- Hi, my name is Andrew.
- I make radio and think about stuff.
- This is
“Just a friendly reminder that democracy isn’t simply picking one side to be in charge every four years. It’s a process that happens every day in a variety of forums and ways.”
I wrote that on Facebook yesterday, and a shorter version on Twitter. As of now it has 20-odd likes and 4 shares (plus a number of retweets), which for me is a pretty high number for a status update. It seems to be resonating. At the risk of destroying that resonance, here is an attempt to expand on the thoughts going through my mind when I posted it, the day after British Columbia’s provincial election. I wrote it in that context, but I think it applies to any democratic society with free and fair elections, decent human rights, and relative freedom for the majority of its citizens.
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First of all, if you are among the people who were threatening to leave if your choice of party didn’t form government, you might as well go ahead and do it now. I don’t care which side you’re on. Even if things went your way this time around, eventually your party will be turfed. Why put off the inevitable? Obviously you don’t have anything here you care that deeply about, because if you did you would stay and fight for it. There are legitimate reasons for leaving, but discovering that one political party is more popular than another is not among them.
Now that that’s out of the way, this is for the rest of you. It doesn’t really matter if your party won or your party lost or even if you voted or not. Your political power, your ability to control what happens in your city, province, and country, is not limited to your vote. There’s this misconception that democracy only happens every four years or so, and is simply the process of picking a group of politicians to be in charge until the next time democracy appears for us to use over a twelve-hour period, then it goes away. This is incorrect.
At its simplest, democracy is rule by the people. It implies a certain amount of equality, a certain amount of freedom, and a fairly stable civil society. There’s lots of other things that people say are and aren’t required for democracy but this isn’t a political science paper. Here in Canada we live in a democracy. It’s not a perfect one, and not everyone has as much of a say as they should, but it is a democracy nonetheless. So this notion of it being rule by the people holds.
There’s this misconception that democracy only happens every four years or so, and is simply the process of picking a group of politicians to be in charge until the next time democracy appears for us to use over a twelve-hour period, then it goes away. This is incorrect.
This means that even though we’ve elected some people to talk about laws and policies, they still aren’t “in charge.” If we all decided we didn’t like what they were doing, there’s legal, non-violent ways to fix that. In fact, we just saw an obvious example of that in B.C. The Liberals wanted the Harmonized Sales Tax. They were the government. And yet the HST was repealed because enough people made enough noise to force a referendum on the issue, and the people against HST won. Democracy in action when there isn’t an election.
There’s lots of ways to make your voice heard. There’s protests. There’s civil disobedience. There’s writing letters to your MLA. There’s writing letters to the editor. There’s municipal elections coming up. You can vote for a mayor who will express your feelings to the province and the country. You could even be that mayor.
I’m not saying any of this is easy. But heck, you think anything important is? At a certain level, the reason they’re “in charge” and you aren’t is because they worked for it. That’s why their name was on the ballot and yours wasn’t. If yours was and you aren’t currently an MLA then you understand how difficult it is.
Let’s talk about the people whose party of choice didn’t form government. I get that it hurts. You worked hard for an outcome that didn’t materialize. Take some time to mourn.
But resist the temptation to write off everyone who voted differently than you would have liked. The instant we stop seeing the other choices in a democracy as legitimate is the instant we stop having a democracy. That’s why the leaders of parties who don’t form government make concession speeches rather than call for open rebellion. They recognize the system is legitimate and that the outcome, though not what they wanted, is acceptable. It’s healthy for the rest of us to do the same until there’s a truly compelling reason not to.
The instant we stop seeing the other choices in a democracy as legitimate is the instant we stop having a democracy.
This doesn’t mean you just have to sit around and accept everything that happens between now and next time, though. If there’s an issue that matters to you, you’re going to have to keep working. This means sitting down in meetings, going door-to-door, talking to media, organizing rallies, and mounting petitions. We have multiple levels of government, a workable legal system, and a relatively free society. It is by no means easy to make things happen the instant you want them to happen, but that’s a feature, not a flaw. It’s tough for you? It’s tough for everyone else, too, including those whose interests seem to be opposite yours. There’s checks and balances in place. Use them.
