Letters from Green Island

May 5 2008

Angus Reid Poll Shows respect for journalists continues to fall ...

Dear Current, Toronto Star, CBC PEI, a few others,

(original story also copied at the end of this letter)

I write in reference to the survey concerning the respect Canadians have for different professions just released, and its indication that journalists aren't doing so well (interestingly enough not apparently covered by any major Cdn media, nothing I could find in the National Post, Suns or CBC, and only a short mention in passing in a Star editorial): Angus Reid Poll: Politicians Garner the Lowest Level of Respect Among Canadians Priests and journalists see significant drop in level of respect since 1994; doctors only group to see an increase

As you will see, if you look, journalists have fallen considerably in respect the last few years, with only politicians and lawyers rating lower in major professions. However, I write not to gloat, but because I have written you all recently, and been met with either silence in most cases or protest in the one or two who have responded - perhaps this survey will give you some pause to reconsider what I have to say. And perhaps not, of course.

I write now, and earlier, because I care about the media a great deal - you/they are a central part of a functioning democracy, and when the media stops doing their job properly, we are all in trouble. I am a concerned and engaged citizen, and rely on the media for information - and it is very distressing to realise that I cannot trust the media in the way I should be able to - and not only personally distressing, but a serious indicator that we are in some danger as a society, as many have noted the crucial connection between a viable democracy and a free and **responsible** media. I am also old enough to remember when the media was much more respected in our country, and with reason, as they were doing a much better job - they were working for 'we the people' back then, whereas now you really seem to be working for 'they the corporation' first, and 'we the people' only through the corporate filter - oh, I know you pretend to be working for we the people, and regularly feel a need to tell us all how lucky we are to be 'served' by the great Canadian media, but that's the kind of dissembling that is causing your reputation to suffer so, when people who are paying attention understand that you are saying one thing whilst doing another.

It's more than a touch ironic that this survey was released only a couple of days before what is being called World Press Freedom Day - as I have noted before, in letters those I wrote to chose to not even acknowledge, freedom is not worth much without responsibility, and although you all have lots of the former, there's a pretty good argument to be made that you're equally deficient in the latter, at least if we consider responsibility to the people of Canada, rather than to the rulers of Canada (and owners of your jobs, of course). And this survey shows I am far from the only person thinking along these lines. (I obviously cannot claim to speak for anyone other than myself, but I suspect this survey indicates that a lot of others feel as I do about what is happening with the Canadian media.)

If you're already dismissing this poll (and letter) with something like "Oh, we're really doing a WONDERFUL!!! job, and those stupid people just don't understand it - like the Cdn gov and Afghanistan, we just need to do a better selling job!" - which often seems to be the attitude of various people in the media, when you talk about 'selling your product' better - well, there's not likely much hope for you. Because actually, you are *not* doing a wonderful job, and, somewhat unfortunately for you, the people who care ARE smart enough to understand that. And you don't help anything by denying the obvious, by refusing to look in a mirror sometime and honestly assess your failings to We the People of Canada.

But I suspect a lot of you, or at least some of you, are perhaps somewhat puzzled by the low opinion of so many people towards modern journalists/journalism, and actually want to provide a good service, and since I am probably even more dismayed at what is going on, I offer a few short thoughts on what you might do to improve your image - and your service, for they are quite inseparable - good service, good image. And bad service, bad image, which is what you are seeing in this survey. Good advertising translates to good image only for a short time - to retain that good image, the product or service has to live up to expectations, and in a number of important ways, the Canadian journalism 'product' is failing its users. It's not that people are not smart enough to understand your great work, it's that they are smart enough to see that modern journalism in Canada (and elsewhere), under all the glitz and fancy advertising about itself, is indeed failing in its service, and thus falling in its value, to everyone, and thus their opinion falls along with it.

You seem at times to be confusing superficial glitz - which you have lots of, as it's the modern corporate way - with quality. We the People out here don't have that problem, at least those of us who are truly interested in the news - we can separate the fluff from the content quite easily, and it's more than a little distressing the last few years to see how fluff is taking up more and more of your 'product' - probably an inverse sort of relation there, higher fluff content, lower ratings. (As a by-the-way, news is not a 'product' to those of us who care about substance rather than pretty wrappings, and if you can start to understand that, then maybe you will start to understand other things as well about what this survey is saying. Providing news is a service, and a very important one. Your falling ratings should be a message that you are not doing such a great job of providing the service. The people of shallow mind who are attracted by glitz aren't much interested in real news, whilst those of us who are concerned about real news aren't interested in glitz and fluff.)

