It has always come as a surprise to us that the news media could think of themselves as one of society’s elites. (And just because Donald Trump says it, does not make it so.)
But there is a growing distrust of the news media that is hard to deny. We cannot speak as knowledgably of the American scene but the distrust in Canada is there for all to see. It is in the corporate dominance of English television by Bell, Rogers and Shaw, the weaseling of the Postmedia chain of newspapers, the omnipotence of Péladeau’s Quebecor newspapers and television network in Quebec and the steady dismantling of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Radio Canada that worries Canadians.
It seems a little out of touch for news people to consider themselves among the elite when already close to half their numbers are competing for work at call centres. And with Postmedia and its Sun newspapers acquisition already on the wrong side of bankruptcy, it looks like Chairman Paul Godfrey has received his last million-dollar bonus.
But the major concern with this media elitism was obvious many years ago when we were on a panel discussing the news media with among others the editor of the Ottawa Citizen. It was when we mentioned that the parliamentary Press Gallery reporters got their best leads from the reporter on the next bar stool, the editor got angry. What must have made him angrier is that the remark got good coverage in the Ottawa news media—including a Citizen reporter in the audience.
But this media elitism is obvious today when you check out the political discussion panels on television. They are mainly news media interviewing news media about what the politicians mean by what they are saying. They rarely seem to ask the politician.
It is also the source of the media problems that needs to be understood. When in the early 20th Century radio challenged print and magazines, print rose to the challenge and became more colorful and aggressive. When television came in the second half of the century, radio had to change and print media had to offer a more in-depth product.
It was the Internet and cell phones that joined the mix at the end of 20th Century that brought us to where we are today. Print has tried to adapt to the Internet and the various platforms but has still to arrive at the right formula. Radio has become an automobile and elevator background noise and the Internet has been swallowing more and more of the advertising dollars.
And where are our media elites? They are writing tweets and making video clips for YouTube. Being an elite in modern life is fleeting.
Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry
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