THE ADVOCATE V O L . 7 5 P A R T 4 J U L Y 2 0 1 7 493
Admittedly, in the news world the ranking of sources is more difficult
than in the judicial system. For news there is no constitutional or statutory
hierarchy to follow. Further, while it may be otherwise when trying to rank
courts in various jurisdictions in terms of their persuasive power, in the
media world the size and longevity of the source institution are not necessarily
indicators of its credibility or reliability. A long-established news
organization may have been corrupted or may only be sustained by ties to a
corrupt government or party, or may be surviving financially only by having
dramatically departed from rigorous (and expensive) news gathering and
editing practices that in the past had won it genuine acclaim. It was alarming
for some time that The Daily Show of Jon Stewart, and other tongue-in-cheek
programs, shed more light on events than reporting by established news
organizations. Perhaps a marker in favour of ranking one source above
another is its provision of reasons and context, as set out above.
Ask questions. Though arguably its power is over-estimated, there is no
doubt that cross-examination can elicit truths that in some circumstances
may not otherwise come to light. Testing a story may either cause its proponent
to better understand and articulate it, or cause the story to disintegrate
and fall away.
However, we seem generally content when told something by way of
commentary or news not to push back—we receive but do not engage
(except perhaps to write back 140 characters missing the reasoning and context
noted above). Why not ask?
Innocent until proven guilty. We may be all too ready to believe in the
context of looking at news or commentary that there is no smoke without
fire or, worse yet, that the fire is precisely as described by the commentator
whose work we are reading. However, as we know from our training and as
is central to our criminal justice system, the fact something is written down
or otherwise said does not mean it is true.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse. If reporting on a legal matter, it is
important to know the legal terminology and consequences. If the reporter
or commentator manifests ignorance of the legal concepts about which
they purport to speak, why keep reading or listening? If they do not bother,
why should we?
Take some time to reflect. Sometimes timelines in law can be short, but
they are generally not geared toward forcing someone to respond without
reflection. For pleadings we can generally take 21 days to respond, and generally
we have 30 days to consider appealing. Perhaps we should mull over
the news as well before deciding on next steps.
Think about causation. We know that if we do not prepare or think
through (or do our best to think through) what we say, we can lose a case.