People everywhere see their country and world disintegrating around them, and they look to the media for some help in understanding this, and you are simply not meeting the challenge. As people look and think, they see you are more involved with propaganda than with providing the full coverage of news you are supposed to be providing (this relates to so many people turning to alternative news and commentary on the internet - yes, there's a lot of crap in internetland, but there is also a great deal of useful commentary that is lacking from the mainstream sources - commentary that makes a lot of sense in explaining our world, and your refusal to allow such coverage in your spaces speaks volumes as to what you are really doing. (and don't forget about the huge amount of crap in the mainstream media, as well)) People see that your coverage has certain holes in it, certain very important holes - for instance, you do some things well, such as the coverage of the Fredericton flooding, but for some things, some major things, such as the current food crisis, and many other problems we face in the modern world, including the recent and ongoing financial crisis, are the direct result of (the becoming rather blatantly obvious) capitalistic excesses, which is obvious to anyone who has been following things the last lot of years, yet you tiptoe around this highly important fact which should be receiving serious attention with only the faintest suggestions of criticism of the bankers and speculators and system responsible, as if Capitalism is some vengeful god which must not be angered. Actually, I suppose that's true from your perspective insofar as you value your pretty good jobs and understand that people seriously criticising capitalism aren't going to keep those jobs long - but people know this, and when they see that you in the media will not challenge this god directly because you are all in thrall to capitalistic owners and dare not displease them - well, there goes the ol credibility and respect, and here comes the internet, where people are not afraid to call capitalistic excesses exactly that, and share knowledge and demand changes. And the surveys mentioned at the first are the result - your coverage of things like the Fredericton flood is fine, but the kind of thing we would expect from a competent local media - but where is the For the People!! function of the media, in, as the old saying goes, not only comforting the afflicted, but afflicting the comfortable? Nowhere to be found, in the mainstream media, thus your once good reputation is becoming equally hard to justify in the minds of Canadians who follow world events seriously and turn where they must for useful analysis - which is not, these days, your mainstream media.

But actually, conversely, what *are* you up to in 'our' media? Not only not examining capitalistic excesses critically, but constantly trying to sell the idea that Market Capitalism is the Greatest Thing That Ever Happened And Shall NEVER be Questioned!!!! and etc - if we're having problems, your coverage goes, it's not because of too much capitalism or lack of regulation of these psychotics, it's because we need more of it!!!! More deregulation of banks, more privatisation, lower taxes, smaller government to levy even token control on these people - more and more!! Why do I hear Michael Hlinka several times a week on the CBC extolling the wonders of capitalism, and telling us how lost jobs and lower incomes and security and losing the farms in Canada are GREAT!!! YEA!!! - and yet there is no regular voice wondering if the great bear is getting a little out of control and maybe needs to be reined in a bit?? - there are certainly many well known and eloquent Canadians who could do such a job, yet the doors to the CBC seem pretty much closed to them, even though they speak for far more Canadians than Mr Hlinka ever will (token well-controlled appearances a couple of times a year do not count as 'balance' in the face of the daily onslaught of pro-capitalist propaganda). And likewise in the print media, where, although there is the odd voice of sanity allowed therein, primarily in the Star, such voices are very much in the background of the endless parade of 'Capitalism is WONDERFUL!!' voices we get day in day out.

I might note, for some other recent examples of things you are doing that do not ring very true with 'we the people' and thus add weight to your sinking credibility, your ongoing boosterism of the Afghanistan invasion (and invasion it was, we were most certainly not 'invited', as the current rewriting-history campaign is trying to change things to, with your compliance) - most Canadians do not support this, yet everywhere in the media they see stories about our brave soldiers, and speeches from Canadian government people telling Canadians to support our troops, and the wonderful development we are doing there, etc and etc, Get On Board With The MISSION!!! You People!!!! is the constant message emanating from the Cdn media - but next to no coverage of the many reasons we should not have gone there in the first place, any intelligent analysis of the real reasons we took part in the invasion or the longer term geopolitical goals, analysis from the POV of the many Afghanis who do NOT want us there, why we should not be staying there, at least under the current plans, and etc. Or your coverage of the Ontario election last year, when Ontarians were asked to consider changing their voting system, was a disgraceful debacle on the part of the media, with it's chorus of 'YOU DON'T WANT TO DO THAT!!!', and next to no coverage of voices explaining why it would be a good idea or honestly attempting to educate Ontarians as to how it worked. It was a debacle in other ways as well, as the media tried to set the framing of all the issues, rather than letting the people say what THEY thought was important.

