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Balloon Boy?

The coverage of the the kid who everyone thought was lost in a balloon has been obnoxious, and so I apologize in advance for adding to that cacophony.

I am curious about where this whole mess might lead though.

When the story was first unfolding, every media outlet jumped on top of it and followed it non-stop.

Then it turned out that the boy wasn’t in the balloon at all. It should have become a non-story then, but continued to dramatize most newscasts for the next while.

Now it comes out that the whole thing was a hoax. So we’re left with an interesting quandary here.

Did it come out as a hoax because of all of the media coverage? Would this family have been found out if many of the major media outlets had ignored the story instead of keeping us on “balloon watch” once the child had been found? Does that justify the obnoxious constacoverage put in place by network and cable television?

I don’t know the answer to that.

I do know that there is something very distressing about a family being so desperate for the 24/7 attention brought by Western-style media that they would do something like this.
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October 19, 2009   2 Comments

Freelancing?

I saw a friend in Winnipeg mention the possibility that with all the cutbacks to journalism in North America over the past few months… we might be seeing media move to a paradigm where almost all journalists work on a freelance basis and sell their stuff to whatever outlet requires it.

I have to admit, maybe this is a fear of the future speaking, but this seems like a horrible horrible HORRIBLE idea. I can’t help but think about Chomsky’s propaganda model. Making everyone freelancers would be like ramping up the effect of the ownership and funding filters.

Journalists would take no risks if they had to worry about where their next job was going to come from. Who would do investigative pieces, which don’t really tend to make money anyway? We’d go from an already celebrity heavy discourse to one that was exclusively about the vapid tastes of Paris Hilton, or what happened on Dancing With HasBeens last night….

I mean the other thing to consider is that maybe a freelance model would allow for more voices though. If there wasn’t an established body of “journalists” maybe you would see more turnover, at least in terms of seeing lots of different reporters report maybe a bit less than they usually do.

No… I think it’s a bad idea. Totally wouldn’t work. It would be exploited; we’d set labour rights for journalists back. The outlets would just employ the same freelancers repeatedly – the ones they knew wouldn’t rock the boat (because you still don’t want to criticize those advertisers and you don’t want to risk that someone new would…) only as freelancers they’d have even less security, no pensions, nada. So you’d have exploited reporters delivering less risky journalism. Sounds like a bad idea to me.

March 22, 2009   1 Comment

International Women’s Day and Pay Equity

So, International Women’s Day is today and it has me thinking about the Conservative government’s recent budget bill and how it alters pay equity laws.

To be honest, I don’t entirely understand what the changes mean. It’s apparently notable that the government is changing the term “pay equity” to “equitable compensation”. The language we use for this discourse is important, but I don’t totally understand either the legal or moral implications of the language change.

I’d normally turn to news outlets to help explain this to me. A greater background on the subject would help me synthesize what it means. I haven’t gotten that from any mainstream outlets. They certainly report the change, and report that it’s controversial, but I get no explanation as to why.

The only place I’ve been reading about this is in so-called “feminist” columns in the newspaper or online. It seems like the subject has alm0st been ghettoized; is the lack of coverage an attempt to represent pay equity as a niche issue? Since pay equity is inexoribly linked with the feminist movement, I have to say that I see the lack of coverage on the pay equity changes to be a way of sidelining women’s representation in the news.

March 8, 2009   No Comments

What did Obama have for lunch?

The Rick Mercer Report says what we’re all thinking…

As someone whose been on the hotspot during live programming, I understand how difficult it is to find a way to cover a huge event that people expect to be on television constantly. There are always huge gaps of time when nothing is happening but you can’t just sit around broadcasting nothing.

That being said, this is pretty hilarious. It does bring up interesting thoughts around how broadcasting gatekeepers decide what information is relevant.

Those who seek out their news through the internet are going to just search for the information that is relevant to them. I doubt Obama’s lunch menu will be that important to many (unless they happen to be there for lunch). News provided through an internet aggregator might not include anything like this, unless someone chose to seek it out. Whereas in the broadcast model, someone else just decided that it was important, so it made it to the air. I just found it interesting that in a more modern context this might not have been information we obtained at all.

