You listen to the put-downs, the sly digs, the knowing slurs, the mindless jokes and say little but enough is enough. So I live in Babel. It’s not a second-class town. It’s not just where the military from Base Borden come to drink and whore. It’s not just a bunch of big box stores to serve the cottage bound. This is a city that deserves to be treated as a city in its own right. It’s not a poor cousin to the big smoke, south on Highway 400.
And our lousy local news media need to understand that.
Not that we ever did anything to deserve the media that we have in this city? The ‘A Channel,’ owned by CTVglobemedia, is the runt of the litter. It is not only a pitiful excuse for a television outlet but if it was not a competitor of the pretentious CFTO in the big smoke, CTV would put it up for adoption. The radio stations are owned by a variety of broadcast chains whose executives could not find the city on a county map. They sell a demographic to advertisers based on a computer selected sound. Nobody makes the mistake of referring to their employees as talent. One of the stations pays its broadcast people so poorly, half of them, on air, sound like they refer to their station as “f…in 93.”
But it is print media in Babel that is on the shoddy side of disgusting. Start with the Examiner. That is what they call it. It examines nothing. The publication has been through more rapacious hands than a Dunlop Street hooker on a busy Friday night. It is currently operated by a Markham company called Osprey that is, in turn, owned by those printing company people at Quebecor in Montreal. The Osprey concept of chain control is so distant that you yearn to return to those caring days of that kindly, philanthropic publisher Conrad Black. Their idea of editorial staffing is determined by their parsimonious approach.
The other major print publication is operated by Metroland, a wholly owned subsidiary of Torstar, a company better known for its Toronto Star newspaper. Mind you, any similarity between their local Babel publication and a real newspaper is purely coincidental. I like to call it the Babel Backward. It is distributed free, twice each week, as a wrap for grocery chain advertising, pizza delivery ads, furniture store flyers, etc.
The latest insult to journalism by this direct-to-recycle rag was a front-page story in the June 16, 2009 edition. It was by-lined by a staff reporter who normally spends her time fawning over the local city counsellors. While headlined that (Liberal leader Michael) ‘Ignatieff looks for concessions,` the story was really about her favourite member of parliament and big-time advertiser in her biased publication, the ubiquitous Mr. Brown. It was a plaintive whine about why the constantly campaigning Mr. Brown does not want an election. He knows how easily he can lose.
While there is frustration in Babel over the local media situation, there are few solutions. Creating long-term alternative media would be a very expensive proposition for anyone foolish enough to take on the deep pockets of the chain media that have dragged us down. The media down the road in the big smoke will continue to dominate as more and more Torontonians escape the city for the easier life here in Babel.
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