That’s info-tainment

Russell Wangersky
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Face it — if it were a star in the sky, the media would be a red giant, on the aged edge of flying apart. Cash-strapped newsrooms focus on the quickest news, the fires, car crashes, the quick hits that type fast and post online even more quickly.

Many have given up entirely on information, and lurch ever-closer to the quick splatter of info-tainment — will the host eat a chocolate-covered cricket? How about a slug? The freak show is winning.

Do we care?

That’s only half the question.

More to the point, do we care enough to actually do anything? Or is it easier to be passingly irate, be prodded to care on an ad hoc basis, the sort of thing where you get to puff out your feathers but safely never have to do anything like put even something as small as a bit of your time at risk?

I hear a lot about what the newsmedia should do, what it should cover, and even more often, what we aren’t covering.

I hear a lot about bias.

Is there bias in the so-called mainstream media? Probably there is, simply because of the age, education and makeup of the workforce.

Then again, what about bias in the promotional material sent to you by federal parties?

If you don’t recognize that for what it is, then you’re an idiot. It is political propaganda, designed only to obtain your vote or your donation — and right now, it often carries pleas for more money to fund more pamphlets, because “the media

doesn’t tell the truth.”

Conservative direct mail campaigns seem unaffected by cost or even accuracy — there is no requirement that they even approach even-handedness, even as they blame others, directly and dishonestly, for not being even-handed. It’s not a question of having a different viewpoint — it’s the willingness to twist facts and outright lie. Other political parties, though not as strident or blatantly idealogical as the Conservative screeds, share the same purpose.

Still, what signs are there that we actually have a culture where we are concerned about being involved and informed voters? People don’t want to buy newspapers, pay fees for news, or even ante up the few pennies a year it takes to keep the CBC robust enough to keep politicians on their toes.

The audience is disinterested, caring more about circuses and the divorces of entertainers.

They don’t seem to want to be involved: they just want to watch the parade.

And when I say involvement, I’m not talking about the comfort of the snide anonymous comment, either.

Drive-by shooting the media messenger is fun, all right, but it doesn’t move the process forward, and it doesn’t in any way make us better voters or citizens. It doesn’t provide information, any more than “Jack’s a man-whore” written on a bathroom stall provides a character reference.

Journalism is atrophying — newsrooms are smaller, staff have to cover things on a whole host of different platforms and the financial pinch means we’re covering things less deeply all the time. Add to that the fact that the Internet is training everyone to have shorter attention spans, and ask yourself just exactly where you expect to get any sort of detailed and complete analysis of complex issues. From a blogger who focuses on specific issues and comments on the news, but never actually attends an event or even asks a question? Is that the solution? Try it once there isn’t a mainstream crowd to actually speak to politicians or anyone else.

Or are you expecting any of our political parties to send you a handy mailout with the unvarnished truth?

Things change, and the traditional media is fading. I get that. But what exactly is replacing it? Where are we supposed to get the information we need to vote or to develop opinions or consider how our cities — even our country — should grow and prosper?

There are those who benefit from a nation’s collective ignorance. But it’s not the average citizen.

I’m darned angry. But wait — there’s a new kitten video.

Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s

news editor. He can be reached by email at

Organizations: CBC

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