Vancouver: the day the media died

Will legacy media survive obvious false equivalency?

by Bruce Mason

Blip. Blip. Mainly comatose for ages, that’s the sound of mainstream media in the Lower Mainland. A weak, worrisome flat-line from a sad, deteriorating shadow of its former self.

But the epic failure to properly cover the first First Nation’s Kinder Morgan pipeline protest and Kwekwecnewtxw (watch house) construction was a widely exposed nail in the corporate media coffin. The latest injury, self inflicted, was complicated by a combination of severe circulation loss, ownership quackery and deceitful malpractice.

We’ve learned, by now, local media doesn’t work, especially on weekends and holidays when, supposedly, nothing happens, except sports or rock concerts. So on March 10, it was skeleton crews in newsrooms, in the city and on Burnaby Mountain that screwed up the biggest story in a generation. Even CBC-Radio lost its voice and loyal listeners, having to apologize in a re-vamped story and clarification. Good old Mother Corp. got earfulls from an angry, ongoing chorus.

Compare pictures. On one side: 10,000 protectors, swamping the Lake City Way Skytrain station and rallying at the Trudeau-Notley-Kinder Morgan clear-cut sacrifice zone. On the other side: 100+ out-of-towners, bussed from Alberta, casually shuffling around with other tourists, snapping selfies beneath the now-extinguished Winter Olympic flame.

One hundred to one, given equal time and coverage. The obscenely rich one percent own most of the world’s power and media. But there were more anti-pipeline protestors in Edmonton than imported pro-pipeliners in Vancouver. And many more volunteers at the gates of the Kinder Morgan tank farm than pipe-dreaming visitors downtown.

Facebook comments included, “What’s wrong with this picture?… False equivalence, like American-style Sean Spicer BS… CBC is no longer a voice of the people. So sad… Like giving flat-Earthers equal media time during the launch of a spaceship… a boycott of Global is in order… the pro-pipeline event was organized by Albertans. Figures.”

Meanwhile, coverage in Seattle and San Francisco was far superior, being fairer and more accurate. Then again, it took the New York Times to expose BC as the “Wild West of Canadian Politics.” So we leave it to them and the independents and social media to report on the ongoing international story of “Standing Rock, North.”

Blah… blah. Radio? CKNW has transmogrified from “Top Dog” into a Fox News sub-station. The lights are out and no one’s home, let alone being worthy of finding ice for Jack Webster’s scotch or stirring Rafe Mair’s coffee.

Anchors aweigh? There isn’t a TV personality in this town who wouldn’t be light weight on a set next to Tony Parsons. Fade to black. In the words of another former press legend, Allan Fotheringham, “It’s all fuzzifying of the muddification.” Chit-chat.

Current would-be reporters shrink in comparison to those who built the Vancouver Sun and Province, invented talk radio and earned our attention and ratings – the once-proud tradition of fearlessly engaged and competent journalism. From tall shoulders, our contemporary cub-pack of wannabees have tumbled, feeble and spineless.

Know that it wasn’t always this way, or this bad. Bob Hunter co-founded Greenpeace through his Sun column, with publicly raised funds, including a benefit concert featuring two virtual unknowns: Joni Mitchell and James Taylor. It stopped a US nuclear bomb test way up in Alaska!

Essential history: we on the west-coast shouted “No way!” much like today’s “You’ll never build your deadly pipeline or tanker traffic here!” Not in a hard-won Nuclear-Free Zone where 200,000+ people marched in Vancouver’s Walk for Peace and will link arms once again. Likely in larger numbers to shut down yet another greed-driven American assault on life. That’s our real legacy.

I was once a writer for the Vancouver Show, comprised of two hours of live television, five nights a week. How I long to see Grand Chief Stewart Phillip emerge from a green room for more than a few edited seconds. Even if we can’t have inspiration and advocacy, we deserve balanced information that informs and reflects our reality. Hello, that’s the job of journalism. Or it used to be.

Instead, we get shameful “false equivalence,” worthy of Donald J. Trump’s inauguration crowd-size claims, with alt-right-like speculation: protestors, supposedly paid by US agitators, or manipulated by Russian hackers.

Legacy media have all but ignored the corruption and criminal greed that flipped Vancouver into the unaffordability stratosphere. They knowingly and wilfully hid and shilled on BC Hydro, ICBC, Site C boondoggles and so much more. Now, they been caught out, clearly no longer required, or believed.

The last word goes to Hunter S. Thompson: “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity.”

