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Back  |  October 05, 2018  | 


A few years back, I taped a hand scribbled sign to my office door that says "I will mentor young women leaders." The sign is starting to yellow, curling at the edges, but the sentiment remains: You cannot be what you cannot see.

As one of the few women in municipal politics in Calgary, I acknowledge my responsibility as a role model for those who need positive examples of women in leadership. I try to make myself accessible by meeting with aspiring leaders and speaking in schools and to the media, to help girls see their own potential.

Last week I received a flurry of messages from Facebook friends to join in a "female blackout" as a protest against gender violence. Women were asked to change their profile image to a black square to show what the world would be like without women. It struck me as an odd way to bring attention to a weighty topic, women silencing ourselves, now, at a time when we are struggling to be heard. Rather, isn’t now a time to amplify, not silence? To show the way, not disappear?

This got me thinking again about my decision last week to boycott Calgary Herald reporters in reaction to an irresponsible opinion piece that made light of sexual assault. As leaders we have a duty to our constituents to be a voice for their concerns and making ourselves disappear or silencing ourselves will not solve the problem. Now more than ever we need women to be seen and heard. For this reason, I have reconsidered and have decided to join my colleague, Councillor Jyoti Gondek, and remain available to all journalists and media outlets.

That said, there remains an opportunity to highlight a key role of the press in a democratic society, which is to engage and inform the public while holding the powerful accountable.

While most people recognize the distinction between opinion and news, when a regular columnist submits content, many would assume that the piece has been well researched, follows a set of ethical standards, and is vetted by an editorial board. Too often lately, what passes as opinion is simply "click-bait": provocative views lacking in editorial judgment that can border on irresponsible and dangerous. Defending free speech does not mean that every opinion is equally valid or worthy of consideration. People have a right to freedom of expression, but an editorial page should not be reduced to a graffiti wall.

While the public expects newspaper columns to challenge, they also deserve writers who are insightful, responsible, and fact-based. Freedom of speech does not mean free of ramifications. Readers have a right to express their anger when a line is crossed and a columnist plays the role of arsonist.

With critical issues like sexual assault and #MeToo, the professional press has an opportunity to provide a forum for healthy debate on challenging topics. This is a time when thoughtful, constructive, and diverse voices are needed most.​​

Categories: Blog

This content represents the personal views and opinions of the Ward Councillor and should not be taken as a statement of policy of The City of Calgary. The inclusion of any external content does not imply endorsement by The City of Calgary.​