19 Comments

Really enjoying this series - thank you for bringing in guest PoV's. As a former Vancouver journalist (community papers and BIV) I think there are two things often overlooked in this conversation:

1) The so-called 'Golden Age' of Journalism - the post-war period until Y2K, roughly, was able to exist for a key reason: massive profit margins allowed for significant organizational breathing room and that resulted in maximum independence for editorial departments. As soon as those profits were squeezed, the owners had to cut-back, reduce independence or both.

2) The Golden Age is actually a relatively short period of time in the history of the news business. Pre-war and earlier journalism was surprisingly similar in form and function as what we're seeing enter the 'news' space today. It's possible the Golden Age was the anomaly, the norm is this.

Lastly, as a former business journalist I can say one thing you get good at is analyzing businesses. It was hard not to analyze the industry and media companies I worked for/interacted with when I was in the newsroom. It was obvious to me in 2011/12 that if I wanted to get ahead in life (you know, own a house one day), sticking it out in the news business was a poor bet. I love the news business, still do but a lot of the good talent left for some basic reasons and that's undermined the business as well (No, I don't count myself among the 'good talent').

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Joel, you have identified something that is often overlooked: the Golden Age is an anomaly and our current circumstance is somewhat a reversion to the norm.

Taking that further, I would posit that the reason that the Golden Age was so "good" was simply that the economy was truly fat and there was room for "luxuries" such as journalism. By contrast, currently the economy is, if not on life support, is pretty marginal [how many people can afford to buy a house now? how many people are living paycheque to paycheque now? how many people are using food banks now? and so on, and so on].

That suggests that we will have to continue to scrape by for news (at least as compared to the Golden Age) but the thing that is truly unique now is that this digital method of news dissemination is incredibly cheap as compared to the old model. Note: not cheap but cheap by comparison; people still need to eat, have shelter, there is overhead, etc. so there are costs.

Simply as one example of how the landscape has changed, I offer Rebel News. It is not that I recommend it for content so much as I note that it has grown and is now (kind of) international (a US correspondent and a UK correspondent). Obviously, they are interested in advertising but a large portion of their revenue is in the form of donations from viewers and, of course, people (not me) do subscribe. [Can you imagine Conrad Black appealing for $$ to fund his (former) newspapers?]

My point is, yes, we are in different (but familiar) territory but we have different times and different technologies. It is important that response is not at all, "Oh, woe is we" but is instead, "...Hmmm... this sucks, so let's do it this way instead ..."

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With Dad at Stanford during the development of the internet, a Defense Dept. project to provide secure, redundant communication channels during an enemy attack, the irony that it became the major channel to breach security, is overwhelming.

For a brief period it was very informative in being able to translate the emails of sites such as the Brigades of the Martyr Izz el-Deen al-Quassam "militants" lament that their 2011 anti tank missile attack on an Israeli school bus at the end of its route had not killed a full busload of kids, only a single student remaining at the final stop, not in the frame of most news coverage.

My ideal of impartial or broad spectrum news coverage was reversed when the CBC replaced BBC Northern Ireland coverage with their own stringer, whose lionization of Gerry Adams and contempt for the "British" was clearly evident in her delivery. Her bio details disclosed that she came from "a strong Republican family", had fundraised for Sinn Fein in Boston and believed that good reporting demanded a "passionate personal point of view". When Tony Burman initially showed interest in my concern but eventually responded that he had "full confidence" in her, I decided that bias was really inevitable and a clear, open declaration, (which as others have pointed out, was the norm for newspapers for decades past) was the best that could be hoped.

When Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger in 2015 announced that the Guardian, having sold the profitmaking Autotrader, was no longer a "newspaper" but becoming "a campaigning organization" against "Climate Change" and would no longer publish anything contradicting "consensus science" it was at least openly inverting C.P. Scott's iconic 1921 editorial principle of dealing fairly with opposing views. But establishing the "Covering Climate Now" consortium which now coordinates "urgent climate stories" to ensure that all 500+ media partners distribute a uniform message to their 2 billion audience, is without suitable notice.

Like the old K-Tel guarantee that your " Best of 100 classical works" would contain "no unfamiliar music", it seems to be profitable.

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author

Brilliant observations there, Wayne. And I say this as someone from a fierce Irish republican background whose parents joined the RAF to fight Hitler. It's in the interstices of "narratives" that you find the true stories, or at least the most interesting and illuminating ones.

Thanks for this.

- T

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Thanks Terry, it's encouraging to get a compliment on a comment and not be "Sent for moderation" followed by "Blocked for violating community standards" for not following the script.

The suppression of curiosity implicit in news organizations advertising they will supply "Everything you need to know" and "How to think about it", leads to flabby intellects unable to stand for their own beliefs, but also a disastrous inability to imagine that others may think differently.

Thomas Sowell's remarking the "Peculiar Western aberration of believing that, "under the skin", other peoples all think the same as we do" heard on a car radio decades ago keeps resurfacing as strikingly relevant, with increasing frequency.

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Canada is rapidly moving towards a technologically-enforced neo-communist government. Anyone who steps back for a few moments and observes what's going on can see it.

As thus, at what point do we take Solzhenitsyn's words to heart and do something about it? Because, make no mistake, the walls are rapidly closing in on the Canada we all thought we lived in.

