choose other careers with much less chance of “death by wrong word.”

Have we forgotten the simple humanity in all this? That to err is human. To forgive? Well, for mere mortals who fall far short of being divine, isn’t forgiveness a good place to start?

I like the words of Meg Kaylee who shared a post: “Making mistakes is part of human nature. We all make mistakes. Our mistakes shape us. They teach us growth.”

What do you think about this story?