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May 28, 2010 – So Reader’s Digest has published its second annual poll of the “Faces of Trust in Canada.” I might laugh were it not for an overwhelming sense of nausea.


May 18, 2010
By Ralph Pearce

So Reader’s Digest has published its second annual poll of the “Faces of Trust in Canada.”

I might laugh were it not for an overwhelming sense of nausea.

In an upcoming editorial in Top Crop Manager, you’ll read that I’m up for a little rebellion in rural Canada, that I think we should be launching a counterattack against the apathy and derision that are heaped upon our farm producers and our rural residents.

Well, now we have Reader’s Digest willing to dump some more fertilizer on to the battlefield, in the hopes of growing a crop of lovely flowers, no doubt. Canada’s “Most Read, Most Trusted” publication has come out with the country’s ‘Top 50 Faces of Trust.’

I say, “Let the rebellion begin!”

This Top 50 list has helped me hit a saturation point, where I’ve finally had enough; I’m for gauging people on the basis of their performance, not their stage presence. This list is little more than a “who’s who” of Canadian public awareness. It has little if anything to do with trust and more to do with who is front-of-mind in the viewer’s eye. How else can anyone explain why the Queen of England ranks fourth on a list of “Trusted Canadians?” Or how TV renovator Mike Holmes, coming in second place, warrants consideration at all?
Trusted to do what? Strike a manly pose? Use a miter box? Hawk Nescafe coffee? If that’s what we’re basing trust on, why isn’t Galen Weston on the list? Or the Canadian Tire guy? Or why not go back a few years and resurrect Molson Canadian’s Joe Canuck? I’m sure he’s available and would love the exposure! And how does TV fashion maven Jeanne Beker qualify for a place on this list? I’d rather put her on the list of “Canadians I care the least about,” along with Pamela Anderson, Jim Cuddy and Justin Bieber.

I won’t even touch the fact that David Suzuki is again, anointed as the most trusted person in Canada (I just found out that it’s his foundation that’s behind Bill C-474). Now the bill’s push for a departure from sound science makes perfect sense.

Above all, I want to know what happened to consideration for William Shatner and Catherine O’Hara?

Are Canadians really this shallow?

To add insult to injury, RD has included two additional (yet hapless and useless) polls: “Most Trusted Industries” and “Top Jobs: the professions “We” trust most.” In the former, restaurants and food ranked second and third in the “most trusted” category, respectively (medical research is first). Newspapers came in eighth spot, insurance brokerages took 17th and advertising was 26th out of 29 positions.

Nowhere was farming even mentioned.

In the latter poll, farming also never made an appearance. Firefighters ranked first on the list of Top Jobs, but then airline pilots came in fourth place, judges in 12th, TV news anchors in 16th place, athletes in 25th, lawyers in the 29th position, actors and actresses were in 35th place and politicians pulled up in third-last place at 39.

I’d call this whole cover story a self-serving load of manure, but at least manure has a useful purpose; RD is in business, like most mainstream media vehicles, primarily and simply to make money. If it informs, enlightens or provides accuracy and integrity, well, that was purely coincidental, if not accidental.

Another coincidence

Is it also coincidental that this is only RD’s second annual poll?
Expliquer, s’il vous plait?
Certainment, mon ami!

Between 2002 and 2008, Leger Marketing ran a very useful and informative (and neither adjectives applies to RD’s poll) annual survey on trustworthiness in Canada’s workplace. The poll contained between 19 and 23 different occupations in any given year. Teachers made the list in 2003, but the profession was not included in its inaugural year. Likewise, economists and engineers were added only in 2006.

But one standard that could be seen, from its inception, was in the three most trusted professions in the country: firefighters, nurses and farmers. None of these professions ever fell below 90 percent and farmers enjoyed the single largest bump in ratings among the three, in its final year; from 92 percent in 2007 to 96 percent in 2008.

Every year during the month of May, I looked forward to this annual resource, which I have quoted time and again, pointing out the level of trust Canadians hold for our farmers, and with good reason; it was never a popularity contest, a “who’s who” of Canadian media and “star potential” like RD’s vacuous attempts.

Unfortunately, Leger had to suspend its annual compilation, following its 2008 poll, after losing the funding that had been in place since its inception in 2002. In fact, when I contacted the firm in 2008, inquiring about that year’s poll (it had not been posted to the company’s website as in previous years) I was told that the 2007 survey had been the last such funded vehicle, and that Leger, knowing its popularity and usefulness, had done the survey out of its own resources for 2008, but lacked the funds to distribute it as in the past. They sent me a copy of their 2008 survey (in its original French-language text), but to my knowledge, its results remain unpublished.

Magically, suddenly, RD comes up with its “Most Read, Most Trusted” top 50 list of trusted Canadians a year later. And maybe it is purely coincidental; I’ll leave smaller minds (any one of a number of people in the mainstream media qualify) to quibble over that issue.

While I’ve always held a healthy bit of skepticism for pollsters’ work (they can get anyone to say anything if the question’s slanted “properly”), I’ll readily put my trust in anything that Ipsos, Decima or Leger puts out before I’ll ever place an iota of belief in this popularity-contest-disguised obfuscation from RD.

In my opinion, that’s all this “survey” should be viewed as.
Reader’s Digest should stick to what it’s known for; abbreviating stories and offering light-hearted yet harmless snippets of life.

That’s what it does best.

If that’s not an opening salvo in the rebellion, tell me who else I can offend along the way.

Ralph Pearce
Editor
Top Crop Manager