Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Should the Canadian Media Make New Year's Resolutions?

I watched Chris Matthew's Hardball yesterday, where the media panel was asked about their New Year's resolutions, speaking of them as a whole.

Most gave the obvious.  Invest in hard journalism, ask the tough questions, cover politics seriously and don't get distracted by shiny objects.  All important goals, but aren't they what journalism is supposed to be about?  Does a doctor really have to make a resolution to heal or a teacher to teach?

The best answer came from Washington Post's David Ignatius.  Recognizing that the media had to shoulder much of the blame for today's toxic political climate, he said that those in his profession had to stop contributing to the noise, divisiveness and confusion that is putting the United States near the point of breaking down.

And Ignatius is actually one of the few who can still call himself a journalist.

I thought that the Canadian media had hit bottom when those covering a Stephen Harper excursion were held hostage on a plane, because he didn't want them to ask him questions about unfolding events.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is sneaking back into Canada through the front door.  Harper flew back from Switzerland today.  While in the air his office announced the appointment of five new Senators and the Supreme Court ruled he has the power to decide to ask if Omar Khadr could be repatriated.

What does Harper have to say about these developments? Nothing.  Journalists travelling with Harper are being kept on the plane to ensure the Prime Minister doesn't face any questions in his short jaunt from the bottom of the staircase to his waiting limousine.
When the journalists live blogged this unusual tactic, a staff member came on board and said that they were free to leave, but would have to find their own way home.  This sounds more like a Stalin move, and yet one those "kidnapped", actually tried to defend it.

David Akin, while writing that they were only allowed three questions in three and a half days, even before the hostage taking, suggested that he was somehow seeking balance in not being too critical.
... for what it's worth, our readers and viewers, of course, include both Harper's supporters and his detractors and reporters must remember that we write for all of them.

Harper's detractors may think we should just give the metaphorical finger to such directives from the PMO but, at one photo opp while we were here, a reporter who did just that and asked a question at a photo opp, despite warnings not to, was immediately warned that, if she continued, reporters would no longer be allowed to attend such photo opps. That would not be good for our access would be curtailed even further. PMO staff also made veiled threats that that individual's organization might suffer further sanction -- all because of the impertinence of asking a question. If you are a media organization in Ottawa, these are no small consequences.
Since when does crippling the media's ability to their job, mean that we are Harper detractors? Shouldn't everyone who believes in democracy oppose this? Akin was telling us that they are being threatened and yet still tried to defend it.

Fortunately for him, he is now with Fox News North where he no longer has to pretend to be a journalist.  Only part of the noise.

There is something that our media, those left who still remember why they chose journalism as a career, can do.  Stop covering Harper and his party.  Only ask questions of the opposition and only publish their answers.  If Harper wants his mug in the papers and his press releases printed, demand that he answer questions, and ones that are not presented in advance.

If he lacks the ability to think on his feet, then he is the one who can't handle his job.

The Conservatives don't have to impress the National Post or Sun TV, but if they want to continue to keep up the delusion that they are moderate "Tories", they need the press.  It's time that the mainstream media remembered that.

And advice to the Canadian public came from Chris Matthews himself.  Too much "noise" and not enough substance?  Change the channel.


  1. This advice is from a review of a recent book:

    "It is critical that scholars, journalists and other professional observers develop a more critical and evidence-based mindset, one that is constantly testing the weaknesses of current explanations and is open to new ones."

    Marchildon, Greg. "The Real Dope: A new book explodes many myths about the Canadian healthcare system." Literary Review of Canada, November 2011: 13-14, reviewing Health Care in Canada: A Citizen’s Guide to Policy and Politics by Katherine Fierlbeck.

    An evidencec-based mindset: what's the chance of that with the CBC so concerned with "balance" that they leave the field of opinion open to FOX News North?

  2. The one flaw with your premise is that reporters do as they like, rather than do as they are told.

    "Media in Canada are the most concentrated in the world."

    "You alter the character of a nation by changing how it sees itself. You change how it sees itself by changing the media."

    "When the media refuses to inform and the public no longer questions, that truly is the beginning of the end of democracy."

    It should be obvious to most people today that our country has been hijacked by the far right and no longer serves the people but instead the fascist dictates of corporatocracy.

    "Journalists work for their owners, the owners work for themselves. It has nothing to do with reporting truth."