To those of you whose party of choice is forming government: don’t gloat. It’s unbecoming. Do not think for a second that this outcome means the viewpoints of everyone who voted for someone else are illegitimate. As cheesy as it to say it, let’s go with the golden rule here: how would you like to be treated if your party lost? Try doing things that way. Because as I said before, it WILL happen. When it does you’ll be better off if you set a good example.
How would you like to be treated if your party lost? Try doing things that way.
OK, back to everyone. There’s a temptation to refer to elections in terms of “winners” and “losers”, “battles” and “wars.” I’ve done it and, so help me, I’ll do it again. But is that really the terminology we want to apply to our fellow citizens? On my street alone, I saw signs for both major parties. I don’t want to think of my neighbours as enemies. I wave to them. I’d much rather think that they are people with legitimate points of view that happen to differ, and that maybe with work and genuine openness, those differences can be smoothed over and some form of consensus can be built.
Put it this way: permanent change comes from changing the culture, not just from winning an election. Let’s use gay marriage as an example. Not so long ago, this easily could have been a party vs party issue in Canada. And if it worked that way, we could have a situation where every time power changed hands, so too did gay marriage rights. Party A is in power: gay marriage is allowed. Party B gets elected four years later, now it isn’t. That’s not workable long-term.
Pretty much anything that we think of as fundamentally “right”- at some point, someone had to do a whole lot of convincing to the people in charge.
Instead, proponents of gay marriage have mounted a long, long campaign of changing people’s attitudes to the extent that in many places, in the public sphere at least, it’s a non-issue. This campaign has included elections, to be sure, but it’s also included court battles, parades, television shows, and simply sitting down and talking with opponents. Same goes for the right of women and minorities to vote. Or intermarriage. Or pretty much anything that we think of as fundamentally “right”- at some point, someone had to do a whole lot of convincing to the people in charge. The battle for equality isn’t over, but (in Canada, at least), the changes that have been made can’t be unmade in a single election.
If you truly believe you’re in the right and the issue you believe in is important enough, you should be willing to win people over, not just win at the ballot box. Conversely, you should also be willing to entertain the notion that you’re wrong. Listen to the challenges to your point of view and truly consider them. If your only defence is to plug your ears and shout, you’re not doing anyone any favours.
What I’m trying to say is this isn’t over. Not for the people who got their way on Tuesday, and not for the people who didn’t. At the risk of repeating myself, democracy isn’t simply picking one side to be in charge every four years. It’s a process that happens every day in a variety of forums and ways. Get out there and use it.
(By the way, if you’re one of the people who feels like the democracy we have isn’t responsive enough to your needs and so have decided not to participate, I have a separate post for you).
When we got word that baited cat traps might be coming to the neighbourhood, it was time to spring into action.
We’ve been trying different techniques for keeping our cats in our yard since we bought this house. The biggest problem was the cat who came with the house (the old owners had left him behind with instructions to take him to the SPCA). This is his neighbourhood and he’d spent most of his life outdoors. He didn’t take well to being inside at all. We tried sectioning off a portion of the yard for him as a little enclosure attached to the house, but he first climbed his way out, and then when we made that impossible, started digging into the main yard and hitting the road.
Anyways, this isn’t a post about whether cats should be indoor or outdoor or whether cat traps should be allowed or not. Some cats really want to spend time outdoors, and other people want to bait cat traps and we’ve encountered both and here’s what seems to be working.
Buy a bunch of chicken wire- basically how ever many feet of fence you have, get that plus change. Also buy what I think are called galvanized steel restraints (they look roughly like this)- approximately one per section of fence, plus a few more for corners, etc. You’ll also needs staples/staple gun and a method of attaching the steel restraints to the fence.
