Journalist strikes back
Re: “The Problem with Media”
As a graduating journalism student I felt compelled to address James Attfield’s commentary “The Problem with Media.” While I admire his attempt to spur media towards a better tomorrow I was dismayed by the callow observations on which he based his argument.
For Attfield to degrade the sacrifices of journalists as mere “childish antics” is an insult beyond comprehension. Since 1996 more than 300 journalists have been killed trying to uphold the professional values Attfield so flippantly attacks. I invite him to write to the families of these brave men and women and explain how they didn’t “have the courage to do [their] jobs.”
But perhaps the gravest error in Attfield’s article is the naďve correlation between a free press and the truth. With few exceptions, there is no absolute truth. Life is not binary and cannot be neatly divided into right and wrong. As a reflection of life’s complexities, a truly free press seeks not to offer a singular truth but rather a collection of perspectives which stimulate discourse and create meaningful change.
Moreover, Attfield’s notion that a free press “is distinctly ours, distinctly Western” is patently false. Such a statement betrays his North American bias and global ignorance. A free press is one that exists, as much as possible, outside the spheres of political, economic and regulatory influence. The concept is an ideal, not a reality. Not even in Attfield’s exalted west does a genuinely free press exist.
In Canada, for example, CanWest Global Communication Corporation controls 14 daily and 126 community newspapers while retaining a 50 per cent share in the National Post. In recent years the conglomerate even went so far as to institute national editorials. These typically pro-Israel commentaries were printed across the country while dissenting editorials were muzzled. And yet, Attfield indolently ponders if the press is “too free” and “it’s time to rein it in.” How sad.
Equally disappointing is Attfield’s observation that “people no longer desire to know the facts” and “have become used to the lies.” If people are indeed “quietly complicit” in the failures of the press then how does Attfield account for the rise of alternative media and the explosion of independent news blogs on the Internet? I would argue that our desire to know the facts is greater now than at any time previous.
Media audiences are not “part of the problem.” They are the solution. Media have and will continue to doggedly pursue stories that expose our faults and celebrate our triumphs. Journalists will continue to fight for their profession even as newsrooms shrink and political pressures increase. They make such sacrifices because they believe in their audience. Pity Mr. Attfield doesn’t subscribe to the same.