Internationally speaking, journalism has been dogged by outright corruption for decades. For example, bribery for positive coverage has been an issue, and no, Outline, it is nothing new. Foreign newspapers went so far as to doctor coverage for cash to bolster false refugee claims in Canada. When I wrote When Journalism was a Thing, I had done thorough research on other kinds of journalistic skulduggery, but I confined my focus to Canada, US, and the UK because had I mentioned other nations’ practices, there would be indignant replies that Western journalism was much better in comparison, which it actually isn’t. They use the same scams, just manifest them in different ways.
Because there aren’t any rules, global standards, empiricism, governing bodies, or anything resembling professional discipline, you aren’t going to get the full story. It is not as if things cannot slip through tiny cracks, but when you have big gaps, anything can come crawling up to infect the information stream. To express opinion is one thing, and I am a firm advocate of free speech — even things that I do not agree with — but when it comes to facts, then no, here, it is responsible speech. All facts are fair game — but you can’t just puke them out with manipulative propaganda attached to it. Fuck that.
But most people do not understand the professional life of journalists. I am forever amused by the Middle Class stupidity when it comes to how they perceive journalism. They highly edit their own Facebook page, but think journalists don’t do the same. Just how stupid are you — or do you think that you have the monopoly on being sneaky?
Maybe if you were more truthful with your selfies and personal slumps, you could spot highly edited bullshit a mile away. That’s on you.
But when someone who writes a newspaper column misses the obvious, you just know that I will have to call it out.
The Toronto Sun has this instructive column about the Jive Turkey Scandal. Most of the column is by-the-numbers, and unremarkable, except for this little nugget:
This brings us to the media coverage of this issue. Too many reporters are acting like columnists. The hyperbole is ridiculous. Journalists have concluded that something criminal has happened without first reporting the actual news.
No one seems to understand what a deferred prosecution agreement is. I believe both the former attorney general and the prime minister are telling the truth.
Now this passage is missing the point. No one actually cares about deferred prosecution. It’s not even relevant. Why has the Jive Turkey — who has gotten more lavish media coverage than most people deserve save for those who risk their lives saving and helping others — suddenly had the press turn on him so gleefully?
This rage puke is a collective catharsis. It is just like when you have to go with your parents to the home of a mean family friend or relative who keeps picking on you and insulting you for hours and you have to sit and take it — and then second you are out the door, you let the entire planet know what a worthless piece of garbage said mean family friend or relative is (for the rest of your life!)
So what gives?
I can tell you as someone who worked as a journalist what it is — it is the same thing the happened when Harvey Weinstein got great press in the beginning, but then it turned around in a heartbeat — because reporters covered him dishonestly in the beginning: they saw all of the horrible things he did because they have to hang around in corridors, and they talk to underlings and staff who spill tea, but they do not report it because they can be sued, even if they report the truth. They saw all sorts of things and heard all sorts of rumours, but they don’t tell the public.
I witnessed this the first time when I was a j-school student covering one city hall meeting — all the reporters told me about the affairs the members of council had with one person and how this same individual got positions as a result. There is your tax dollars at work. No one uttered a word outside those corridors, let along aired them in public.
And these reporters would know the Prime Minister better than the general public. They see things and hear things that they cannot report.
They still cannot, but now here is a legitimate outlet to express indirectly the sentiment they have.
For example, during one former Prime Minister’s tenure, a television reporter merely asked for the English version of a response given in French — and this person was manhandled by the RCMP as a result. There was no need for this level of violence, and I had even interviewed this person about it to confirm it, but good luck trying to find reference to it in a database or online — because it’s not there.
Things happen that the public never hears about — such as the relationships between reporters and politicians — we may vaguely recall that a lot of reporters ended up working for former President Barack Obama — how neutral was their coverage? If you are angling for a job, you are not going to be critical at all.
Just as some reporters keep silent to get something lucrative in return, others keep silent because they do not want to be sued and/or fired and/or blacklisted. There are no protections for news producers. Jody Wilson-Raybould was a prominent cabinet minister and when she stood her ground and used her own judgment, she was kicked to the curb. And for all the bullshit stories about the PM wanting to save jobs, it was only one job — his own seat in the next election — that counted. The member for Papineau, Quebec may have worried about jobs — the one public sector one, and a potential private sector once out of office — but Wilson-Raybould’s job was completely expendable.
So for a columnist to make that kind of decree is baffling. I am absolutely critical of journalism — but I am not blind to the fact that the structure of the profession hampers and harms the foot soldiers. If media owners stood behind their troops, it would be different, but they don’t.
So I am not surprised that we have the unleashed downloading on this man. The coverage before this scandal was beyond unrealistic to the point of farce. I am a very nice lady, and very moral and sensitive, but if someone wrote a fawning article about me making me out to be the next messiah, I would be just as upset as if they wrote a hatchet job on me to demonize me. I am a human being. I am not perfect. I have a temper. I can be stubborn. I also have no filter and will tell you what I think, but I am also the one who’ll go looking for you if you have strayed too far for too long. I am eccentric, enigmatic, and I do not give one flying fuck what other people think about me. I can tell you off and save your hide at the same time.
So don’t trope me one way or another, but the press did nothing but deify this man from Day One. They saw him as some sort of urbane messiah where there was not a single thing in his history that would warrant such high praise. He is a political dilettante, even now. He has a perpetual smirk on his face, and needs an entourage to validate his existence. Had the press boxed his ears from the beginning and prove to him that he is not as cunning as he thinks he is, none of this would be happening.
The press in the US is completely negative about their president, making it that much easier for him to ignore them, but the press here until now was soft on our prime minister, making it that much easier for him to mistake their fawning for outwitting them.
No, they saw what you really are all along.
And now that all pretence is off the table, they can finally rage. It is the reason why it is so loud and deep — and long.
This primal scream has been a long time coming, but once it starts, it just never stops…