Lookin’ out for the little guy, the woman on the street

There was a comment recently about how a journalist interviewed LaPierre on his shale gas report and hammered him and then interviewed Dr. Cleary and treated her like Mother Theresa.  I can’t shed any insight into the approach or views of specific journalists but I was told something once by a veterin political journalist in the province that put things into perspective for me.    I asked him what was the role of the journalist when it came to big, controversial public policy issues (the one at the time was the sale of NB Power to HQ).   After thinking about it he said it was to look out for the little guy or the man on the street – I am paraphrasing here.  In his mind, governments have their spin machines and message makers, big industry groups and other organizations also have organized machines to get their points across but the average guy/gal on the street doesn’t.  Therefore, for  him, the journalist should be extra vigilant on the big files.

From this perspective you can somewhat understand the journalist being harder on LaPierre and easier on Cleary.   Lapierre is advocating for a ‘change’ – dealing with natural resources and existing controversy in the United States.  Cleary is looking out for the little guy, too.

I don’t particularly mind that definition of a journalist.  I only quibble with the definition of the ‘interests’ of that woman the street.  I argue she would be better off living in a province with a stronger economy, even if she had to put up with drilling trucks on the roads and hard hatted men in the local casino.

No one ever said journalists were impartial or disinterested actors.

 

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2 Responses to Lookin’ out for the little guy, the woman on the street

  1. We both agree that the ‘woman in the street’ would be better off with a robust economy. My point would be that the model NB has been following so far will not lead to a better economy.

    One thing we need is reform in the media, so it actually reports things that have happened, rather than the outright fabrications that are currently its specialty.

    Your suggestion that media is covering Cleary like Mother Teresa is the opposite of what is happening.

    When I went away for a trip the news was that Cleary’s report might be released. When i came back a week later there was a second report (apparently authored at the last minute) that received all the publicity – and the newspaper here even today has banner headlines touting LaPierre and completely ignoring Cleary. The manipulation of the news is transparent, but apparently acceptable here.

    It’s like the Radian 6 layoffs. The government announcements big incentives for the company, which then sells out to foreign interests, resulting in the layoffs of 100 staff. Did this actually happen ? If you read the local newspaper, it did not happen; it simply wasn’t covered.

  2. richard says:

    “I asked him what was the role of the journalist when it came to big, controversial public policy issues (the one at the time was the sale of NB Power to HQ). After thinking about it he said it was to look out for the little guy or the man on the street”

    Two comments:
    1) Every org, public and private, has spinners these days, not just governments. For a journalist to ‘spin’ in another direction is hardly helpful or informatiive. In the case of the CBC (and these were CBC interviews), it seems to me to be a departure from the CBC mandate.
    2) Surely a goal of professional journalists should be to employ professional standards in his/her reporting. It is not a question of being impartial or disinterested; it is a question of professionalism. For example, an obvious question to Cleary would have been ‘You are concerned about boomtown effects of shale gas, but what about boomtown effects of a new sawmill? What’s the difference?’ Take a professional, rather than a populist approach, and you are looking out for the little guy, rather than just appearing to do so. In this case, the interviewer was appearing to side with the little guy without actually doing so. Frankly, I believe that was his goal. It was all about market share, not taking a professional approach to the story. It is not helpful when the talking head is just another spinner.

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