Canadian journalism always struggled. It is not as if its owners didn’t make money, and many made enough to pick up American newspapers along the way. They did make money, and plenty of it.
But there is a difference between an owner making a profit, and the mechanisms of those who work for him.
The profession of journalism was never defined here, and aside from a Canadian Philosophy professor who observed that “the medium is the message”, this country’s contribution to the structure and progression of journalism is nil.
As in nothing.
The UK brought the concept of dogged determination, and understood the press should be an army of sorts (they have their Fleet Street, after all).
The US did a lot for the notions of journalism: from the byline to the idea of objectivity, Americans built up journalism, independent of others.
We understand journalism from what the Americans built from its original grains.
For all the systemic problems journalism has, Americans were the ones that took that concept, and made it a significant player in the social weave. That is undeniable, regardless of what you feel about the profession now.
Canada’s contributions have been nonexistent. There is no specific style of interviewing that is distinctly Canadian. There is no style of school of thought. Their universities discovered no innovations or new methods, let alone insights.
For a country obsessed with its cultural identity — the one place where a cultural identity would make indelible in-roads with the nation — journalism, they never even thought of trying to do it there.
That is not a minor oversight. That is akin to wearing a blindfold and never taking it off.
When you do not contribute to how your educate your public on the events and issues of the day, your profession begins to stagnate.
To explain how this makes trouble, suppose you have to make a dinner for a group of people, but you can’t cook.
What do you do?
Well, you grab a few recipes and follow them. It gets you so far, but you start to notice that marinating and cutting vegetables takes work. You have to babysit the stuff cooking and baking, and you have no natural feel for this process, and yet you want to impress people.
You might start using the tricks of feeders: people who take shortcuts because they have no feel or tolerance for nuances. You lay on the spices and rubs. You add lots of fats, sugars, and sauces to mask that your meat is undercooked or burned, or that your vegetables are overcooked.
You soon have no respect for those who prepare food for hours and do it a day or two before. You scoff at chefs who do all sorts of strange things with the kinds of tools and utensils you have no idea what they are used for.
But your guests didn’t spit things out, and gave you praise enough, and you buy the hype, thinking you are way better than those chumps you went to school.
You get it in your head that you can start a restaurant, using all of those trucks and cheats…
And you go right out of business.
Because you have no natural feel for the art or science of making food.
This is the latent mindset of Canadian journalists: they stick to a few rules they think are cheats, and then follow a script.
They crib from the American model, thinking it’s all the same, anyway, and they spew.
But as there is no confidence in this method, they have to use another cheat: strategic obedience to authority.
Sheltering and praising men in power to stay in the game.
It hasn’t worked. In 2018, we have journalists whose idea to save the industry is to ask the government to bail them out without looking inward at how they got themselves in that mess to begin with.
#MeToo has exposed the ideological divide between US and Canadian journalism.
Americans have their own set of cheats: in their case, it is the patriarchal narrative of their stories: you have a hero who must win up against a villain who must lose.
This is the reason that people on the Left had an absolute meltdown when Donald Trump whumped Hillary Clinton in November 2016.
He was painted as the villain by the Left. He was such an easy target for it. Snidely Whiplash could not have served as a better foil to the Democrats who spun a false narrative of their designated heroine. This was supposed to be obvious to all the little people in America, who would have drawn the obvious conclusion, go to the ballot box, and let the heroine win as the villain skulked away in shame.
Except that didn’t happen. Clinton lost, and in the game of patriarchal narratives, that made her the villain by default.
In truth, this is rubbish. There is no narrative in an election campaign. Person A presents a platform on how he or she will conduct business. Person B does the same. People compare and contrast, and then vote for the platform they feel most comfortable with. There are no heroes or villains: just two different bids.
But the traditional press who are Left-leaning ideologically, had a meltdown: that meant that they backed a villain. In truth, they backed a losing candidate, but that their narratives could not get Americans to go lockstep to the polls with their marching orders brought their absolute ruin as a force in society.
The narrative gambit lost its potency, and it spelled the end of Patriarchal truisms.
In it place came social media’s #MeToo — it is more (not entirely) Matriarchal. It is not about a single person. There are various threads and avenues you can follow. That is one of the reasons it captured the imagination of millions.
Because it is more in tune with American ideals of justice and righting wrongs in a system.
Americans believe in constant reassessment and improved. They actually comprehend the concept of feedback, and the idea no matter how good a situation, there is always room for improvement.
It is not universally applied, however. Journalism never rolled that way, and it is the reason it fell behind. Social media will follow the same trajectory because they picked up all the bad habits of journalism, without considering whether those habits brought their predecessor’s ruin.
Canada is not so brave or humble. It has a static framework that it is kinder, gentler, and morally superior to the US; hence, they do not have to improve on anything because of it.
Things must be naturally better; so don’t bother working at it or trying to figure out why something actually — or just seemingly works.
The result is a journalism that has nearly the same resemblance as it did before. No change.
There may be a few more women and minorities working in outlets, but they are still stuck in that same toxic and confining patriarchal structure that destroyed the profession.
The content becomes irrelevant if you don’t make the necessary structural changes. Imagine living in a house where the only way to move between floors is to climb a rope. Unless you have people who can climb a rope and slide down one, people are stuck in place. It doesn’t matter if you now invite more women — if they aren’t climbing ropes, they will not be doing anything differently than the men before them.
You have to admit having just ropes to get around was a stupid thing to do, and then go build a house with ramps, stairs, and even an elevator or escalator allow for different ways to get around.
But #MeToo has not have the same response by the Canadian press. They absolutely are sickened and repulsed by the very idea that someone in power can be seen as a predator who is a villain.
Because the press here has a peculiar strategy of using obedience to authority to gain credibility: if you think you are great, then whoever you support must also be great, and there can be no way that person isn’t great. For horrible things to be made public about them, disproves that the leader is great — and the system of giving him power also is flawed.
And when you have journalists running to men in power demanding that they fund their sinking ships, they do it with the inherent assumption that it is not a conflict of interest for media outlets to want government interference. The obscene request completely nullifies journalism. I have a right not to buy a newspaper. Demanding that taxpayers buy a newspaper — without actually even getting one — is unsanctioned insanity, and should be ridiculed off the table entirely.
You are either a journalist, or you are not.
Asking for government funding throws you in the latter category.
A true journalists fight tooth and nail to keep government away from it.
And now #MeToo has come into this country, threatening to take down anyone in power, and erasing any potential inroads to getting money from taxpayers.
Trump exposed the structural flaws of US journalism. #MeToo is doing the same to Canadian journalism.
Neither model is working because neither bothered to look for ways to improve journalism. It has always been a sloppy profession, and it is time to create an alternative that has focus and the methods required to do it right.