So first we went around the yard and screwed the steel restraints in to the middle of every section of fence. Then we took the chicken wire and ran it along the fence, stapling it in. We put the chicken wire in such a way that there is no platform or paw-holds for the cats to climb onto, it’s all covered in chicken wire. Then we used excess wire to tie the steel to the chicken wire. Then we went around and bent the steel at an angle so the cats look up and see that not only can they not climb the fence, they can’t jump over it. Bonus is the chicken wire is loose enough so if the cats try to jump on it they’ll find it not exactly stable. I’m explaining this poorly in words so here are pictures.
After a few false starts where we had to fill in gaps and adjust angles, we’ve had some days in a row now where the cats have been unable to leave. The main escape one isn’t super-happy with the arrangement, but he’ll adjust, especially as we expand parts of our garden to be more exciting for him to explore. I expect we’ll have to consistently monitor and repair, but for now it’s working. It’s a compromise.
One of the things I find most interesting about travel is discovering what’s changed since you left. This weekend I was gone exactly sixty hours, but weather-wise it could have been months. On Friday at 9 am it was five degrees- there had been snow not long before, and winter coats weren’t out of the question. By Sunday at 9 pm it was shorts and sandals weather, green grass everywhere, with the temperature coming down from the twenties earlier in the day.
I’ve noticed that the amount of time you are gone makes very little difference in what’s actually changed. I’ve been gone for weeks and returned to a city that’s exactly the same as I left: weather, buildings, people, news. Other times there’s a dramatic difference in a matter of hours.
Wikipedia note for international readers: “The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (French: Société Radio-Canada), commonly known as CBC and officially as CBC/Radio-Canada, is a Canadian crown corporation that serves as the national public radio and television broadcaster. Radio-Canada is the national French-language broadcast arm of the corporation.”
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I’m interested in the future of the CBC, and have been for years as a listener and fan. Now I’m an employee, which is awesome. However, it does make me aware that anything I have to say about the current headlines about the organization will be taken with a grain of salt.
For that reason, I’m not actually going to express any of my own thoughts on this, but instead point you to a number of other sources-including statements from government- so you can form your own opinion. This is not comprehensive by any means, but the below links will give you a quick overview.
Globe and Mail - Harper tightening the reins on CBC, Via Rail and Canada Post:
“A section of the budget bill gives the federal cabinet the explicit power to give Crown corporations orders as to how they should negotiate with employees, both unionized and non-unionized. Further, the bill gives the government the power to have a Treasury Board official sit in on collective bargaining negotiations at Crown corporations.”
Globe and Mail - We don’t work for ‘union bosses,’ Tories say, taking aim at CBC, Via, Canada Post
“On Wednesday morning following a Conservative caucus meeting, both Mr. Clement and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty declined to answer questions from reporters. Instead the government position was expressed by Parliamentary Secretary Pierre Poilievre, an MP Prime Minister Stephen Harper often relies on to stir controversy and speak for the government on hot files.
“‘I am not here to take marching orders from union bosses,’ said Mr. Poilievre. ‘I represent taxpayers and frankly taxpayers expect us to keep costs under control so that we can keep taxes down. It is for those taxpayers that we work. Not union bosses.’
“The government said in the 2013 budget that it wants Crown corporations to move to a 50/50 cost sharing arrangement between employees and employers for pensions. It also wants retirement ages at Crown corporations to be aligned with recent changes in the core public service.
“‘Any liabilities from a Crown corporation are passed on to taxpayers. We are the representatives of Canada’s taxpayers and we have a responsibility to ensure that those Crown corporations live within their means and that the costs are kept affordable to Canadian taxpayers,’ he said. ‘Our focus is on low tax, low-spending government that eliminates the deficit on time and on schedule and this is part of the package to make that happen.’”
