Note: This post is part of my spring cleaning project and was initially started around the time of the B.C. transit plan announcement.
Hello dear media member. I have heard your concerns, growing more desperate with each passing year. Things are moving so quickly these days, tight deadlines, staff cutbacks and an accelerating hyper-media culture have left you without enough time to do the deep, insightful reporting that you are really capable of, and instead your media outlet is meeting its content requirements with bare bones wire copy and the latest celebrity shenanigans.
What you need is a way to improve your efficiency! Here's a thought: one of the biggest topics the media covers is government and what is government always doing? It is always raising money and spending money. So if you could make your stories on the topic of governments raising and spending money more efficient - if you could automate them somehow - think of the time savings!
Well, I've been conducting a thorough review of media stories on governments and money and I've noticed something remarkable. At first glance, every story looks different: A panel recommends government institute a carbon tax at the federal level, someone wants to increase spending on transit at the provincial level, the Conference Board of Canada suggests allowing municipalities to levy sales taxes, another province is spending money on film projects - how can we bring automation to this bewildering array of diverse topics?
Here's what I noticed, every story on government finances, whatever the topic, whatever the level of government, whatever the media outlet, always includes one block which looks the same. Let me demonstrate with a few examples culled from a quick google news search. You could do the same search yourself any day and get plenty more where these came from:
"The Canadian Taxpayers Federation wants the province to reconsider nearly $20 million in annual subsidies for the commission, which operates bus, freight, passenger rail and high-speed Internet services in northern Ontario."
"Reaction to the proposed carbon tax is mixed. While the Vancouver Board of Trade has described it as a "smart" policy that will be "neutral to the pocketbook of the individual consumer and business," Retail BC predicted that the tax will disproportionately add to the cost burden of retailers. In a similar vein, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation described the tax as "anything but neutral for individuals, businesses and industries," and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business suggested that the carbon tax would effectively cancel out other tax relief measures included in the 2008 Budget."
"The provincial government is offering paid leave for thousands of public service employees it believes want to volunteer for the 2010 Olympic Games. ...
The plan was attacked by Maureen Bader, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, who said the province's Olympic spending is already out of control.
"It's not necessary. There are already a number of people voluntarily giving up their time."
"The government's promise of spending prudence, however, was greeted with skepticism by the head of a tax watchdog group.
"Under the Conservatives, spending has increased by 14 per cent," said Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director John Williamson, noting that program expenditures have increased from $175 billion a year in the final year of Liberal rule to what this year will likely be more than $200 billion for the first time ever.
"If Mr. Flaherty's pledge to be fiscally 'responsible' is to mean anything, he must . . . match his tax-relief freeze with a corresponding spending freeze," Williamson said. "Increasing spending while shunning tax cuts will mean the Conservative government has put the interests of the bureaucracy ahead of ordinary taxpayers."
So now let your imagination run wild - let's say you program two shortcut keys into your word processor: The first one, say CTRL-C-T-P-Up Arrow is used for stories where governments are raising taxes (or considering raising taxes, or offering new taxes, etc.) or spending money on any item, whether it be improving the environment, public libraries, emergency preparation, or whatever. This keyboard shortcut will insert the following text into your story.
"Mr/Mrx X [program macro to randomly select a name from a list of CTP spokespeople, there is no difference between any of them, so this is not a problem] criticized the move saying that this move could only lead to a heavier soul-destroying, life-crushing burden of taxes applied to ordinary, everyday, hardworking Canadian Taxpayers."
In cases where taxes or spending are being cut, you simply hit CTRL-C-T-P-Down Arrow and get the following text:
"Mr/Mrs X said the move was a step in the right direction but far more needed to be done to lighten the crushing, family threatening, puppy stomping, tax load being borne by ordinary, everyday, hardworking Canadian taxpayers."
So c'mon media, think about how many stories about Britney you could write up if you followed this easy method of saving time on stories about government programs and services.
It's true, if you wanted to really be radical, you could leave the Taxpayer Federation references out altogether. After all, I think everyone in the country can predict what they are going to say with regard to any story (Tax up: boo, Tax down, yay, No change in tax: who cares) so it's not exactly news is it.
Let's face it, you're just needlessly padding your stories with empty content that doesn't say anything new to anybody and wouldn't be missed by a soul if it didn't appear. But I don't want to rock the boat, so if you just want to maintain the current feeble status quo, but be more efficient about it CTRL-C-T-F-Up Arrow and CTRL-C-T-F-Down Arrow is the way to go.
Labels: criticism, CTF, media, Spring Cleaning