Lisa Hepfner Apologizes After Saying That Digital News Outlets are ‘Not News’

Liberal MP, Lisa Hepfner, has now apologized after her comments that online news are not news went viral.

Yesterday, we reported on controversial remarks made by Liberal MP, Lisa Hepfner. The remarks were made during a House of Commons clause-by-clause review Bill C-18, Canada’s Link Tax law. She said that online news organizations are “not news”. Here’s the footage of her remarks at the time:

When we see that hundreds of news outlets have closed in this country since 2008, and we’ll see the argument that well, a couple hundred other online news organizations have popped up in that time, what we don’t see is that they’re not news.They’re not gathering news. They’re publishing opinion only. We have a proliferation of opinion organizations out there, publishing their opinions without people going out actually reporting the news. 

I will not be supporting this amendment. I don’t think it’s necessary. Journalism organizations have codes of conduct that they follow. They have laws that they have to follow. They have to understand what they can do in a courtroom. They have to go before the CRTC if they don’t follow all of the proper journalism standards. These are things that are taught in journalism schools and in news rooms across the country. 

(Transcript via Micahel Geist)

The remarks went viral online and caused a storm of controversy with many lashing out at the MP for her remarks. Obviously, numerous online journalism outlets have been popping up and growing over the last decade with well regarded reputations. I also pointed out the many journalistic contributions I’ve made as well as the many contributions my former colleagues made since at least 2005 to the many debates surrounding technology. University Law Professor, Michael Geist, also noted the multiple online journalism outlets that were local to her riding as well, covering her activities as an MP. Suffice to say, a lot of people rightfully took offence to the remarks that they were “not news”.

Well, it seems as though the controversy grew to be a bit much for Hepfner. We have learned that she has since took to Twitter to issue an apology:

I apologize to digital news outlets whose reporters consistently produce important work, which takes considerable resources to create. #C18 will support digital journalists in their work.

While the apology is appreciated, we know full well that Bill C-18 won’t actually support a number of digital journalists out there. As we pointed out in our analysis, Section 27 would mean a number of small digital news outlets won’t qualify as being “eligible” because of the bar set by number of journalists that must be employed and “produces news content that is not primarily focused on a particular topic”.

All this, of course is happening as evidence emerged that the biggest players will be the biggest beneficiaries of Canada’s Link Tax law.

Regardless, the comments will likely sting for quite some time. This is because a number of voices have already started to conclude that the link tax law will only benefit already wealth organizations and do little to actually allow journalism to flourish. For those voices, the comments ultimately confirmed what they have been fearing about this legislation. It’s going to take quite a bit to walk things back and pretend that all journalists stand to benefit from this legislation – a talking point that has already long been in doubt.

(Hat tip: @Mgeist)

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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