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I am afraid you are correct good sir. Did you read the CBC exclusive interview with Trudeau’s security advisor, Jody Thomas?

“The source behind foreign interference leaks 'will be found' and punished, PM's security adviser says”

But of course, the Liberals want to arrest the person or persons who brought to light the fact that our political system is broken and subject to interference. Canadians need not worry about the fact that it is being interfered with, no need to do anything about that.

According to the Trudeau Liberals, “People exposing the truth will be caught and punished!”

My question is the following:

Will Trudeau and the people in the PM's inner circle that knew about the foreign interference and did nothing also get punished?

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“The possibilities range from a dystopian info-hellscape dominated by disinformation, government news and paid content...”

I think we are there already.

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Ah. Residential school genocide denial - the new Holocaust denial hate-crime.

How quaint - based on no evidence other than Trudeau said so.

btw. my initial impression of your accompanying picture was a guillotine.

On second view, I saw that it was a printing press "The tyrants foe - the people's friend".

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I also thought it was a guillotine. Interesting...

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founding

"If you build it, they will come." Hang in there, it's working Terry.

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When exactly was the Golden Age of Journalism in Canada? I must have missed it when I blinked.

Through the 1940s and 1950s and well into the 1960s, reporters for local newspapers were told to get as many names of local people as possible into their stories. The belief was that people liked seeing their names in the newspaper, and this increased circulation.

Ottawa had two newspapers at the beginning of the 1970s, the Journal and the Citizen. The Journal died a merciful death in the seventies, but we still have two newspapers, the Citizen and the Sun. I see no appreciable decline in quality. The Citizen did do local stories. I recall a mini-crisis when an elected city official handed out envelopes after a press conference. The envelopes contained twenty-dollar bills. A reporter complained. The city official was outraged -- handing out such envelopes was a long established practice, and nobody had ever complained before.

By the 1990s the Citizen was so left wing that publication of an unbiased article was a cause for amazement. Things changed when Conrad Black took over. But before than, the Citizen had tried various approaches to appeal to readers (anything but being unbiased). They redesigned the newspaper, among other things shrinking the size of their pages. Then they asked readers for feedback. I wrote them that the new smaller newspaper no longer hid my Playboy when I came home from the newsstand, but was still much too large for the amount of content they were putting into it. I never heard back, nor was my letter published.

I don't miss those days.

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author

Hahaha

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Terry - I’m way down in the middle of the US, and started following you from your fantastic article on the residential school media coverage (I think linked to from the FreePress)? I continue to follow even though your coverage is Canada focused- it still has broader value. Who can we follow in the US for honest investigative reporting like you do? The Free Press (thefp.com) is one that I have found. I want to support this important journalism. Thank you for your great work.

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The golden age appears to refer mostly to the financial health of the journalism trade. I'm unsure if those halcyon days translated to a higher degree of objective quality. Ironically, the independent nature of today's on-line journalists may well be the least biased version we have ever experienced.

That could be fortuitous as the golden age of universities, public schools, the judiciary, civil service, and civic duty are also in the rear view mirror.

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Jun 22, 2023·edited Jun 22, 2023

Terry, thank you. It seems that you have opened the flood gates of readers opinions that have been held back since the introduction of the Internet.

No doubt you've heard the expression that a story was "too good to check." The fact that in customary usage it's intended as sarcasm doesn't exclude things working that way in actual practice.

Why are MSM, the broadcasting outlets, the editors and the journalists so biased and unable to produce convincing articles that are more than the same well worn propaganda narrative?

We know that government and big tech have worked together to pressure reporters into not going where they don’t want them to go. And this is certainly an important factor in ensuring a certain silence around what are factual documents.

But there is a deeper dynamic driving this now persistent failure of so many people, especially the young, to take this position and not to confront authority with the documentary proof of easily-accessible facts. And it has a lot to do with an epochal change in the overall cognitive habits of our culture. We have long been aware of how communicative technologies (e.g. printing presses, books, radio and television) can engender profound changes in our cognitive habits.

https://brownstone.org/articles/it-was-all-there-in-the-eua-why-couldnt-they-see-it/

Unfamiliar with the slow and deliberate processes of deep analytical reading and the importance of seeking information that lies beyond the frenetic and ever more highly managed jungle of delivered feeds now prevalent on electronic media and television.

This breeds in our younger generations, an outlook on information management which is now predominant among many of these young citizens and not so young people working in journalism today.

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A couple of things occur to me that haven't come up in discussion yet.

1) Why no reflection on the comments section? Seems like quite a few readers of "news" are also commentors and readers of commentors. Some 1,000 word articles can generate 100,000 words of comments. That didn't happen in the Golden Age.

2) It's easier today to check a reporter's command of the facts and their bias. For those who have the time, internet searches can confirm or refute statements quickly and provide insights that were impossible to those with a single paper subscription back in the Golden Age. Some writers even provide abundant links to the "right" information :)

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I much prefer news & opinion outlets that permit comments. But I suppose they’re expensive to maintain as you don’t see them apart from some articles at huge outfits like NYT & WSJ. The Substack commenting is most welcome.

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Remember how Whitehall treated Churchill.

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