Tag Archives: journalism

Unions and media: Will journalists save themselves?

22 Mar

Unions get a rough ride from corporate news sources.

From the loudest and most angry leading the charge (the Sun) down to the soft opponents at (barely) progressive papers, like the Toronto Star, the industry as a whole is not “pro-labour.”

Part of this phenomenon is driven by the growth of and emphasis on business reporting. Rather than balancing coverage with the perspective of workers, the news about “business” is dominated by stories about what the masters, bosses and owners are or aren’t doing.

This is despite the fact that many of the unions who protect journalists are strong, vocal advocates for their members. However, when your members’ job is to report and analyze the news, media unions and guilds do not have the same influence on broad, public debate as does the sum of their individual members.

Across all platforms in the mainstream press, there’s an obsession with reporting corporate profits, losses and detailing the lavish or subdued personnas of those who fill the ranks of CEOs. Journalism is supposed to challenge power but instead tends to justify and normalize power’s abuses. The powerful are mostly exalted and those who challenge power are mostly treated suspiciously and critically.

This coverage is so extreme to one side that it’s fantasy to imagine the Globe and Mail dedicating a daily section to news about working people, labour issues and unions.

Instead, we have the Lang and O’Leary Exchange, for example, promoting neoliberal policies that effectively call for the destruction of the CBC. As if a television show advocating for the wholesale elimination of the jobs of the people who create the show isn’t totally insane.

This is cognitive dissonance at its finest and it’s pervasive. Uncritical, PR company-spun, regurgitated talking points are the standard and it has resulted in a crisis of logic in the mainstream press.

For example, when Rogers only made $466 million during its third quarter last year, the Globe and Mail referred to this profit as having fallen, sounding as if the company were in trouble. This narrative was then posited in such a way that made its sound as if laying off hundreds of workers was justified.

While it might make sense for a CFO to refer to profits that are lower than the year before in negative terms, profit is profit. It damages the credibility of news when journalists parrot the talking points of corporate executives.

If collective bargaining were reported like this, pay increases that were lower than last years’ pay increases would be reported as a pay cut.

If public services were reported like this, tuition fee increases would be reported as compound losses for students’ personal assets rather than an investment in a phantom future.

Journalists report through this narrow and lop-sided lens, influencing how Canadians think about corporations, profits and CEOs, as if they aren’t under attack from the very same forces. The craziest part of this cognitive dissonance is that “the media” is peddling a narrative that makes possible the self-destruction of “the media.”

It’s a machine that is hell-bent on its own suicide. The snake has finally gotten a hold of its tail and, starved, it’s eating the hell out of it.

It’s not self-destruction for everyone in the sector. The corporate executives or board members who own and profit from media holdings will be fine. It’s self-destruction for the journalist, the camera operators, the office cleaners and everyone else who relies on the industry’s survival for a pay cheque. But, unlike at Bestbuy where laid-off workers get laid off without warning, media workers themselves are the ones creating the terrain that will lead to them delivering their own bad news. Their consistent anti-union, pro-business rhetoric is at the core of the demolition of their field.

While watching the steady decline, the layoffs, the outrage, then anger and frustration that comes from journalists when they discover that they’re not immune from these forces, that despite their attempts at remaining ‘unbiased,’ ‘clean’ or ‘pure’ that they’re still caught in neoliberalism’s cross-hairs, I find myself deeply confused.

The only way to protect journalists as workers is the only way to protect anyone who is a worker: develop strong unions who can fight against the destruction of the craft, broaden union membership and raise members’ consciousness about the role they play in perpetuating the system.

Unions are critical to saving the asses of many people who work in telecommunications and this includes journalists. Unions are key to the survival of the profession. Either unions will protect the existence of secure, well-enough paying jobs with benefits, or journalism will be outsourced to an automatic news generator powered by a team of people in a basement somewhere.

Unions, though, are nothing without the power of their individual members behind them. Without workers using their labour to create the conditions that improve their industry, the union’s role will be relegated to trying to save some of the jobs announced in a round of layoffs.

The hollow, uncritical babble that’s held up as journalism today threatens the functioning of Canada’s democracy, but it also threatens to undermine and diminish the very industry that peddles it out.

If the quality and endurance of journalism jobs depends on the union, then journalists also depend on the public to have a generally favourable opinion of unions and the roles they play.

And we find ourselves again watching the snake gnawing at its tail.

Using their work to save journalism may not be an easy concept for an industry full of people who both chase after the carrot: fame, honour and being on TV, and who fear the stick: unemployment, joblessness and blogging. I know this war wages inside the stomachs of most young journalists.

