Canadian journalism has always had some sort flaky logic: it will go after easy targets and make a mountain out of a molehill, but then worship truly abusive people who are wealthy. And it appeals to authority without asking a single tough question. Toronto police had interviewed alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur twice, but never arrested him until the fed-up LGBT community in the city made their disgust over police inertia public...the police then said there was no serial killer...and then finally arrested McArthur.
So what was different? Nothing except people taking to social media for a massive primal scream.
And then the police blamed that community for not coming forward with what they had sooner...except people did go to the police to tell them what they knew in 2012, and that was how McArthur got on their radar in the first place.
And yet...on the radio this morning, all I hear is praise for the police...well, at least he was on their radar...is the narrative floating around right now.
He was on their radar because someone told the police to look there. They interviewed him twice, and people kept disappearing. For years. Only when people took their grievance out in the open did the man actually get arrested.
But even then, the press will still make excuses for authority figures.
And so cosy is the relationship between authorities and the press, that now we have no less than two senators have been recruited by the Toronto Star to tell the little people why journalism should be shaking down their tax dollars to be supported despite the fact that people do not want it anymore.
In this case, the Toronto Star, that has lost every moral and all sense, have allowed this piece of advertising to be presented as an opinion piece (it was bought from Troy Media, which describes itself as "an editorial content provider to over 1,800 print and online media outlets in Canada...Traditional media outlets, as well as websites, use or license content supplied by our columnists, contributors and freelancers for their own needs," making this piece true public relations, not journalism).
And it is shameless, starting with its fear-mongering title:
Rigorous journalism can save us from fake news
How could it when it has failed to have done so in the past? Toronto Star has had a history of disseminating fake news itself, from the Hijab hoax to the Donna Mercier hoax of 1996 to the Gardasil hysteria. People are migrating away from the concept of this version of journalism because they don't want it, and it no longer speaks to them. To force people to pay for an archaic contraption is akin to forcing people to pay taxes to keep the 8-track cassette industry viable, or outlawing divorce because the problematic spouse thinks the one who has had their fill of his garbage couldn't survive without him, even though he is the one demanding access to fed up spouse's bank account.
But because journalists so far have been unable to communicate with that public, they are now proving their gross incompetence by having politicians write their pleas for them. Imagine that. The public got them memo, children; their silence is their answer to you, but the profession always had troubling listening. So they got senators who will mingle with them at the cocktail parties to make their case for them:
“Journalists are like firefighters: you may not need them every day, but you want to know they’re there to protect you.” Veteran journalist, Edward Greenspon used this analogy at a recent Senate Open Caucus meeting held to discuss threats to traditional journalism in Canada.
Media panellists and Senators from across the country debated the central question: Should governments support rigorous independent journalism, beyond public broadcasting, in the face of its economic decline?
Traditional media revenues are in free fall, as subscriber fees dwindle, paywalls prove inadequate and ad revenues migrate to Google and Facebook. Gaps in coverage are growing in critical areas like local journalism (costly) and courtroom coverage (time-consuming).
Journalists are not like firefights. They are not in the business to protect anyone.
That is not their jobs.
They are not Superman or Wonder Woman.
They are there to present facts.
They are there to inform and to sell. Not spin, opine, or sell.
They are not there to stump or to crusade. They go where the facts are hidden, uncover them, and then present them to the public. Without commentary.
They are not firefighters because if they were, they failed at their jobs.
Because once there is an inferno, that means all along, they were asleep at the wheel. The reason we have journalism is so we know where there is a potential to have a fire; so we are equipped with facts to prevent said fire in the first place.
So right off the bat we know the senators are as stupid to the purpose of the profession as the journalist who used that analogy in a bid to beg the government for money.
So forget the analogy.
Are journalism's fortunes in a free fall?
Beyond. They crashed. They crashed because they are arrogant and don't know what the hell they are doing.
The Toronto Star loves to write about the Oscars, superhero movies, the Bachelor and Saturday Night Live.
And they want tax dollars to continue to do that as they feed the public a line about being an essential service like a firefighter?
