Is this, asks Steve V., “responsible journalism?” Will of Newswatch points out that Hitler was “Man of the Year” on the cover of Time Magazine in 1938. Was that “responsible journalism?”
In the ensuing discussion, I realized that I had very little idea of what “responsible journalism” is supposed to be. Do we simply mean “professional,” as in McMaher? If that’s the case, setting aside the dynamic duo and one or two others of considerable note, I’m tempted to consider the phrase oxymoronic. The “profession,” these days, has an ethical code that embraces and defends plagiarism (until a firestorm erupts, and, in practical terms, even afterwards). It simply suppurates with Conservative bias (for which its practitioners are amply rewarded). It covers fires and the Kardashians, spectacular murders and snowstorms. Any real challenges to the status quo tend to be ignored or mocked.
To be fair, it’s hard from the outside to determine the exact demarcation between the realm of the editorial overlords and that of on-the-ground journos. And, also to be fair, the selection of Magnotta is not necessarily irresponsible—he was in the news a lot, and that was the only criterion for the choice.
But Magnotta didn’t make the news. He was made the news. The distinction is important. The media created him as a newsmaker, and then granted recognition to themselves for having done so. The crucial question is whether he should have been given all of that initial coverage, which did nothing but gratify his ego and horrify nearly everyone else.
Meanwhile Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, whose entire community has been suffering a war of attrition by the Conservative government, has entered day 13 of her hunger strike. She will likely pass away from starvation before Harper deigns to notice her—for him the only good Indian is still a dead Indian, or at least a brain-dead one—but she merits a few column inches at best.
“Merits” is the operative word, of course. Maybe she should have tortured a kitten.
But the question of “responsible journalism” itself requires fuller discussion. To whom are the media “responsible?” To the public? Well, no, with the exception of the CBC. They are responsible to shareholders, owners, and publishers. Of what does their “responsibility” consist? Getting and keeping readers and advertisers. If that means journo grunts have to be thrown under a bus, so be it. If that means sensationalizing a two-bit murdering sadist for the jaded masses, so be it again.
The media do not, if they ever did, “speak truth to power.” They are power, in all of its hegemonic glory, dispensing regular doses of “reality” to a population of somnambulists. Too bad J-school students don’t in actual fact have to read Noam Chomsky. But even if they did, they would soon be digested in the gigantic alimentary canal that is present-day journalism.
Our media are indeed responsible. That’s the damn problem.