But something must be done. It’s time to stop this slow, mass suicide. It’s time for an intervention.

Plagiarizing Margaret Wente

12 Nov

Margaret Wente is way better when her own articles are plagiarized into a new article. For your pleasure, here’s the perfect rebuttal to her “columns.” Wente in her own words, plagiarized and out of context.


A Margaret Wente Mash Up

Iran. Israel. The United States. Iran. Universities. Bad teachers. Unions. Sex.

That experiment was 35 years ago, but does anyone think the results would be different today?

That’s when I learned what it feels like to bang your head against the ceiling.

The real issue is the fight against the ruling class, the greedy corporations, the tar sands, and the entire capitalist, neo-liberal elite.

I’m sad to say the ideologically driven, radically unbalanced logic humiliated me.

I just couldn’t get it.

Back in 2008, I was smoking dope with sociology, anthropology, philosophy, arts, and victim-studies students, whose degrees are increasingly worthless in a world that increasingly demands hard skills.

Everything I owned was stuffed in the back of her Volkswagen Beetle.

I was anxious and excited, in a beauty contest full of homely people.

I was worried that everyone would be smarter than me, to say nothing of more worldly and more sexually experienced.

Most other Canadians were, too.

But now, young men don’t have to do those things. They’re the baristas of tomorrow and they don’t even know it, because the adults in their lives have sheltered them and encouraged their mass flight from reality.

Young professionals are facing a painful double squeeze. Plenty of people, including countless academics and large swaths of the diplomatic corps, are upset, as the Greeks and everyone else have always known, if you like your job security, teaching is the place for you.

But, if you’ve been enjoying a news-free vacation lately (highly recommended for your mental health), you may be in for a nasty shock.

A blogger has accused me of substantively plagiarizing the column, and much else.

The allegations have exploded in the Twitterverse and prompted harsh commentary from other writers, some of whom are characterizing me as a serial plagiarist.

Some say they amount to bloodless ethnic cleansing. This is probably impossible. But politicians, even Conservative ones, are not suicidal.

I was devastated.

For the first two years, I regarded Wite-Out as the most important technological breakthrough of the decade. I might as well have been on Mars.

Instead of a laptop, I had a small typewriter, whose keys jammed if I typed too fast.

I wrote lengthy letters full of recriminations and remorse, none of which, thank God, seem to have survived.

I began supplementing income by dealing LSD and pot. Naturally, I was completely hooked. I adored one of those women in politics who seemed like a pathetic rump, but who isn’t really as dangerous, malevolent and crazy as it seems, who’s been taken hostage by a bunch of lunatics.

It seems too awful to be true.

The professional classes can’t escape the gales of change that are ripping through society.

Unfortunately, the fact that for the first two years, I regarded Wite-Out as the most important technological breakthrough of the decade, an astonishing number of soc and psych majors who refuse to venture beyond their comfort zone – linguistic, geographical, or ideological – face even dimmer prospects.

Until recently, the price was steep, up to and including a wedding ring and a promise of lifetime commitment.

But as women began to gain power and opportunity, that began to change. Women can now get a piece of society’s wealth on their own. But every so often we’d get a craving for jelly doughnuts at 3 a.m.

Are you ever worried that you (or a loved one) have mental problems that require professional attention?

What I often am is a target for people who don’t like what I write.

Do you get cranky before your period?

Now the vampire is arising from its grave. He was attractive, he was smart, he was young and, best of all, he wasn’t a serial plagiarist.

There were other disappointments, too – intellectual ones.

She was smart, but was an “insult to humanity” and “a cancerous tumour,” crawling toward the scrapheap of history. I got home early one day from class and discovered I am a serial offender whose work is riddled with errors, and worse.

Think twice before you encourage your daughter to go to law or med school, especially if she’ll have to borrow heavily to do it.

Today, the love affair is over.

In which case, God help the boycott of Israel’s “apartheid regime.”

I would rather drink cyanide than be awash in soc and psych majors.

Once you’re in the door it’s really hard to lose your job for incompetence, or even moral turpitude.

Although Canadians are convinced that I was in an awful mess, who’s so clapped-out, so exhausted, and so devoid of ideas that basically a socialist could scarcely make things worse than they were, it’s just the way it is.

But I’m also sorry we live in an age where attacks on people’s character and reputation, a process widely known as “passing the trash,” seem to have become the norm.

Logic was highly analytical. The right drugs are a godsend (That’s not a vision, or a plan. It’s a fantasy.)

Journalists know they’re under the microscope and the world will not be kind to them.

For every loser there’s usually a winner.

Oh well.

Every sentence was been taken directly from one of the following articles, with only a few linking words inserted.