Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May 3: World Press Freedom Day a Dark Day for Canadian Journalism - Canada's Free Press in Intensive Care?

The one most obvious outstanding fact after yesterday's election in Canada is that some sort of media/press reform is absolutely necessary in this country.

There is an overwhelming body of evidence to suggest that there is not a free press in Canada.

A few facts from #elxn41:

* 31 newspapers in Canada endorsed the Conservative Party
* 0 newspapers endorsed the Liberal Party
* 2 newspapers endorsed the NDP
* 1 newspaper endorsed the Bloc Quebecois
* 0 newspapers endorsed the Green Party
* 2 newspapers endorsed multiple parties

* Coverage in the newspapers was perhaps not biased to the extent of the lopsided and disgraceful endorsement record (which followed a similar pattern in 2006 and 2008) however there was still an obvious slant of favouritism towards the Conservatives in much of the coverage.

A few examples:

* The Edmonton Conservative candidate, Ryan Hastman, who was in an uphill battle against the NDP's Linda Duncan, was able to put out an appeal for campaign volunteer help in an Edmonton Journal news story!
* The Journal de Montreal (Sun Media) on May 1, ran two prominent pieces about how the NDP was running candidates in Quebec who couldn't speak French. It also buried Ignatieff coverage completely on the same day and gave way more prominence to an "optimistic" article about Conservative Larry Smith's race in Lac St-Louis.
* The Calgary Herald made a huge deal about how only a couple of students showed up for a "vote bus" that someone organized during advance polling 
* The Globe and Mail was a huge disappointment throughout the campaign, featuring such articles as this perplexing and ridiculous column fished out of the sky right when Stephen Harper needed it to appear, calling for abolishment of corporate tax as a "worldwide failure"

* Coverage on the network news television was similarly slanted in favour of the Tories. Early in the campaign, it was noticed that the opposition's criticisms of Harper and the Conservatives were rarely presented without the Conservative counter-argument quickly thrown in at the same time. However, when negative news came out about the NDP and Liberals, it was less frequently given with the counterargument.

* With the limited time available on the major newscasts, it was disappointing to see the Nanos segment eating up time every day, while CTV skimped on actual news on issues from the campaign. Although Nanos polling came close in some ways, the Leadership Index was terribly skewed in favour of Harper. One just has to believe that the daily repetition of this inaccurate Leadership Index in the Globe and Mail, on CTV and online, had some influence on the overall outcome of the election.

* Why did Peter Mansbridge play hardball with Ignatieff and slo-pitch with Harper?

* Why did the media fail to demand release of the auditor general's report on the G20 debacle?

* The whole "Ignatieff planned the Iraq war" scam

* Of course the dirtiest trick of all, the Layton Smear goes without saying

Unfortunately, time does not permit a more thorough analysis of all the media coverage of this election.

The picture is plenty bleak enough just looking at the newspaper endorsement line-up. Toss in the arrival onstage of Sun News on TV, with no counterweight of any kind in sight. Without forgetting that millions of Canadians are already unduly influenced by the rhetoric, attitude and coverage produced by Fox News.

The inescapable conclusion is that the objectivity of the Canadian news media is in condition critical in intensive care.

Young up and coming journalists are not blind. It is easy to see to see that the best way to increase your earnings is by working for an outfit that has the cash to spend and is willing to spend it on publishing news that sings to a certain ideological tune.

Is there a way for honest journalism to be profitable?

It is fairly easy to imagine a huge well-funded wave of further-right journalism arriving on the scene in Canada. Where the funding comes from can be left to your imagination. It is not easy to see what can be done to counter this problem. There is a certain amount that blogs and individual online efforts can achieve. Realistically, however, it must be assumed that these efforts will be matched by similar efforts on the right fringe of things. Same for the Tyees and Rabbles of the world. And don't look now but it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for the internet to be completely swamped by astroturfing. Even worse than that, a two tier internet could effectively tilt anything resembling the level playing field internet we have now, such as it is.

Even if a Bill Gates or a Jeff Skoll or someone else with world-saving wherewithal were to step up, how much of an impact could one project really have?

Is there a way in this day and age for honest journalism to be profitable?

If there is a positive answer to that question, someone ought to find it quickly.


Anonymous said...

Slo-pitch? Mansbridge played T-ball with Harper. Was it in the hopes of being yet another newscaster appointed to the Senate? Might it have something to do with both of them having attended Bilderberg?

I mean, he could have at least mentioned Bruce Carson or any other government scandal, even if he didn't push Harper to answer. Or called Harper on the claim that Canada was number 1 at coming out of the recession, rather than being number 10.

Anonymous said...

The Conservatives spend the most of any party in advertising both from their party coffers but mainly with taxpayer monies. Why would msm want to stop that gravy train?

Saskboy said...

The Real News Network is fighting an uphill battle now.

Offroad Artist said...

I don't find Real News to be the answer. Nor something like 'Global Voices'. It's a tough problem.

Offroad Artist said...

Maybe Charles Leblanc is the answer.

Sixth Estate said...

Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I have to think one of the reasons for the CBC's softness on the Tories and harder stance against the NDP is that they're worried about their survival.

Sixth Estate said...

Oh yes, I forgot the reason I clicked to post to begin with:

This analysis is head and shoulders above the Globe & Mail's take on Press Freedom Day.

Offroad Artist said...

Thanks for the comments.

Sixth, that thought about CBC being in survival mode had also occurred to me, along with what anon said in the first post. I don't know if anyone from CBC gave any hints on twitter.

*off to read the G&M article*