February 25, 2009   No Comments

Twitter for News?

So, I’ve just gotten into twitter – @robheydari – and while I signed up mostly as a lark, I have to say it’s become addicitve. It’s quite fun, both to post and to see the other streams of consciousness coming from other tweets.

Notably, I’ve been watching this one website called “TwitScoop” to see what others are talking about on Twitter. It’s become like an informal wire service and is just fascinating. As different events unfold, you can see them mentioned in Twitter as it happens. There aren’t any filters though, so when someone is voted off of American Idol, it can seem to have as much weight as Barack Obama’s visit to Canada, or the possible nationalization of the Bank of America. Whatever people happen to be talking about on Twitter at any given moment is reported by TwitScoop.

It’s had me rethinking what I consider news. Is news something that a gatekeeper – the traditional outlets of journalism – gives to me? Do I let someone else decide what is important for me to know? Or is news just whatever people happen to be talking about? Twitscoop seemed to focus heavily on celebrities because, presumably, people were talking about them more.

But at the same time, anything something was being talked about on the mainstream news networks, TwitScoop picked up on it. When CNN had a surgeon who used Twitter in the operating room speaking on TV, it was reflected on TwitScoop in almost real time as people reacted to it.

That in itself got me thinking. Even with these new ways to communicate and spread news (Twitter, for example) – we still seem to rely heavily on the traditional mainstream outlets. We just might not be paying attention to them in the same way, so it seems like we are turning away as ratings tumble… but it could just be that the ways we are looking at them aren’t measured correctly yet. A lot of the news I saw on TwitScoop wouldn’t have caught attention were it not for CBC, CNN, BBC, et al attracting attention to the stories in the first place.

February 20, 2009   No Comments

Is the Internet unregulatable?

The CRTC, Canada’s broadcasting and telecommunications regulator (a la FCC in the US), is holding hearings into new media and if they should be subject to regulations.

As a quick backgrounder, I should explain that “traditional” broadcasters in Canada – television and radio, for the most part – are required to be licenced, and to air a specific percentage of “Canadian Content” within their broadcast day.

In 1999, the CRTC decided that while they had the legal authority to regulate the Internet and new media within Canada, they would not do so at that time as it was still emerging and taking shape.

Ten years later, they are looking into the issue again and it’s causing a lot of discussion and disagreement in the Canadian media and telecom sectors. There’s a lot to talk about on this issue, but I want to address one point that keeps coming up in popular discourse around Internet regulation.

Is it even possible to regulate the Internet? Many are discounting the possibility that the CRTC hearings will have a real impact because the sheer mass and apparent anarchy of the Internet make it seem like it cannot be regulated.

To assume that it cannot be regulated is foolish and dangerous. Canadians access the internet through a relatively small number of gatekeepers – Bell, Rogers, Telus, Shaw, Cogeco, Videotron. In any given geographic area, even heavily urbanized cities, there will be only two or three choices. Any regulations directed at those Canadian companies will affect how Canadians access the Internet.

For example, if the CRTC decided that a majority of videos provided to Canadians through their Internet connections had to be Canadian? It would be up to the ISPs to enforce that. You might suddenly find that the only video websites you can access are Canadian versions of YouTube with foreign video access curtailed severely.

The ability to control what you see on the Internet is already there. We’ve seen examples of this already in Canada. During the Telus/Telecommunications Workers Union lockout of 2005, Telus blocked access to a popular pro-union website for all of its subscribers across the country. They eventually restored access, but only after coming to a deal with the website forcing them to alter the content available so it was not as offensive towards Telus.

The reality is that the Internet is accessed through gatekeepers. Those gatekeepers might not be doing anything to your content at the moment, but the potential for them to do so is there. To dismiss the CRTC hearings by saying “oh, well you can’t regulate the internet anyway” is foolish.

I’ll have more to say on the CRTC hearings as they progress, but it’s a complex issue and I’m not entirely sure where I stand. Don’t take this post as an endorsement of “no regulation” — because it’s not. I truly haven’t made up my mind on this yet.

February 19, 2009   No Comments

The Power of Language

I’ve been paying closer attention to the stories coming out of the wire services lately. We’ve been monitoring the wires in my Radio Broadcast Journalism course; I’ve found it fascinating to see the speed at which stories are pushed through.