The Hill Times – Feds threatening journalist independence of CBC under new power over wages, benefits, collective bargaining, say critics:
“Canada’s leading proponent of public broadcasting called the measure a step toward ‘radio Moscow’ after The Hill Times reported on the proposal on Tuesday in the government’s bill to implement the March budget sparking an outcry shortly after the story was posted.
“Ian Morrison, spokesperson for the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, which has for years promoted continued government funding for the CBC as well as its independence from the government of the day, made the comment after news of the Conservative government’s plan created a storm of denunciation on Twitter and also drew strong NDP and Liberal criticism in Parliament.
“‘It’s moving in the direction away from the kind of independence that we need in a democratic society from the public broadcaster, especially at a time of huge concentration of ownership and decision-making in the private sector broadcasting. It’s very troubling. I suppose they might have thought it would slip through and no one would notice,’ Mr. Morrison said.”
Andrew Coyne – The real question that the AG report raises but nobody will ask
“The question many people would ask nowadays about VIA, Canada Post and the CBC is not “why isn’t the government sitting in on their labour negotiations,” but why do these three organizations exist in their present form? Is a heavily subsidized state monopoly really the only way to run a railroad? What does it even mean to maintain a state monopoly on first-class mail, when fewer and fewer people send letters of any kind? What purpose does a publicly funded, general-interest broadcaster serve when broadcasting itself is disappearing, as it were, before our eyes?”
CBC/Radio-Canada’s statement on Bill C-60:
“We are keenly aware of the financial realities facing Canadians. CBC/Radio-Canada has not asked Government for additional funding for many years. In 2012, the Corporation’s budget was cut $115 million dollars as part of CBC/Radio-Canada’s contribution to the government’s Deficit Reduction Action Plan (DRAP).
“Despite the loss of 800 jobs during the financial crisis and 650 jobs as a result of DRAP, CBC/Radio-Canada has managed to preserve and, in the case of regional stations, actually expand the services it provides. We have continued to implement our Strategy 2015, which has been endorsed by the Government. We have continued to develop and showcase very popular Canadian programming across our networks. We are still the only broadcaster with so much Canadian programming in prime time, when Canadians are watching television.
“All of this is possible because of the support of Canadian taxpayers. CBC/Radio-Canada values and respects that support. To demonstrate that it is using those resources responsibly, it reports to Parliament and Canadians, the CRTC, and the Auditor-General of Canada. In February 2013, the Auditor General’s special examination confirmed that CBC/Radio-Canada manages its assets efficiently and economically.
“CBC/Radio-Canada supports the Government’s goal of ensuring that compensation and benefits are aligned with the private sector. That is why, for the past several years, the Corporation has used an independent Human Resources advisor, Mercer, to benchmark what we pay our employees compared to the industry in which we are required to operate. Salary increases at the Corporation have averaged 1.9% over the past seven years. Salaries in the private sector have increased an average of 3% over the same period.”
You may also be interested in some other commentary about CBC in recent years:
“A kid can make a feature film with an iPod touch, or learn how to code apps and make a million bucks. But what’s scary is that the options for entertainment on that same iPod touch are just so compelling that… well, why bother?”
- Paul Miller, “How my creativity got killed”
“I’m sure if you read around for long enough you might find an opinion that’s similar to yours, but their opinion isn’t yours and the way that you articulate your opinion is unique to you.”
- Owen Williams, “Too busy consuming to create”
“Speak only if it improves upon the silence.”
- Mohandas Gandhi
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there is a lot of good stuff out there. Like, a lot. Blog posts, Soundcloud tracks, albums with 8.1 out of 10 on Pitchfork, “featured reads”, investigative journalism, must-see TV, award winning novels. It’s all great, and more of it is being created every day. But there’s no way you’re going to skim even the surface. You’re barely able to get through your Facebook feed in the morning, let alone read the entire newspaper.
