Sunday, April 19, 2009

CBC News Sunday Earns Misplay of the Week

Back on February 24 I pointed out that, apparently, more journalists need media literacy when it comes to 'scientific studies.' Today on CBC News Sunday I learned that the problem runs far deeper than that. Aside from bad health and science reporting - arts reporting was today called into serious question.

On News Sunday today Evon Solomon and Caole MacNeil along with two guests (didn't get names, I think one of them was from were discussing Susan Boyle's appearance on Britain's Got Talent. There were three chief points in this discussion that I think are meaningful.

  • 1. That we were set up for the reaction to Boyle's performance because reality television is heavily scripted.

  • 2. That we expect our musical performers to be better packaged - pretty, well groomed, well dressed and well marketed

  • 3. That we are not used to natural talent - we are used to people who sing with digital enhancement etc.,

Point one is obvious. I just hope that journalists repeat it more often. There is very little that is real about reality television. It is just as scripted and packaged as comedy and drama. There are no surprises in reality tv.

Points two and three are deeply troubling and call into question whether arts journalists are actually doing journalism anymore. It was unclear who the 'we' they were referring to was but it obviously included themselves. It certainly does not include the people at CBC Radio - who have been doing an excellent job of covering Canadian music (especially Radio 3 and the new Radio 2). If the people at CBC sunday expect or are used to pre-packaged artists, who use digital enhancement and have large marketing teams then they have no idea whatsoever what is going on in Canadian music. It indicates that they are relying solely on press releases and marketing contacts for information and that they aren't actually practicing any journalism (in the sense of going out and doing their own research and finding things out for themselves.)

This wouldn't really be surprising. Canadian television does, on the whole, an incredibly poor job of covering the arts in this country. They are far more likely to cover the latest American blockbuster, the latest U2 tour, and anything that enables them to say "Hannah Montana" than they are to cover Canadian film, music, art, literature etc. They will say that this is because they have to appeal to a mainstream audience but that in itself is appalling. The 'mainstream' as it is called, is just another niche audience and they know it. The group referred to as mainstream is, due to audience fragmentation, no larger than the gay community in Canada - it is probably not that big (9.5% of the country at the best of times.) That everything on television is intended for less than 10% of the country may help explain the current financial woes of Canada's broadcasters.

Taken all together, the bad (or lack of) arts reporting combined with the narrowness of focus, it is certainly the "misplay of the week"

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