You may not have noticed, but odd corners of the American press have been coming down hard on Canadaland. In the span of just over a week, three op-eds in three U.S. outlets have decried fake news as a pernicious force spreading around the globe, and pointed the finger at Canadaland (and me specifically) as among its purveyors.
On April 17, The Washington Times, a conservative D.C. broadsheet founded by a self-declared messiah, published a piece entitled “When ‘fake news’ goes global” on the front of its opinion section. The author, an Idaho-based professor of public policy named Greg Hill, cited examples of journalistic gaffes in the U.K. and Australia before naming this outlet as the prime example of Canadian misinformation.
“Jesse Brown has attracted attention in the past for false reporting and refusing to issue corrections to articles and content deemed inaccurate,” Hill wrote. “His media company, Canadaland, has also received pushback for allegedly releasing demonstrably false and inaccurate articles, with a recent story penned by one of the outlet’s reporters, Jaren Kerr, about a global nonprofit, garnering attention.”
Hill did not attempt to contact us for comment, nor did he offer any context, evidence, or specifics concerning his serious claim.
When Canadaland contacted the Times, questioning the vague description of our alleged inaccuracies and the origin of the opinion piece, Carol Herman, an editor at the paper, said she did not know much about its author. The piece was removed from its website (here’s an archived version).
However, Mr. Hill persevered in his fight against fake news, publishing a nearly identical op-ed a few days later on Observer, the online outlet formerly owned by Jared Kushner (now owned by his family trust). The publication was once the New York Observer, widely revered in its heyday for its excellent reporting on the media.
This time, Hill only called me out by name, sparing our publisher a mention, and provided a link to supposed “pushback” against my reporting: an article on Broadcast Dialogue summarizing a libel notice against me and my colleagues. Once again, Hill did not attempt to reach us for comment. And, as before, he failed to explain just where I went wrong.
But Hill is not alone in finding Canadaland at fault for fake news. On April 25, The Southeast Texas Record, a legal newspaper based in Beaumont, Texas, sought to make an example of me in a strikingly similar piece.
“Media outlets like Canadaland, for example, based out of Toronto, seem to be adding to Canada’s growing fake news fears,” wrote Ben Proler, a board member of Maverick PAC, which supports Republican politicians. “Just last year, the outlet received criticism for reportedly releasing false content on a story written by Jaren Kerr, who is an author for Canadaland.”
I reached out to Proler and Hill to ask about their debut articles for each publication — as far as I can tell, neither had previously written for these outlets — but have not heard back.
Hill and Proler were not the first to notice our ostensible fake news problem, though. Back in November, Gus Portela, a D.C.-based Republican operative, wagged his finger at Canadians in his first and only piece for the Toronto Sun, warning this country to be wary of fake news. To illustrate the dangers of a dishonest media, Portela referenced an error Jesse made in 2014, which he later corrected. Canadaland contacted the Sun‘s editor in chief, Adrienne Batra, to find out how this strange piece found its way into their pages. Batra told us she did not know, but would look into it. We never heard back from her about it, but she did invite our publisher to respond to the criticism in her paper, which he did.
Meanwhile, I’m aware of only one Canadian, a person Canadaland has reported on in the past, who has lately published a critique (and another, and one more — and don’t forget this one he deleted) of Canadaland’s reporting. When I reached out to Mark Bourrie with questions (he had not previously been in contact with me), he said, “My posts speak for themselves.”
I am not above criticism, and I will happily engage with anyone who takes issue with my reporting, but to fix a problem, you have to identify it first. My recent critics have repeatedly failed to do so. When they actually point out any errors, I’ll correct them.
Jaren Kerr is Deputy News Editor of Canadaland.
Top image incorporates The Washington Times‘ “fake news” illustration by Linas Garsys.