Robert Fife from the Globe and Mail got called out for thinking the Canadian government shouldn’t study “systemic racism” because “kids of all ethnic backgrounds are hanging around with each other.”
One MP, Celina Caesar-Chavannes, did not like his remarks and retorted that his remarks made her question his “ability to investigate stories of the Canadian experience without bias.”
For her observations, Canadian Right-wing commentators branded her a racist as well as “seeing racism everywhere”, with her supporters countering the charge.
Now, I am a Caucasian female, but I can tell you that I have also studied media coverage for a couple of decades, and can see very clearly not only a sexist bent, but also a racist one. Not all sins are by commission. It is also by omission.
I don’t see hard news stories specifically addressing youth or immigrant unemployment as it relates to those subgroups, for instance. I don’t see stories about how black women who have been victimized fare in the court system, let alone what has been going on to First Nations women.
And should a reporter do such a story, it will not become a beat, nor will it speak directly to those people who feel the impact of the issue directly. There is a whiff of Those People.
It’s still Us. Journalism is supposed to address Us. We need to know about things, but the soul of a story should focus on the subset of Us first, but then radiate so the rest of Us can understand the issue, person, event, or problem.
But journalism keep screwing it up. They never do relevant stories. If they target Those People Way Over There, it is some advertorial feel good Yayness! dreck that doesn’t actually give pertinent information that can be used to as a map.
So while it is fine that we have people who have accomplished great things, it doesn’t provide anything of value if you are an immigrant who runs a store, and suddenly, the neighbourhood thugs start shaking you down for “protection money.” Is this just happening to you? The entire neighbourhood? Or just because you are an immigrant?
Good journalism should be a form of Spread of Activation: make a connection with a certain subset, and then let the rest of Us understand the issue. It should always be You-focussed, and serious, not some silly cheering giving out little paper crowns to people.
People need facts. They need to know if they are falling behind. They need to know if they are safe. They need to know if there is a solution, and if there none, there has to be a way to let people know why not.
We pour billions of dollars into healthcare. We have no shortage of civil servants making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year — how many patients were cured under their care?
Not given drugs to make them go away with an illness to nurse, but actually cured, as in, they can leave alive and healthier than they were going in and do not have to keep going back.
Every person who isn’t cured is a system’s failure.
And the same holds true for homelessness. Every person who is homeless is a city’s failure.
Let’s not forget about the crime rate. How many people were robbed, beaten, raped, abducted, or murdered today? Every person not saved and every criminal not held accountable is a justice system’s failure.
No spinning it so people making an upper class wage can keep a status quo rigged in their favour without them ever having to produce anything of value.
Every news report should be how many people were failed today? How many people have fallen under the cracks or behind? How many people were held back? How many people wandered away too far for too long and nothing was resolved in a timely manner?
How many university students graduated without being able to land a decent job? What is the institution’s failure rate?
The success rate is advertising.
The failure rate is news.
Journalism has become propaganda — always spinning things to happy news, and that is the precise reason it is racist and sexist.
Because to acknowledge failure means we are inclusive in our coverage: and we know very well how many groups are in over their heads through no fault of their own. Because they have been failed, and then made to feel like failures, and they run and hide in shame.
The patronizing efforts of doing a happy piece here and there is the equivalent of a doctor giving a happy pill so the patient is left sick, but just goes away thinking something substantial was accomplished. It is nothing but a sham.
Racism can be completely eradicated. Sexism, too. If you do not like news about failure, then start thinking in terms of how to create a higher success rate, aiming for not just 100%, but 1000%, so no one will be facing that edge.
So the Honourable Caesar-Chavannes doesn’t need me to tell her that she is right. I will not patronize her in any way.
But those masquerading as journalists do need to be told that by someone who had studied them for years because she was in their ranks, and so, I am saying it.
We live in an oppressively sexist and racist world. Journalism helps perpetrate that sexism and racism with how they see the world, and how they cover news.
Let’s get our act together, people. It’s time to start assessing our society’s failure rates and begin to plan from there…