But that is actually the entire point of the modern media, isn't it - not 'reporting what is happening', but creating a narrative for the Canadian people to believe in - a narrative that many Canadians are resisting as they see its falseness, thus your low approval ratings, as we don't yet believe we are in Orwell's world where 'history' was simply what Big Brother deemed it to be, no need to recall 'facts' at all ('we are in Afghanistan at the invitation of their government'!! - any of you ever read that before and protest at its inaccuracy?).

Well, I could go on (at length), but if your past is any indication, you aren't much interested in listening to what I have to say (or the undoubtedly many others who think and write as I do out here in 'we the people' country, not to be seen or heard in the Canadian media, but setting up many outposts in internetland, so we know they are there, whether you want to acknowledge them or not), so I'll leave it now.

But for those of you who actually do care about the media, and the **service** you are supposed to be providing to Canadians (rather than the endless stream of 'everybody loves capitalism!!!' service to the corporate government of Canada) - the thoughts I offer here are the opening to the door you must go through if you want to improve your image among we the people of Canada. If you want to.

(a couple of the letters I mention that I have written recently concerning the difference between 'press freedom' and 'press responsibility', and the tendency of the major Cdn media to feel the need to regularly tell us how well they 'serve' us, and related - I'm actually inclined to write a lot more, but it's pretty much a waste of time considering the response rate ... but as one who cares, I can't really stop without giving up, and I'm not ready to do that yet ....

What about press responsibility - Feb 2/07

The Canadian Press - Free Enough - But Is Free Enough? Oct 23/07 - Ms Toughill telling us how lucky we are to be 'served' by the Cdn media - I offer some alternative thoughts, which are, as per usual, not desired nor answered ....

Dear Peter - July 24/07 - Peter Mansbridge tells his listeners how great the CBC is doing its job, I offer an opinion which is not mentioned -

Maybe they should start with a mirror - Mar 13/07 - on Ira Basin's somewhat acclaimed Spin Cycle, that I thought was a bit more coverup than mea culpa

Fair and Balanced? Not really - Sept 11/06

Several more commenting on the Canadian media overall here - almost none of which received any reply (Mr. Leeuwen of the PEI CBC the one exception, correspondance with him here http://www.rudemacedon.ca/lgi/08/0130-cbc-pei.html ) - and ongoing at On Green Island )

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Angus Reid Poll: Politicians Garner the Lowest Level of Respect Among Canadians Priests and journalists see significant drop in level of respect since 1994; doctors only group to see an increase

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[VANCOUVER – May 1, 2008] – Canadians give top marks to doctors, teachers and police officers, a new Angus Reid Strategies poll has found, while politicians garner the least amount of respect.

In the online survey of a representative national sample, a large majority of Canadians say they have a great deal or a fair amount of respect for doctors (94%), police officers (83%) and teachers (83%). At the bottom end are politicians (25%), lawyers (44%) and journalists (49%).

The results of the current survey are especially noteworthy when compared to those of an identical poll carried out by the Angus Reid Group in 1994. Interestingly, over the past 14 years, respect for every single profession—with the exception of doctors—has diminished across the country.

The professionals who endured the most noticeable slump are journalists. In 2008, less than half of all respondents say they have a great deal or a fair amount of respect for journalists (49%), compared to 73 per cent in 1994.

Religious and legal careers also see a big drop in support since 1994, with respect for priests and ministers decreasing by 15 points (76% in 1994 versus 61% in 2008), and lawyers seeing a 13-point decline (57% in 1994 versus 44% in 2008).

In contrast, doctors are the lone group to see a slight surge in numbers over the last 24 years, with 94 per cent of Canadians saying they have a great deal or a fair amount of respect for this profession (compared to 91% in 1994).

In this year’s survey, medical practitioners have the highest support across all provinces (reaching a high of 96% in British Columbia), while politicians have the lowest regional support—with particularly low numbers in the Atlantic Provinces (14%). In Quebec, politicians have better reputations: more than one-in-three respondents (35%) express a great deal or a fair amount of respect for political careers (more than any of the other provinces).

The age breakdown reveals that younger adults (aged 18-34) have more respect than the other two groups for all professions (with the exception of police officers, where the highest level of respect comes from the 35-54 group).

The level of respect young adults have for politicians and lawyers is of particular interest. More than half of respondents in this group (54%) say they respect a legal career (compared to 40% for the 34-54 group and 42% for the 55+ group) and one-in-three (34%) say they respect politicians (compared to 20% for the 35-54 group and 25% for the 55+ group).

On the gender front, women have more respect than men for the majority of professions, with the most noticeable difference seen in their view of lawyers. While one-in-two female respondents (54%) feel that a legal career is a very respectable profession, only 33 per cent of males concur.

CONTACT Mario Canseco, Director of Global Studies, 604-647-3570, mario.canseco@angus-reid.com
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