Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Essay for money, but brought trouble?

In this essay I illustrate how the consolidation of the media has had a negative influence on Canadian democracy. I define democracy as the ability of all, even the little guy, to have her viewpoint represented in the national media and to have the government look after her interests, and not only the interests of the multinational companies. I am not calling for “advocacy journalism” (a right wingers epithet for a progressive viewpoint); nor do I want to call for “fair and balanced” reporting now that Fox News has hijacked that famous phrase. Perhaps “equal opportunity, equal access” is the best motto for a newspaper that aims to promote democracy. ................................................................ It was not long into the muggy Brampton summer before I realized that the National Post was no leftist newspaper and I stopped reading it. I even refused free copies on the UVic campus or with my coffee from the gas station (I left Ontario after 6 months, buying a one-way ticket to the other side of Canada to get away from Mike Harris and his devil-take-the-hindmost-revolution). Columnist Stephen Gowans wrote that Dalton Camp called the National Post "a 250,000-word editorial wrapped around a newspaper." However articles on organic agriculture posted to the organic listserve I subscribe to have come more often from the Post than from the Toronto Star, even if most of the Post’s articles refer to the economic potential of organic farming due to the higher prices paid to the farmers. The business slant of the stories reflects the observation made by Dalton Camp in a lecture at the University of Waterloo on March 23, 2000: “today, half the front page of your daily paper is about money.” His comment applies not only to Lord Almost’s paper but could also refer to the Toronto Star of March 20; “Bird flu could shave $60B off GDP, manufacturers say” was the headline of one Canadian story that never mentioned the word farmer. The Post belongs to the late Izzy Asper’s megalithic CanWest Global Communications along with newspapers such as the Victoria Times-Colonist which often carries the same articles as the Vancouver Sun [one downside of media consolidation]. The media giant also owns several smaller publications but not Vancouver’s independent Georgia Straight (circulation 120,000). The Straight printed an investigative report (December 2004) on a former public servant who lost her job for requiring farmers, including relatives of the then BC Minister of Agriculture, to adhere to the environmental regulations of the province. By the way that happened to be her job. I reprinted most of the story in the Sierra Club of Canada Victoria newsletter because I did not see the story in any of the CanWest newspapers. This does not mean that I consider myself one of the “few good women” that Dalton Camp claimed were “protecting the public virtue and its interests” in his May 2001 commentary (Southam Press); although the public servant Bev Anderson definitely was. I decided to use my temporary economic independence as a post-doc to counter the news suppression effects of media consolidation.