Yunmin Lee / Edge columnist
News articles, a primary way of sourcing current events to the public, are often comprehended verbatim as many people live under the illusion that solely factual information is presented upon them. It is important to recognize the fact that these articles too are written by human reporters, each different in background and in values, and almost always contain some form of biased undertone in them. In the coverage of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s inappropriate departure of their homes for Easter despite social distancing measures, the political standing of individual reporters and media companies had a heavy influence on how information was presented to readers.
Articles such as “Do as we say, not as we do? Trudeau Scheer forced to defend family trips” by Stephanie Levitz of The Canadian Press, “Government’s COVID-19 rules don’t seem to apply to Andrew Scheer and Justin Trudeau” by Ryan Tumilty of the National Post, and “Scheer disregards physical distancing, brings family on small government jet” by Rachel Gilmore of CTV news all have headlines that paint a rather negative image of the leaders’ choices to visit their family this past Easter. Words such as ‘disregard’, or phrases like “Do as we say, not as we do?” implies that the actions of Scheer and Trudeau were indeed a hypocritical measure to take.
However, it is noteworthy to mention that the first paragraph of Levitz’s article, “Do as we say, not as we do? […]” explains that “both men defended family trips”, implying that breaking social distancing was a defensive action done for their family. Later in this article, the reporter states more direct, opinionated remarks such as “Trudeau dodged questions on how his trip could be considered in keeping with those measures.”
All three articles mentioned that Green party leader, Elizabeth May, Scheer’s five children and his spouse, and Liberal cabinet minister Carla Qualtrough were on the private jet back to Ottawa for an “extraordinary sitting of Parliament on Saturday to pass the latest iteration of the government’s financial aid package” (Levitz).
Levitz’s article shows subtle support for May, who allowed Scheer’s family on board despite having the power to say no. The article states that “May said they told her she could say no, […] but May said she couldn’t imagine Jill Scheer having to cart five kids through airports when they couldn’t touch anything.” Additionally, by leaving May’s name out of the headline, this article sways attention away from May’s ultimate decision to allow Scheer to break social distancing measures. Finally, reporter Levitz’s article added quotes such as “We took disinfectant wipes,” and “We kept to ourselves,” show support for specifically Scheer and his family’s disregard for social distancing. The vast majority of Levitz’s past written articles highlight issues and happenings in the conservative party of Canada. It can be inferred that she is interested in this political sector and could be a supporter of the party.
Tumilty’s article shows direct disapproval towards Trudeau. Immediately after stating that “Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, posted a photo online of the prime minister and his three children on Sunday at the cottage,” Tumilty goes on to quote Theresa Tam, the country’s chief public health officer, who says “Urban dwellers should avoid heading to rural properties, as these places have less capacity to manage COVID-19.” The roster of articles written by Tumilty as shown in the National Post’ website display a series of articles on updates regarding Covid-19. Tumilty has written about the impact of WHO, the source of the first cases of Covid in Canada, and government aid programs to help the vulnerable. It can be inferred that Tumilty is passionate or at the least interested in spreading awareness about the pandemic. It would make sense that he would express negative emotions towards Trudeau and Scheer’s actions.
The final article by Gilmore does not mention Trudeau whatsoever. The article is focused on Scheer and May’s choices. The second sentence of this article states that “[this was] a move that meant he wasn’t able to maintain proper physical distance,” showing direct disapproval. The article focuses heavily on quotes that May has said defending herself, unlike the other two articles that leave May’s name out until the end of the article.
In these times where media regarding social distancing and COVID-19 have great influence over each individual, it’s important that the public receive clear, correct information, regardless of whether it is what we want to hear or not. In the articles explored, we can see that even with an internationally significant issue like COVID-19, the bias in the media is still present, much like Levitz’s subtle support for Scheer and Tumilty’s clear disapproval of said actions.