Monday, April 04, 2005

Standing Senate Committee - On the Media

The Leader Post, in their February 4, 2005 edition, covered a story captioned “Canada needs media think tank, U of R professor tells committee.” The deputy chair to the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications is none other than Saskatchewan’s own David Tkachuk who was a former hawk in the days of the infamous Grant Devine government. He was then appointed to the Senate through a process the majority of Canadians have never understood or supported.

Submissions to the committee suggested that Canada needs a media think tank. It was suggested that the media today is more concerned with the bottom line and less about service to the community. This may be true of most media outlets, but not the Saskatchewan weekly newspapers. The weeklies must make a profit, but they live and work in such close proximity to their readers that they are driven to a more accurate reporting of news events. Service to their community in an honest, balanced manner serves to support their bottom line. They are not about to bite the hand that feeds them. The large, corporate media outlets are less sensitive to what the public thinks of their reporting because they are less likely to meet them on their way to work the next day.

More submissions suggested convergence has damaged the sense of diversity in the media ever since regulations of ownership disappeared and that there used to be more competition around the media. I don’t believe this is the core issue that may lead the media to have a negative effect on society. The reporters and the management within media have a responsibility to accurately report on news and community affairs that is an honest, balanced representation of the facts. This is mostly evident in the weekly papers where the publishers and editors are pillars of character in the communities they serve. Can the same be said of other major media outlets?

It was stated that the public needs to do their duty if they expect a fair, independent, strong and healthy press. I disagree. The public is very active in communicating news and community events and affairs to the media. The weekly papers around Saskatchewan engage and trust individuals from numerous communities in their coverage area to report and in some cases even draft news reports for edification before print. The weekly papers and the public are in partnership to positively report on and enhance their respective communities. Is this the goal of the other media outlets?

Senator David Tkachuk complained that citizens had shown little interest in the committee hearings. That is true and we all know why. The government, in a variety of forms at our expense, goes about listening to the citizens, but never hears and mostly never acts on what they thought they heard. The true Senators are the citizens of this country and they have made a far greater contribution to community than government committees or appointed Senators will ever understand.

David Tkachuk claims he wants to hear from more working journalists to assist him in confirming if there are less reporters now, than in previous years, in the various media outlets. It seems to me that the committee should have been empowered to simply make a phone call and ask the question of the media outlets. It would be unreasonable to expect a reporter to voluntarily go before his committee and report that his employer was too cheap to hire sufficient reporters to cover the news and serve the community.

The public and the federal government will receive the committee’s recommendations in June of this year for consideration. This should be interesting! Regardless, it won’t change the honest and balanced reporting we receive from the weekly papers where people of character and principles are the pillars of their paper.

Larry Birkbeck