Support independent media in the days ahead; inform and engage on social media and in-person. Text the word ‘READY’ to #52267 for when and how you can help stop Kinder Morgan and share in the story of our lifetime.

photo montage by Tom Voydh

2 thoughts on “Vancouver: the day the media died”

  1. I think this is a very weak article.

    1.In regards to the false equivalence between 10,000 anti pipeline protesters on one side and 100 pro pipeline people on the other side, fair enough, but the presentation of any protest is inherently a false presentation. As much as the 100 pro pipeline is 1/100 of the 10,000 protesters, the protesters are approximately 1/250 of the entire population of the Lower Mainland. To suggest that these 10,000 say anything about the 2.5 million Lower Mainland residents is as false as what the writer complains about here.

    2.In regards to the rose colored glass memories of former journalists and journalism:
    A.Tony Parsons was the anchor at BCTV during the 1986 British Columbia election where the station provided fawning coverage of Social Credit leader Bill VanderZalm and sensationalized and frequently played the video of NDP leader Bob Skelly’s nervous election kick-off. In the 1983 British Columbia election, BCTV was among the leaders in the media that presented the idea that anybody who opposed ‘restraint’ was completely out of the mainstream and unfit to govern. The idea that BCTV (or even Tony Parsons) was a neutral media outlet in the 1980s is simply laughable.

    B.I don’t want to go on a rant about Rafe Mair, but simply because he became an ardent activist environmentalist in the last years of his life, does not, for me anyway, excuse what a frequently vicious demagogue he was. In addition to frequently extremely nastily attacking anybody who was not a ‘moral anti abortion’ type like he was, he was also a completely unbalanced opponent of the Charlottetown Accord. While I realize the Accord was not perfect and that many Indigenous leaders opposed it, it also would have enshrined into the Constitution Indigenous Self Government and would have recognized Indigenous governments as a co-equal third order of government.

    I can’t remember if Mair opposed the Charlottetown Accord in part due to this, but I do remember that he presented an unbalanced opposition to the Accord and did not give much of any opportunity for the supporters of the Accord to state their case. Given the outsized influence that Rafe Mair had in British Columbia at the time, I think this was an issue that went beyond the idea of “it was his show, he could present whatever he wanted.”

    So, as not to go off on a rant here about Rafe Mair, I’ll simply leave off by pointing out that the fawning tributes to him are quite disgusting.