Anyone can do that for free on their Twitter feed. Who needs to give away tax dollars for that garbage?
Then comes more propaganda with the requisite propping up Canadians' egos so they will be buttered up for their pleas:
While Canadians need — and want — accurate news to make informed decisions, “the internet is full of material that intentionally blurs the lines between news, propaganda, research and advertising,” said Matthew Johnson, director of education for MediaSmarts, non-profit digital and media literacy centre. “And young people are ill-prepared to recognize it.”
Fortunately, said Johnson, Canadians rank among the highest in the world when it comes to trust of traditional news outlets. So how can government navigate this changing landscape to create the conditions for vigorous, ethical journalism and open, informed debate?
Most experts agreed that a medley of action is needed, both for funding the supply of — and improving the demand for — trusted news.
Yes, we need information, but no, we do not need the current model and offerings of journalism to obtain those ends. We can have another model. One that is fresh, untainted, and superior to the clunker we are stuck with now.
And it doesn't require government funding or meddling to happen.
I may wish to be married, but if my current spouse makes me sick to my stomach, and I want to be married -- I can get a divorce, and find someone better. The perpetual flaw in the argument is a sink or swim analogy: it makes it sound as if we don't have a choice, and yet we have many choices.
The fact that people are abandoning old school journalism is a blaring sign that we are ready for something new. Something that does not involve the Toronto Star misusing its pages to shill its cause by recruiting government officials to do it.
But as these two senators are spinning on the hamster wheel, as they continue with their flawed advertising pitch:
Education will help people, especially young people, with how to spot fake news, authenticate sources, identify emotionally charged communication and read through bias. Media literacy can inform people how an algorithm may influence what news — or advertisements — they see, and what they do not.
Considering that I wrote the book on learning how to spot real news from fake news -- and many people have actually used the method and it works, it would be cheaper and far more effective just to have Don't Believe It! as required reading in schools for a media literacy class (mind you, the original intent of the book was to be for journalism students to learn how to spot lies from truths), but it would be even better for journalism alternatives to be incubated at this point without trying to prop up a dead profession. Stop throwing good money at a lost cause.
But perhaps most important, media literacy helps us exercise our right as citizens and consumers to demand more from the media landscape.
Over the coming years, Canadians will be challenged to find the best way forward. We hope to see a strategy that touches both the supply and demand for a trusted, independent and rigorous news media, for democracy’s sake.
Wow, for democracy's sake. Here is that arrogant superhero delusion cropping up again. Not once do these senators consider why things have collapsed or how something else can take its place. How utterly unimaginative. I can imagine if a school collapsed from poor design and neglect, and then the argument was made to squander taxpayer dollars to fund the school that collapsed without fixing it instead of just building a better school with superior materials and architect. It's illogical.
Then another bit of brazen advertising:
As recommended in The Shattered Mirror, one path to explore could be creating a Future of Journalism and Democracy Fund. This fund would provide financing for digital news innovation, especially in its early stages, and be directed at those operators who produce civic-function journalism at the national, regional and local levels.
Yay, let's waste more taxpayer's money! Shattered Mirror was a self-interest press release used to lobby the government for money as it unconvincingly tried to convince the public to pay for newspapers they aren't going to read. It has no credence as an actual empirical document.
The piece was sad propaganda that reminds me when Hill and Knowlton Canada once had the audacity to have crisis communications advice on their web site (long since taken out, but chronicled in my book Don't Believe It!), that when you are in trouble, recruit people you know to speak on your behalf to boost your credibility. So you speak through your proxies so you can push through your narrative.
This opinion piece is highly disturbing on numerous levels, not the least of which is that you have politicians shilling for journalism, which is not their place. At all.
It makes a newspaper partisan, untrustworthy, and having a definite conflict of interest: a newspaper is supposed to be keeping watch on authorities, not running to them begging for help to talk to those stupid plebeians to make them agree to fund a product they do not want to buy.
Please, enough. You keep doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. That's why your profession collapsed in the first place. Leave the politicians out of it. It doesn't help your cause.