Journalists, you gotta love ’em. What inspires them to write what they write, sometimes God only knows.

Consider the question of forestry.

How does the media in Canada cover the forestry industry and its effects on the environment? The Nation looked into how the 13 largest Canadian newspapers cover forestry. We discovered that the information Canadians get varies widely depending on where they live and how powerful the local forestry industry is.

Nowhere is the industry more powerful and able to control the media than in Quebec, if we judge by the way forestry is covered here.

We divided the news stories written in the newspapers into three categories: (1) stories written from a pro-forestry business angle or that cover the financial side of the industry; (2) stories critical of forestry (e.g. on environmental impacts); and (3) neutral stories that are neither anti- nor pro-forestry.

We found that Quebec newspapers show a clear bias toward printing proforestry stories. In the four French newspapers—Le Devoir; Le Soleil, La Presse and Le Journal de Montréal—only 15 per cent of news stories in 1995 raised environmental questions about forestry, while over 70 per cent were pro-forestry. Remember: forestry is Quebec’s biggest industry and is even more destructive than in B.C., “The Brazil of the North.”

La Presse was the worst, with only one environmental story all year and 37 pro-business stories. The Montreal Gazette wasn’t much better, printing several stories about the environmental effects of forestry in countries like Germany, Surinam, the Amazon, Chile and B.C., but only two stories about the problems in Quebec.

In the rest of Canada, coverage ranges from not bad in Vancouver, where a strong environmental movement and Native people keep the loggers on their toes, to downright awful. Still, all in all, the average paper outside Quebec printed pro-environment stories 37 per cent of the time and pro-business ones 51 per cent of the time—a much better record than Quebec’s media. “Ignorance is bliss.”