Crawl Across the Ocean

Monday, January 05, 2009

Down With The Print Media

One of these days, I may or may not get around to writing a post on the ongoing decline of the newspaper industry covering topics such as, will newspapers disappear in their current form (yes) and will it be a good thing (probably).

A year ago, I likely would have been more favourably disposed towards the print media, but, as impossible as it might have seemed 12 months ago, the most recent year has lowered my opinion of them significantly.

Two of the main catalysts for this change in attitude were the media treatment of the coalition government (when the media was scared into showing its establishment roots, fronting absurd push polls, calling the NDP commies and screaming for daddy figures to ride to the rescue) and the media coverage of the Green Shift.

For example, consider this from the Globe and Mail's year end / next year look-ahead editorial, "The Liberals were all too happy to accuse the Tories of inaction [with respect to the economic crisis], but did not offer alternative policies so much as the promise of consultation, and refused to move away from their Green Shift plan despite how ill-timed a risky wealth transfer would have been."

"a risky wealth transfer" So, in what way was it risky? In all its coverage, did the Globe identify a single risk from the plan? What might such a risk be? We've had increases in gas taxes over the last 30 years many times, we've had cuts to income taxes many times. As far as I know there hasn't really been any particular risk to such moves.

And also "ill-timed" Why was it ill-timed? Because carbon prices were plunging? But wouldn't that be the ideal time to implement such a shift, to preserve the incentives to conserve? Because the economy was deteriorating? But what difference would the source of taxation matter to the economy - and to the extent that the shift was progressive in nature, wouldn't it mitigate the economic slowdown by putting more money in the hands of those likely to spend it?

The truth is, the person writing the Globe editorial didn't consider these questions. It never occurred to them that to use words that had an actual meaning in reality, they simply were looking to criticize the green shift, didn't want to point out that it was good policy supported by anyone who understood the issues and was unpopular thanks to demagoguing politicians who were amply enabled by the media, and simply picked a few empty words to fill in their sentence such as "ill-timed" and "risky", before moving on the next point.

Consider that this is the Globe and Mail, arguably one of the better newspapers in the country (it's a relative measure), and in their year end summary they have nothing but a few words of offhand, meaningless bs to offer with regard to one of the most important policy debates we faced this year.

As I said, this topic needs a more thorough coverage - I haven't really explained my full thought process in this post, I'm just typing out my impressions. It could be that this is all just sour grapes on my part that a policy I think is a good one was treated with disdain by the media. And maybe newspapers contribute enough of value that they're worth preserving (any suggestions what that value might be?). Or maybe whatever might fill the vacuum if they disappeared (crap like this) would be worse. But more and more I'm convinced that newspapers do more harm than good and that it will be a cause for celebration when they are delivered for the last time.

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  • The propagandists have come home to roost.

    I've been following the layoffs at the Sun papers and I've yet to see any of the problems get the boot. When you consider propagandists like Worthington haven't had an original thought in at least a decade but are kept on it makes me wonder if the newspapers haven't already thrown in the towel and are just counting down the days till their demise.

    By Blogger Robert McClelland, at 5:59 AM  

  • Declan,

    The Globe is the worst at this. While I often agree with their editorial slant, their editorials themselves are often crap - or at least so vague and widereaching as to be useless. I liked this from yesterday:

    Much the same goes for the party's candidates (in Quebec). The Conservatives' fortunes were not helped in the campaign by the near-invisibility of many candidates, who did not find their own voices at debates and other local events.

    Right, because I'm sure they completed an extensive survey of all 75 of the CPC candidates in Quebec, following them around the campaign trail, to all the debates and local events, seeing if and when they "found their voices".

    Then again, I like the Globe, and hope the print media doesn't go "down", as it were. I just love reading the paper in the morning. Like the physical paper.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:08 AM  

  • Robert - Seems like the papers doing the best, circulation wise are the left-leaning ones, presumably because the print media is so far to the right of the citizens, on average.

    There's definitely a certain irony in how some of our newspapers appear as though they would rather go bankrupt than give up their relentless promotion of the idea that markets are always right.

    Olaf - yes, another good example of the same sort of empty blather masquerading as prose. Although to be fair to the Globe, I don't know about Quebec, but here in Vancouver, Conservative candidates were routine no-shows at all candidates meetings and generally avoided public appearances as far as I could tell.

    The Globe is the best of the bunch but it's still pretty awful. Their continued employment of Neil 'Iceland' Reynolds is as much as sign as Worthington still being around at the Sun, that they're not taking any commitment to providing useful information very seriously.

    As for a physical 'paper', I've pretty much eliminated most paper from my life (perhaps I'll get a kindle type device, someday, when they cost less than a 32" flat screen TV) although I'll grant you that it may not be quite the same as reading the news on a medium which allows a cat to come along and curl up on top of it.

    By Blogger Declan, at 6:54 PM  

  • There's definitely a certain irony in how some of our newspapers appear as though they would rather go bankrupt than give up their relentless promotion of the idea that markets are always right.

    One might argue that this is evidence that markets are definitely right - at least when it comes to right-wing newspapers.

    By Blogger JG, at 11:52 AM  

  • One could also argue that this is evidence that markets are definitely left - at least when it comes to newspapers.

    By Blogger Declan, at 12:14 AM  

  • Olaf quoted this from a recent G&M Op/Ed:

    "The Conservatives' fortunes were not helped in the campaign by the near-invisibility of many candidates,The Conservatives' fortunes were not helped in the campaign by the near-invisibility of many candidates...

    And then gave a cogent argument regarding why the assumption is likely based on non-existent G&M-generated data.

    There is also, of course, the larger story, which the Globe Eds couldn't quite seem to find 'their own voice' to tell us about during the entirety of the campaign.

    Which was the country-wide attack of the 'Stealth-Cons'.


    By Blogger RossK, at 4:06 PM  

  • Gaz - When I saw you commenting on this post I thought you were going to bring up the BC Rail fiasco, another case of the media abdicating its responsibilities and neglecting the things (investigating people in power) we're supposedly going to miss if they disappear.

    By Blogger Declan, at 7:01 PM  

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