Little did I know how incredibly prescient I'm getting in my old age. What am I talking about? Well, I happen to be one of those "nuts" who believes that it's critical for all of us to participate in our democracy if we wish to keep it strong & vibrant. I spend (waste?) too much time on this blog and elsewhere speaking out about threats to our democracy, often seemingly to little end effect.
For a long time many thought they could depend upon the mainstream media to act as our proxies in this regard - to keep politicians and business leaders and union leaders in check. How naive we were to think that the majority of those in the media would accept this responsibility and follow even a minimal set of journalistic ethics.
I firmly believe that 2008 will be the year that historians refer to as the one in which the mainstream media and journalism finally showed us their true colours and then soon after fell apart.
Today it was announced that the Tribune Company, which owns 10 daily newspapers and 23 TV stations in the U.S., filed for bankruptcy protection. Two of their most prominent newspapers are the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. What does this have to do with my prescience?
Last Friday, I read this "news story" (not editorial, but news) about Canada's constitutional crisis, published in the Los Angeles Times. I was absolutely outraged at the egregious bias Ms. Baum exhibited and callous disregard for the end effect to my country's democracy. So I sent her the following letter. Read the last paragraph carefully and contrast it with the Tribune Company announcement:
Dear Ms. Baum,
I live in Vancouver, BC and am not a member of any political party. But I have paid very close attention to what has transpired in Ottawa this past week. It deeply saddens me to see such one-sided reporting from a foreign newspaper on a very critical issue in my nation's history. If you're not clear about what I'm referring to, let me provide you some examples from your editorial ... I mean "unbiased news story" :
- "Harper's moves were seen as cynical and out of touch at a time when Canada is feeling the sting of the global economic crisis." - You do not attribute this sentence to anyone in particular so the reader can only conclude that it is the general feeling of all Canadians.
- "[Harper] also hammered away at the prospect of "separatists" getting their hands on the levers of federal power. The attacks, in turn, angered many Quebecers, furious that the Bloc Quebecois representatives they had elected were being dismissed as illegitimate." - Why is the "S" word in quotation marks? The Bloc Quebecois members are indeed separatists. If you don't believe me, just ask one. Their primary goal of being in Ottawa is to separate Quebec from Canada. That's not my opinion, it's a fact. Furthermore, you failed to mention that when Prime Minister Jean Chretien "hammered away" at the separatists he was hailed as a hero. Why is Harper now the villain? May I suggest it's because the name of his party doesn't start with an "L".
- "The cost to the country may be greater than to any one party. By demonizing the Bloc Quebecois, Harper has awakened Canada's ghosts of regional grievance, reviving the national nightmare of a fracturing country." - Stephen Harper has awakened the proverbial ghosts? No Ms. Baum, Stephane Dion and Jack Layton have awakened those ghosts. Mr. Harper simply reminded all of us about the dangers of bringing a separatist party into government.
- 68% of Canadians support the GG's decision
- 62% of Canadians are "very angry" with the Coalition
- The Conservatives' support has climbed from 38% to the mid 40's
You have no idea how deeply it troubles me, and undoubtedly millions of others, how little respect writers like you have for the once great profession of journalism. At one time there was a clear distinction between "news reporting" and "editorials". Pieces like yours will serve as perfect examples to historians as to how even a moderate adherence to journalistic ethics became unimportant to "journalists" in the early part of the second millennium. And as a direct result of this, people lost faith in their media outlets to report the news accurately. That loss of faith is killing your profession and ultimately will see you without any employment as a result one day too. Let me proactively offer you my condolences.