Let's stay focused on the truth as we search for new leaders

Are we there yet?

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good election as much as anybody - in fact I probably enjoy it much more than the average person because I am passionate about story telling and news.

But over the last few weeks the local media has been caught in the middle of what can only be called some dirty politics.

Letters have been sent with information that is a concern to any voter and like any responsible news outlet Pique has set out to try and discover the truth of the information.

This correspondence is a vital link between readers and newspapers and I want to encourage people to reach out and share their thoughts and information this way.

But as with so many things it is so important to make sure that the information shared is accurate.

This week the letter concerned mayoral candidate Ralph Forsyth and his educational credits. To the letter writer it appeared the candidate claimed on a website he had a degree when in fact he does not. Forsyth has stated publicly that he does not have a university degree.

Fact checking revealed that when a profile is created on the site it automatically states a field of study beside degree - regardless of whether you have in-putted that the degree is complete or not.

Further to that the letter writer said the university confirmed the candidate had attended but not received a degree.

Pique called the university and it was explained that that type of information would not be shared with a third party without the person's permission, and when asked the candidate said none was given.

Calls to the letter writer got only a fax tone all day Tuesday and emails were not returned.

Should Pique have run this letter, along with others received on other allegations, the damage to people's credibility could be devastating.

Pique absolutely believes in freedom of speech and it enjoys the opportunity of getting healthy debate going through our letters pages and the columns in the paper, but we also strive to be as accurate as possible.

And like all voters I want those I am voting for to be accurate in what they say, truthful and transparent. I want substantive debate on substantive issues and Pique's role is to cover those issues and inform impartially.

There is a lot at stake in this election, as there is in all elections, but as I have said before attack ads or scurrilous accusations will not help bring about a better outcome.

Only informed voting can do that.

This election has embraced social media platforms in a way not seen before in Whistler and I would argue that some of the misinformation sent our way has that at its roots.

It is so easy now to use Google to search people. But Google can't give you the whole picture all the time. Fact checking means checking with real people - such as the university administrator, for one, in the case of this week's letter.

Social media is also immediate and many people have become used to just posting their thoughts quickly as they run out the door. But those "instant" reactions can be harmful if they are not informed.

Just because we can post something immediately doesn't mean we should. Just because you read something on a web page doesn't mean it's accurate.

We need only recall the story in the Vancouver daily papers last month of Garnet Ford who was accused of murder through social media because he fit the description of being a "taller black man with curly hair."

Ford received death threats and lost his job over the unsubstantiated allegations. His picture was even posted on Facebook.

Police took the unprecedented step of issuing a statement clearing Ford of any involvement in the murder.

But, thanks to social media, for several days Ford lived a frightening existence afraid for his life.

Elections are absolutely about getting the best people for job at the table and we want trustworthy, honest and accountable candidates to vote for.

Voters need to know everything they can before casting a vote - the good and the bad - and the media's role is to make sure people have all that information in an accurate way.

So keep the letters coming, talk to reporters, talk to the candidates - tackle the tough issues head on.

But please, let's stay focused on the truth.



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