  2. “I would argue that what little ethical and moral foundation the country has is deeply threatened by the crumbling discipline of a fossil fuel based economy and the politics it spawns. Nothing requires government supervision in so many areas (and nothing has anything like the influence on government) as this industry. It follows that no other industry remotely requires the amount and kind of honest, wary media surveillance this one does,” the late Rafe Mair aptly wrote in his newly released book Politically Incorrect, in which he forensically dissects democracy’s decline in Canada and suggests how it may be helped. “What has the media, especially but hardly exclusively the print media, done in response to this immense challenge? It’s joined fortunes with the petroleum industry. And a very large part of it has done so in print and in public. The facts are that the rest of the media have not raised a peep of protest at this unholiest of alliances and that governments contentedly and smugly pretend all that favourable coverage they get proves their efficiency—not that the fix is in and they’re part of that fix. Let me just comment that the difference from 1972 to 2017 in the media’s dealing with governments and politics takes the breath away!” AND
    When the former Canadian lawyer, political commentator, radio personality and politician in B.C. (who passed away last October) makes reference to “the rest of the media”, I believe that includes the liberal Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), not to mention The Toronto Star and Metro.
    While the public broadcaster has, and likely always will, zealously involve itself in the politics of race (and that of the respective race’s relevantly related religion), gender and gender-bending—the three major social issues most intensely covered by the overtly socially progressive CBC—I’ve found that it’s been complicitly negligent in its coverage of the petroleum industry’s iron grip on our nation’s oil resource and by extension the negative impacts on the health of our natural environment and ecosystems. AND
    Although conservative mainstream news-media in North America (and perhaps even Britain) might generally be expected to behave implicitly apologetic towards big environmental polluters, such as the corporate crude-oil sector, the relatively few yet equally mainstream outlets of an outwardly liberal slant, conversely, might be expected to vastly voice the alarm on all ecological threats, both potentially and in ongoing practice.
    However, from what I’ve observed over the last half-dozen years or so, the latter fail to do so, even though basic common sense, at least to me, would dictate that genuine ecological threats and disasters would be given the highest priority.
    Meanwhile, those progressive-reputation newspapers are very zealous in printing numerous stories (which I find have an unfortunate distractive effect away from even serious eco-concerns) on persecuted and disadvantaged minority groups, most notably those of race (and perhaps that of relevant related religion), sexuality, gender, and especially stories involving society’s most disenfranchised—the homeless and those with mindbogglingly decrepit living quarters very few of us would even think of inhabiting; and, to not be mistaken, I find stupendous and crucial such journalistic social activism. (As it were, the current potent distraction is that of the celebrity sexual misconduct scandals flowing from the showbiz industry, and its unquestionable long-overdue legitimacy makes it all the more effective diversion from critical natural environment concerns planet wide.) But to me it’s clearly counterproductively absurd to continue that fervent extensive-coverage activism without the thorough inclusion of the grave threats to the natural environment and eco-systems—and therefore us humans—by big industries.
    (As an aside: I wonder whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, at this point in time anyway, has his re-election hopes hinged upon his currently favourable politics of race [and any relevantly related religion], gender and gender-bending, the three major social issues most enthusiastically covered by the overtly socially progressive Canadian newspapers, The Toronto Star and Metro, and the national CBC?)
    Furthermore, in thirty years of consuming mainstream news media, I’ve yet to come across a single serious thorough discussion—not even in the ‘liberal’ outlets (i.e. Metro and The Toronto Star)—on why our national and provincial governments consistently refuse to process our own oil and lumber here in Canada instead of exporting it bulk raw—that is, without the topic discussion already having been parameterized thus the outcome predetermined (or to me at least strongly seeming to do so). And I’m not talking about just on the one and same day, open and closed topic, as I’ve witnessed two or three of those insufficient efforts.
    However, if I somehow managed to miss one or more thorough print/electronic national discussions during the three decades that continued for at least a week, what reasons (good and bad) had been put forward to essentially render the issue conclusively settled—i.e. there are no practical and/or environmentally sound means of processing our own bulk raw lumber and crude oil?
    As for editors and journalists within the near-monopoly mainstream corporate news-media (e.g. Canada’s Postmedia), I believe they may be compromising their professionalism as well as perhaps their own eco-health-concern convictions for the sake of a buck and a byline (i.e. a company paycheque and a frequently published name with stories); however, there are also those climate science deniers-of-convenience who are especially susceptible to econo-euphoria and the concept of an unhindered libertarian economy with, of course, the oil industry at the top of that chain. But what infuriates me is that they, like our theocratically orientated previous (Conservative Stephen Harper) national government, are abusing their position of power and/or immense electorate-consent-manufacturing influence, and resultantly dragging the rest of the 99.99 percent of the globe’s population (i.e. us non-believers) to hell along with them.
    Some reporters and editors would (as though with big innocent fawn-like eyes) reply to such critiques as this with, “Who, me? I’m just the messenger.” Whatever the news media may be, they are not ‘just the messenger’; nor are they but a reflection of the community—or their consumership, for that matter—in which they circulate. They’ll be ‘just the messenger’ when the entire news production team consists of dispassionate robots, who couldn’t care less who rules the nation, who stays wealthy, and how to triple the daily freight shipments of diluted bitumen oil-sands product, etcetera; and then even those automatons would have to be programed by other artificial intelligence, and so on.
    Furthermore, very disturbing is the corresponding tendency, in general, for polled voters heading into an election to rate the environment as the least, or next to it, of their listed election issues of importance and, equally troubling, the economy as their primary concern. After all, seemingly goes the prevailing mentality, what back and brain busting labourer will readily retain the energy to worry about such things immediately unseen regardless of their most immense importance? AND
    Even worsening the entire situation, such widely published poll findings can perpetuate such skewed-logic priorities, as can a negligence of otherwise meriting eco-threat coverage erroneously imply there are no real, serious environmental concerns out there about which to worry. AND
    I see it all as somewhat like a cafeteria lineup consisting of diversely socially represented people, all adamantly arguing over which identifiable traditionally marginalized person should be at the front and, conversely, at the back of the line; and, furthermore, to whom amongst them should go the last piece of quality pie—all the while the interstellar spaceship on which they’re all permanently confined is burning and suffering some serious storage-tank-breach spillage of lethally toxic chemicals at onboard locations that cannot be immediately seen.
    But in their defense, how can the general populace truly know what is in fact most important when the immense gravity of a situation is basically neglected by the mainstream news-media—except on the rare North American occasion of a Houston (Texas) Hurricane Harvey or New Orleans (Louisiana) Hurricane Katrina where there’s an unmistakably big brightly-lit sore-thumb unprecedented devastation and large-human-toll event (1,800-plus fatalities in the latter catastrophic occurrence during August 23-31, 2005) that no one can readily dismiss.
    Granted, I could understand why a more palliative approach to our Earthly fate might be in order, such as significantly correcting primary social injustices amongst the planet’s populaces, had humankind’s fate been irreversibly solidified in regards to global warming, as believed by a responding editor with a British monthly climate-concerned publication as well as many reputable climate scientists. AND
    As a species, we really can be so narrow-mindedly over-preoccupied with our own admittedly overwhelming little worlds, that we’ll miss the most critical biggest of pictures.


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