So why do we add to the noise? Why do we tweet, Instagram, write Facebook rants and generally contribute to this mess? I personally help create two-and-a-half hours of radio every morning, plus another hour every other week, plus a blog post every few days, plus who-knows-how-much other content I try to push on you through my Twitter and Tumblr feeds. Who’s looking at it all? Who is this all for?
Faced with the deluge of information that is the year 2013, I constantly have two contradictory instincts. One is to shut up. The other is to say something.
The shut up comes from the feeling that there’s already so much good stuff, why bother? What the heck is the point of me writing this post when there are literally Pulitzer Prize-winning features a click away? Have you seen Breaking Bad yet? There are literally hundreds of things out there that I think are way better than what’s on offer on this blog, and I’m the one who’s writing it, so why even bother?
The say something comes from the feeling that even though there’s all this good stuff out there, there are still things I want to read and hear that don’t exist. There are articles that articulate parts of what I’m trying to express with this post, but I still haven’t seen anything that encapsulates my feelings exactly. I suppose I could spend hours trawling the internet, copying and pasting snippets until I get close, but even then I don’t think it would do the trick. These thoughts are weighing on my mind, and this blog has become the best way for me to get them out and discover if they mean anything.
And that’s why anyone and everyone should create. Even if it isn’t destined to become one of the “top ten things you should read this year” or a must-see/listen/tweet of the day, it will mean something to you. Music, movies, radio, writing- these are all means of self-discovery. And you’d be surprised how often things you don’t think will resonate with anyone else actually will. It turns out that even though there’s a lot of stuff already out there, people are always ready to discover something new.
But even if you put it out there and no one responds, move on. It’s nothing personal. You’re building the tools and the skills to make something even better the next time around. And every time you do that, you’re learning more about your craft and about yourself.
By all means post status updates, like your friends’ photos, retweet and reblog and heart and share. But take time away from the noise and sit down and craft something that will last longer than the few seconds it takes to read it on a cellphone, something that strives to improve upon the silence.
Shut up and say something.
Yesterday I was on Facebook when one of those sidebar ads popped up trying to get me to “like” a page. You know the ones- “Joe Blow likes Super Cola” followed by a picture of Super Cola and a big like button for you to click.
Only in this case it wasn’t Joe Blow and Super Cola. It was a journalist liking a politician running in the provincial election.
My assumption is that the journalist liked the politician’s page because he/she wants to cover the campaign from all angles. Social media is a big part of elections now. It makes sense to follow things this way.
Of course, I know this because I’ve considered the dilemma of interacting with politicians on Facebook. I’m not convinced everyone else will react the same way I did.
It would be easy for someone to see this sidebar ad and think the journalist is actively supporting the politician. After all, it doesn’t say “Journalist is following Politician for research purposes.” It says “Journalist likes Politician.” Positive language that sounds very close to an endorsement.
This might not be problematic if you only saw “likes” when you visited someone’s profile. Upon visiting this journalist’s page you can clearly see that the “likes” extend to every candidate, party, and party leader in the election. If there’s a bias to be had, it’s equally distributed.
Unfortunately, this information does not stay quietly tucked away. It is forced out into the open. I saw the information, out of context, in a sidebar. Not only does it tell me that this journalist “likes” a single politician without letting me know about all the others, it subtly encourages me to “like” the politician as well- almost acting as a peer-to-peer endorsement.
This isn’t a problem on other social media. On Twitter you “follow” people. Following just means you’re interested in what’s happening, not that you “like” it. But in Facebook, everything has to be a positive interaction. You “like” pages. You “friend” people. There’s no room for relationships that aren’t glowing reviews, ready to be packaged up and presented as advertisements for your other “friends” to see.
A couple of people have interpreted my post “Prince George is super racist, apparently” as a denial of the existence of racism or as an attempt to minimize the impact of racism in Prince George because it’s not demonstrably worse here than anywhere else. That was not my intention (I thought the line “It exists, and it’s terrible,” established that, but apparently not). So, once again, racism is real, it is harmful, and it should be confronted whenever possible.
