The Diminishment of Canada

This was originally posted in the comments by M.J. O’Brien, but I thought it worth bringing to the fore.

I see greed for excessive profits breeding powerful executives in the Canadian news industry as it loses sight of the original canons of journalism.

Concomitantly I fear that news/editorial departments will be converted to low-autonomy entities reporting to profit centres.

In these two events, trust in the Canadian media will be lost and the easier, more boisterous American choices will replace Canadian outlets on the screens of Canadian viewers. In that, Canada will be diminished.

I don’t know much about TV news. Until recently I wrote magazine news and articles, traveling internationally for Maclean Hunter and its successors.

I had come to sense Canadian TV news people were the best in the world– few, but if you find one, they are best.

The last war I covered was the American War against Iraq which ended 1 May 2003 when, from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, U.S. President George Bush announced the invasion’s successful conclusion.

With pen, laptop and camera I covered the occupation of Iraq by The United States, Britain and a small few allied forces from May 2003 for about a year until mid 2004. From that time on I pursued another career.

I have been to all the continents including war zones around the globe, not with sound/film crews but with still camera and notepad.

For me, the most trusted faces I observed from my quiet corners in the scariest places often have been Canadian TV journalists, including those of Don Murray and Patrick Brown and their crews.

These are people who know that ratings and profits are undeserved unless their seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events/issues happens first.

They know that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy.

When I would see them on a random “Air Canada” flight I would guess or ask about the story they were visiting and silently say thanks for the fact that at least someone of the general media would be getting it right. It was not about being Canadian but about being good. That once was the Canadian news industry’s focus.

I remember in the summer of 1990 I was helping Dale Grant with a book; covering the SuperGun story and the post 8-year war Mid-East for Maclean Hunter some time after famous Canadian entrepreneur Gerry Bull (Grant, D. Wilderness of Mirrors. 1991) was assassinated; and around the time Saddam Hussein was invading Kuwait.

Suddenly I was coming back from overseas to Oka, Quebec to cover the Royal 22e Régiment (Van Doos) deployed near Montreal against Canadians (How freaky is that?)

The typical ‘domestic’ Canadian reporters had no war-zone experience (no wars in Canada) hence Canadian news outlets re-assigned and brought home one or more of their people from overseas.

Those assignment editors acted correctly. So did the ‘Van Doos’ peacekeepers. In the end, everyone went home without a scratch, with little hype. That really was the story. We all went back to the Mid East to cover real war and Saddam Hussein’s eventual ouster from Kuwait.

Can you imagine the Oka story being handled by a bunch of sensationalizing, muck-raking, rabble-rousing rating-chasers the likes of which emerges more and more these days when the bean-counting money grubbers start doing the editorial hiring and firing?

Those dedicated to the real craft of journalism, like CBC once upon a time, know that every “news organization has only its credibility and reputation to rely on” (Tony Burman, editor-in-chief, CBC News). The credibility and reputation Tony Burman referred to was earned by people like Brown and Murray.

The Canadian viewer came to trust Canadian news outlets becasue of the work of people like Brown and Murray and would flip the channel away from the American station carrying ‘Desperate Housewives” to catch the Canadian news.

Let’s face it. I am saying that Murray and Brown always got it right in my opinion and I always counted on that. I bet you did too. Their credibility and reputation was lent to the news outlet they worked for. To what outlet and country will the trust and respect for them be transferred to now?

There is an erosion of good talent in the general press in the Western World. The world’s TV media is overall very dirty now and getting dirtier as the distinction between “church and state” slides. The integrity of good Canadian media people like Brown and Murray held the industry accountable and the industry maintained its respect and credibility in the eyes and minds of the world.

What if we continue to lose our best and brightest people?

Ratings, money and greed, drive the ship. Once upon a time it was a zealous will to serve the viewer with solid reporting and unequivocal separation between news and opinion no matter who paid the bills.

For whatever reason, Canada’s news reporting industry held on to its canons of journalism to become the best, most reliable, most trusted in the world. (i.e.:There isn’t a place on this planet you cannot listen to or find others listening to CBC’s “As it Happens” .)

A change is in the wind. It seems the editor’s side of the house has only vague control of itself.

The CBC has traditionally fought the editorial vs. ratings/advertising crap and won the day in the long run. The same is true for a number of other media institutions in Canada and yes, not just CBC but elsewhere at home and around the world.

In Canada, the general press once did a good job of maintaining quality reporting; deep sleuthing; reasonable cynicism; and a zealous pursuit of all the “W’s?”.

People and only people make the difference in the news business.

As Canadian media institutions slide because of the quest for the almighty dollar and the need to be a total media monopoly (a.k.a. Rogers; AOL-Time-Warner-CNN; and their ilk), they fire good editors and writers and pay the marketing executives another bonus for the money they saved/made.

Here’s what I mean with my heading: ‘Diminishment of Canada.’

Without trusted professionals like Brown and Murray in the Canadian news industry, where will viewers go?

Ask yourself this. If a child is raised in the south of Saskatchewan with only U.S. news, books and art, is the child a Canadian?


  1. Dwight Williams
    Posted November 6, 2008 at 11:58 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Except that most of the regular cast is – or are seen to be – “of us”, the kind of Canadians who support Canadian independence as much as they can get away with given their oaths and the perceptions of their superiors in that regard*. For many of them, the US governmental turnover might be seen as a godsend.

    * – I trust that Denis McGrath will correct me if I’m in error on this point.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted November 5, 2008 at 7:11 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    It just occured to me that an important premise of “The Border” is a Bush administration. Maybe where we still have a backward looking, paranoid right-wing Govt. in Canada the show will still …

  3. Dwight Williams
    Posted November 4, 2008 at 10:19 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Amen, friend.

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