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Mark McCaw ~ twitter's @bigpicguy

Author of "Insights Inside a Mind" ~ blogging the big picture

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Media? What media??

     People may wonder why I'm so critical of today's Canadian media, or media in general for that matter. Before I begin to rant on them, I'll explain my reasons.

     I have a long history of a family media tradition. My father was a journalist, an editor of several newspapers and a close associate of some major media players whom I met as a child. Not to be outdone, my mother was a graduate of journalism school in Montreal at a time when the profession was more persuaded toward men than women. She was a reporter, a syndicated columnist, and editor in her lifetime, accomplishments I look fondly upon.

     I was an early reader, apparently self-taught, and, surrounded by news and newspapers, obviously it was natural for me to read them, and everything else I could get my hands on. From an early age I was enouraged to learn, but more than that, I was encouraged to be skeptical. Not to believe everything on the surface, but to dig deeper and search for truth, or as close as I could get to it. The most valuable lesson I learned from this is: We can believe deeply in something, and be totally wrong. Without facts to back up whatever we think we know, we're merely blowing smoke when we speak. It helps a great deal to be able to admit when you're wrong, and to alter your thinking if your thinking doesn't fit the facts, rather than alter or ignore the facts if they don't fit your thinking. It's not about convenience, it's about truth. It's about reality. It's about being able to face the ugliness of the world at large and come out better on the other side.

     Let me be clear, I don't just read/watch/listen to what I agree with, otherwise I would have a terribly slanted view and have no clue whether those I may disagree with have some valid points. I grew up with several broadcasters and journalists I admired and still have some I do admire today. I'm not going to foist my choices upon you, people who are influential to you are a personal choice.

     I began my own career in broadcasting in the late 70's, almost fresh out of high school. Initially I got my foot in the door as a button pusher on the crappiest shifts a radio station could offer, but I spent 16 hours a day in the station, even on my days off, learning everything I could about every aspect of the business. Being predisposed to writing, the first opportunity I had to score a writing job I went after it. It was a difficult run, I began by not being able to type, so the boss said I couldn't apply. I asked if he'd lend me a typewriter for the weekend and let me try the typing test on Monday. He agreed. I did, staying up for almost 48 solid hours of typing. On Monday I delivered 55 words per minute and reluctantly, the fresh out of high school kid was in for the competition. Never one to be intimidated, I went through the first part of the interview with all the bravado of someone who doesn't know any better and aced it. I made the short list, competiting against a candidate with a Major in English from a great university, and another writer with previous experience. That only served to make me more determined and in the end, in late '79 I became paid to write. A professional.

     I spent 16 years in the broadcast industry as a writer, reporter, producer, announcer, creative director, promotions & PR specialist. I branched out into freelance in all of those areas and expanded my journalism bent by having published magazine articles, op/ed pieces, and coverage of politics, sports and environmental issues.

I had to take a hiatus for a while after being  left a single father with an infant daughter, then transitioning to caring for a sick, then terminally ill mother who, on top of leukemia, began to develop alzheimers. Mum passed away last November and my love of writing is bringing me back now that my life is slowly becoming mine again.

     In my world, journalists/broadcasters were always "the official opposition", the voice of the masses who didn't have the power to openly expose the truth. No self respecting journalists would ever print, without question, positions taken by anyone involved in a story. Journalists were our last line of protection against big, powerful, established institutions. They have special constitutional protection for themselves and their sources and many have been willing to risk jail or worse to protect the truth.

     I'm not saying this type of journalism no longer exists. Only that is has become, and is rapidly degrading, to political correctness, regurgitation of releases without research, and outright partisanship. The way things are presented have also changed. Partisan things were always relegated to editorial or op/ed pieces and were clarly identified as such. This same content now appears as legitimate news, which leads one to believe at least a degree of research has been done. The mere fact that the word "blog" has slipped into daily papers obfuscates the fact that a blog is what I am writng now. Opinion. Perhaps based on fact, perhaps emotion, or even for nefarious purposes and personal gain. Journalism is in its worst state in my 5 decades of life, and I see it getting worse rather than better.

     Citizen bloggers will become the new official opposition if the mainstream media does not step back and ask themselves what the hell they are doing and how they have gone so terribly astray. I don't see that happening without a massive and concerted pushback.

     Media concentration is just one of the major problems we face. If a handful of corporate interests control media across all formats, and those interests are owned by those who share a particular political leaning, the public is manipulated, not informed.

     One need only to look to the campaign and recent election for proof the Canadian media machine is terribly broken, horribly lacking in journalistic ethics, and not much looking like they have any appetite for positive improvement. If you think I'm wrong, explain how CBC Ottawa Bureau's Julie Van Dusen repeatedly told viewers the Harper government fell because the opposition voted against their budget. Ignoring the fact they didn't even have a vote on the budget and this was the first time in the history of the Westminster parliamentary system a government had ever been found in contempt of parliament, losing power on a vote of non-confidence. How else can one explain while people wanted to talk about issues, all we heard was talking points. Should the millions of Canadians who begged to hear Elizabeth May at the debates hve been cerimoniously ignored by a media who apparently know what messages you need to hear and what you don't? Not that they limited their ultimate power to that single degradation, the mainstream media made a concerted effort to ignore the Green party, their platform, their campaign for any of 307 ridings Elizabeth May was not running in, just out and out shut them out, whether you wanted to hear their message or not. Then we have SunTV (nuff said there) et al.

     I could go on forever on the subject. My point is, we are being let down by the media and if we allow it to continue unchallenged, you might as well rename the whole thing Pravda.

     I'm sure I'm not the only person with a lot of unaswered questions for Stephen Harper and his band of thugs. Of course, those questions will remain unanswered because thanks to a media rife with toadyism, the important things will not get asked. If they do get asked, and turn out bad, they get buried and we move on to important things like whether sketchy NDP candidates are a tittilating subject.

     With the exception of a handful of still-principled media types in this country, we become more Orwellian by the day.

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