My issue was the way in which a newspaper article about a racist incident didn’t stop at reporting on the occurrence of a racist incident. Instead, it widened the scope and settled upon quoting someone saying that Prince George is the most racist and bigoted place he’d ever been in Canada, based on purely subjective experience and without any form of qualification or challenge.
I’m trying to imagine this happening in other circumstances. You can have an article about a car accident without going to a pullquote about someone who thinks drivers here are just the worst- far worse than anywhere else they’ve visited. You can have an article about a murder without portraying the entire city as violent. So why does an article about a racial slur need to have someone call the entire city one of the most racist and bigoted, without qualification?
It would be nice if we could easily conclude Prince George is the most racist city in Canada because someone yelled at protesters and there were racial slurs in a workplace. If we could, it would mean the rest of the country would be havens of tolerance, completely free of even verbal racism. Unfortunately, that is not the case. For example:
My point isn’t to imply that any of these locations have particularly bad race relations compared to the rest of Canada, either. It’s to demonstrate that racism of the sort in the Citizen article (and worse) occurs across the country. Using the methodology of the Citizen/person quoted I could come to the conclusion that each and every one of these places is an outlier, the most racist and bigoted in Canada. More reasonably, I could conclude that it’s a problem not limited by geography, and what’s occurred in Prince George is, sadly, not unique.
Does that make racism OK or diminish the experience of those subjected to it? No. But drawing the conclusion that Prince George is uniquely bigoted and racist- and publishing a newspaper article that forwards that viewpoint without qualification- not only unfairly tarnishes the city in comparison to others, it fails to acknowledge the extent to which racism exists throughout the country.
Don’t be passive and don’t accept it. But don’t imagine it’s limited to here, either.
There is a follow-up to this post, titled “Racism is not limited to Prince George.” There’s a link at the bottom, too.
From the Prince George Citizen:
Rally met with ‘open rascism’
“About 30 minutes into the three-hour rally a middle-aged woman strolled past and suggested the 21 people at the gathering ‘get a job’ or ‘have a drink.’”
And… that’s it.
I get why this would be interpreteted as racist, given that the Idle No More movement is Aboriginal-based, and the stereotypes Aboriginal people in this country face.
But I’m not convinced this is open racism.
Telling protesters to get a job is hardly original and is tied more to ideology than race. More problematic is the comment to get a drink, which doesn’t really make sense unless you’re pulling out the stereotype. But that’s not not open racism, it’s veiled (semantics, I know, racism is racism).
Anyways, we’ve established that a single person in a city of 80,000 told protesters to get a job or have a drink. Surely we wouldn’t use this to publish a newspaper article implying the city as a whole is one of the most racist and bigoted in the country?
“[name] grew up in Prince George and has travelled across Canada from St. John’s, Nfld., to Haida Gwaii and agreed about the attitudes in his hometown.
‘Prince George is one of the most racist and bigoted places that I’ve ever been in,’ said the 24-year-old construction worker of European descent. ‘My girlfriend, and mother of my child, is half South African and I’ve been called a n*** lover in a workplace in Prince George and that was OK. This has happened quite a number of times.’”
Oh. Well then.
Look, these comments suck. But they are hardly proof that Prince George is one of the most racist and bigoted places the person quoted or anyone has ever been in. I’ve been here longer than him and have been called nothing of the sort (members of my own family are visible minorities, so there has been plenty of opportunity for all these racists to let the slurs rain down upon me. They have not.)
But you know what? My experience proves nothing either. We’re pitting anecdotal evidence against anecdotal evidence. His experience is as real as mine and both are only parts of the truth. You encounter one bigot on a bus somewhere. That doesn’t make the whole city racist. I don’t encounter racism of the sort quoted. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, either.
I’m not trying to brush racism aside, or suggest it doesn’t happen. It exists, and it’s terrible.
