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A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto.
Some necessary generalisations that give new meaning to the word "sweeping." Ways to approach this topic, and the speaker's choice. The foundational approach; one that examines the respective institutional roles of the media and the courts. Starting with first principles. Ways in which the media and the courts perform analogous functions. Some fundamental differences. The source of the media's power. Events over the past 50 years and how they put pressure on our understanding of human nature and eventually bend our existing institutions and social alignments into new shapes. A review of some of those events. The era in which the speaker grew up and what the journalism meant to her and to many in the audience. Where the media merged seamlessly with the courts, with example. The Murdoch case. How the media plays a leading if not primary role in changing public attitudes and the law. How the media also plays a role as chief former of the public's opinions. The media's fiduciary role vis a vis a public dependent on it for information and the ideas that flow from it. Words from Walter Lippmann. The courts, subject like any other institution to the media's transmission of perceptions to the public. An examination and clarification of the context in which the justice stage seems to be lit by the media, with the 15th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms providing the perfect setting for this discussion. A detailed discussion follows, addressing such issues as the judicial role in making and interpreting law; weighing values and taking into account public policy; judicial neutrality or impartiality; drawing lines and taking care; the political component; the role of public opinion. The link between knowledge and justice, with a concluding illustrative example. What the public expects from both the courts and the media, and what it is entitled to get.