Lawrence Martin calls for Canadian journalists to show some Jon Stewart-style outrage.
Has Big Media ever had it so bad? CanWest Global begs for survival. The CBC begs for survival. CTV is losing a bundle. Newspapers are bleeding and cutting to the bone; the online invasion threatens their survival.
Along with the new technologies, journalism is being pummelled by the great global economic nosedive. The crisis was brought on by excesses of the corporate class. Journalism, chiefly south of the border, didn’t put up much of a challenge to the moneyed men before they climbed aboard their golden runaway trains – just like it didn’t put up much of a challenge to the pap trotted out to justify the Iraq war.
So, while the fourth estate is in dire straits, sympathy isn’t exactly washing over the walls. Nor should it be. Journalism got corporate and soft. If, in the post-Watergate era, it leaned too much to the anti-establishment side, abetting welfare-state excesses, it has now been much the opposite, abetting easy routes to war and market chaos.
As media ownership became concentrated in the hands of a few corporate giants, journalists too often came to reflect the ethos of those corporate giants. Counterculture voices of the left, traditional sources of opposition to corporate rule and war, were marginalized. In the Watergate era, they held prime place. But the boomers got old and tired and, in the past decade or so, the neo-cons blew them off the map.
Canadian journalism moved to the right of the population. In the United States, Fox News and the like-minded encouraged a climate in which Wall Street and the Pentagon ran rampant. And now, after the Bush nightmare and Iraq, there’s the market convulsions and AIG that should have the Fox breed running away from every mirror in sight. We could be at the tipping point wherein a counterculture wave rolls in. More courage and daring and Jon Stewart-type outrage is in order – new rogues of journalism to set us straight. From those corporate owners who sought to impose their bias, the media need regain its independence. …
In many cases, our media are more comprehensive, more balanced, more professional than in the past. But the resolve to stand up to vested interests isn’t what it should be. There needs to be more independence and a hardening of the challenge function. We buckle too easily. When the Governor-General made her decision to sustain the Conservative government in office, she gave no explanation. Instead of demanding one, our media folded like deck chairs.
There’s a dismaying conformity to our journalism, and little thinking outside the box. Notice the front pages of newspapers: They’re almost all the same. In today’s world, you’d think there’d be 10 news stories on the front page. Our papers have about three, and sometimes only one of them is a news story. The online invasion means there are a thousand more opinions out there. It means there is more need for solid news coverage, not less. But the tabloidization of the business runs amuck. In the Internet world, where every picture imaginable is available, newspapers still blow valuable space running 400 hockey photos when a fraction of that amount would do.
As for television’s conformity, we all know about that – those news delivery panels of chuckleheads who kibitz with one another instead of just telling the story.
The times are hard for the media. The shakedown is coming. Let it bring with it a new spirit – a journalism that is tougher, less knee-jerk, less beholden to elites, more beholden to the truth.