Of course, what I’ve found even more interesting is how many news outlets use the wires to provide breadth and depth of coverage, while really just republishing. CTV.ca is one of those outlets. I don’t actually object to this; that’s what outlets like AP and Canadian Press are for. CTVglobemedia can hardly be cited for not writing their own news through The Globe and Mail and the various CTV broadcast outlets. 

Anyway, my issue comes with how THIS Canadian Press story:

CRTC to review hands-off approach to unregulated internet

was republished by CTV as this:

CRTC mulls hands-off approach to Internet, cellphones

The stories are identical, but note the difference in headlines.

It may seem like semantics, but here is my problem. The CRTC is reconsidering a 1999 decision to esentially “leave the Internet alone” and to exempt it from things like the Canadian Content rules that apply to more traditional broadcast outlets.

CTV’s choice of the word “mull” changes the meaning of the headline. It gives the impression that the CRTC is not reconsidering an original decision, as the article actually states. Instead the headline gives more weight to the possibility of leaving the Internet unregulated. To replace the term “review” takes away the connotation that the previous decision may be changed, or that there was an error in the previous decision. It’s like me saying “I think I might do this” instead of “I decided to not do this, and now I’m changing my mind” — mulls vs review have completely different meanings there.

CTV is but one drop in the bucket of CTVglobemedia (aka CTV, a thwack of cable stations, The Globe and Mail, some radio stations…). It’s not unreasonable to think that in the future, a much larger proportion of our video and audio entertainment will be delivered through “new media” and some form of Internet connectivity. CTV has a huge vested interest in how these hearings go. If the CRTC maintains “status quo” with no content regulations on what Canadian broadcasters put online, CTV could be looking at a future where they don’t have to bother with what I’m sure they consider to be a frustrating burden.

Hence I find their altering of the headline to have suspect motivation. Given that the article came out of the wire service with a different headline, someone had to actively choose to alter it at CTV. The alteration distincly changes the connotation of the headline. It downplays the potential to interpret the past “unregulation” of the Internet as a mistake, which is clearly in CTV’s financial interests.

I suppose Chomsky would label this as an example of the “Ownership” filter… but getting into that sort of theory is a whole other blog post.

February 18, 2009   No Comments

Facepalm, in Broadcast Form

I know that criticizing Fox News for its editorial content is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel… but this clip just floored me.

CLICK TO WATCH Glenn Beck on “Socialism” VIA YOUTUBE

I can’t believe this. Right from the beginning with the bizarre ”Capitalism -> Socialism -> Communism” graphic, to the Soviet anthem playing in the background, to Glenn Beck accusing OTHERS of using “propaganda”, this clip is a mess of idiocy!

How does a network even pretend to be a news outlet with content like this? It’s a complete joke. I’m not even upset about the obvious slant. Fox has decided its function is to put forward neoconservative content – but this is just… smarmy and misleading. Does Glenn Beck even know what communism is? Changing the colours of your set to red and making lame jokes about “comrades” doesn’t really add to an intelligent discourse. 

It’s so frustrating to see policies that should be debated reduced to “Red Scare 2 – Electric Boogaloo” on a leading information (sigh – the label is so inaccurate) provider in the United States. 

I have to head out later tonight; I hope the large red welt on my forehead from the facepalm this video prompted isn’t too visible.

February 13, 2009   No Comments

Rob’s Blog v3.1

So, I’ve restarted my blog because we are supposed to blog for my “News and Current Affairs Theory” course. I always enjoyed blogging and really am glad to have the excuse to do it again, even if my readership will be far lower (non-existent, really) without the firestorm that is a picket line to draw readers

Who knows, I might post some of my old stuff under “Best of the RobSource” just to reminisce about how obnoxious “Happyscab” was. As it stands, I’m goito try and focus more on broader current events and media issues, as that’s quite a passion for me. That being said… I will often veer into the self-indulgent, narcissistic blogging habits that characterize the medium so you will probably see an equal number of posts about what blend of coffee I like today, or who/what got on my nerves today.

More posts coming soon!

February 13, 2009   No Comments