My overall issue is with the way this report is put together. It fails to seek out the other side of the story (the people who don’t think the city is more racist than others) or find some actual proof- an expert or demographics. It’s just anecdotes. I could create basically any narrative I want using this method. And I do take issue with reporting that paints a portrait of an entire city as racist based on anecdote.
Follow-up: Racism is not limited to Prince George.
If you have your company name in your Twitter handle, you might want to reconsider. Here’s an example of why.
Dayleen Van Ryswyk was going to run in the current provincial election as a member of the NDP.
Then this happened, and she was removed from the party.
By the next day, she had decided to run as an independent.
Among whatever other logistics go along with that transition, she was met with this one:
Like so many others, Van Ryswyk tied her Twitter identity to the brand she represented, landing on @Dayleenndp. I’ve seen the same done for pretty much everything: political parties, TV stations, restaurants.
If you are going to use your Twitter account solely as part of that brand, and have no plans on taking it with you when you go, this is fine. But if you are using Twitter like many are, there’s a good chance you are merging private interests with public ones. And you might want to extend your online relationships beyond the one you’ll have with your current employer.
It doesn’t have to end on bad terms. People retire. Companies fold. You move on, and do so amicably. If I tied my Twitter handle to my job, I would have had at least three since I joined a whole four years ago. There’s no hard feelings tied to those departures, just life. But I didn’t have to change my Twitter name.
Keep it broad. First name, last initial. First initial, last name. Throw in a middle initial, maybe. I’m lucky to have an uncommon last name, so it’s easier for me than most. But even if you’re one of many John Smiths out there, I’d advise you to think of a more personal, and permanent, identifier than your current job title.
Here’s a quote I saved recently from Ryan Holiday:
“An entrepreneur friend of mine remarked to me recently that if someone invented the nightly news today—or a show like Brian Williams’ “Rock Center”—we’d all think it was a great idea.
“Think about it: Instead of having to follow all these different news sources, you could just tune in, get a digest of all the important stuff that happened, and you could trust that it had been verified, that it was balanced and high-quality, and would all be well-produced.”
His point is that because the nightly news came first, and 24-hour news/social media came second, the assumption tends to be that the latter is better. But just think how great it would be if instead of having to be constantly tuned and plugged in, you could just sit down for an hour a day and get all that information, filtered and vetted in an easy-to-understand way. Or have it delivered to your doorstep every morning to browse through while drinking coffee.
I was reminded of this yesterday when news of the Boston bombings broke. The first reaction, of course, is “how awful” but the next reaction (that, if I’m being honest, came at almost exactly the same time) was, “Now we’re going to get to see footage of crying people for the next twenty-four hours.”
It’s a difficult thing to reconcile. On the one hand, you WANT that information, and you want it as it comes. This is especially true if you or someone you know is directly affected by the event. But at the same time, not that much new information is coming out very quickly, so you wind up wallowing in emotional depths, re-watching the same footage, and most invasive of all going to victims and finding out “how do you feel?”
There is no easy answer for the media. Jamie Weinman sums up the conundrum well:
“In a strange way, the logical thing would be for them to move on to other stories and come back to the Boston attacks when more information comes in. But that would seem insensitive. So they have to stay on Boston nonstop, even though they have no news about what happened or who did it.”
His whole column is well worth a read, and the essential point is TV networks and everything that goes along with them are currently stuck in this pattern. But just because makers of media are stuck in this cycle, it doesn’t mean consumers have to be.
I made a conscious decision yesterday to pull away from the footage and the websites and just come back to the coverage once in the evening and once more this morning. And it worked. I felt informed without being overwhelmed.
News is like water or electricity: it’s constantly flowing, available at all times. Behind-the-scenes people are working to keep it going so that it’s there when you need it. But that doesn’t mean you have to leave your taps on all the time, drinking it all in. Turn it off, step away, and come back when you need it. It’s healthier that way.
photo: ”open 24 hours“ by aubergene
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