[UPDATE: Note that, at the time this post first appeared, I was the National Affairs Correspondent for Canwest News Service, which has since become Postmedia News]
First things first: @stratosphear, you are free to follow me!
And, cuz I’m on holiday with not much else to do but sit in my basement in my pajamas and blog, can I go over your latest post? It reads well but either I phrased some things poorly last time out or you’re trying to pick a fight with a guy who’s mostly nodding his head:
Lacking the research capability of, say, Canwest or a political party – despite the impression you might have gotten from @phil_mccracken1 and others of the lunatic fringe, I do not receive my orders from Michael Ignatieff – I only have my faulty intellect on which to base my assertions. So please 1) ignore any factual claim I may have made and 2) replace with the following factual claims (which are presumably better since they’re not “tainted” by my partisanship):
Partisanship does not taint any opinion, argument, etc. on its own. Partisanship, though, speaks to motive. Your motive or general theme, it seems to me is to show that the Conservatives are unfit to govern and that a Liberal government would be a superior one. Nothing wrong with that view — it’s one held by and applauded by millions of Canadians. Indeed, it may shortly be the majority view in this country.
I have opinions as well about what party might be a better governing party but — and you might laugh at this and think it old-fashioned — as a reporter, I think it’s important to be as independent or non-partisan as possible and so I try to keep those opinions to myself.
My mission, as they say at the top-secret organization of MSM reporters, is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. To speak truth to power, and all that. When/if the Liberals are the government, I’ll be doing the same thing. But you’ll then be The Man.
Now, you’re quite right to point out that the papers I work for contain lots of columnists who believe a Conservative government is the superior one but obviously that does not mean all employees believe the same thing. I have worked at lots of papers and no editor ever gave me the ideological litmus test before hiring me. To me this is a key ground rule of our ‘debate’: I’m not seeking to show that one party or another is a better governing party. You are. Doesn’t make either of us right or wrong. But I don’t want anyone thinking that just because I’m arguing with an avowed Liberal means that I’m arguing on behalf of the Conservative (or NDP or BQ) cause. I’m just arguing cuz, like I said, I’m on holiday with not much else to do! Oh — and as for research capability: We use something called the Internet for that. Believe me: There’s no army of Canwest researchers feeding me this stuff!
* And that article would be referenced in this piece, which notes that “since assuming power in 2006, the Conservatives have, within the broad cultural sector, very purposefully targeted arts programs for cuts, and shifted the funds to sports and multiculturalism.”
Well, yeah, I am. Cuz that’s different than what you first wrote. You first wrote: “the Cons count funding for Sport Canada as cultural, and the Libs did not.” That’s not what James showed and it’s just not true. Both governments count it the same way, it’s just that, as both James and I showed, the Conservatives and Liberals spent money differently. But they still account for it under the same broad terms. And when you count it up using the same methodology for both, the current government is spending nominally more than the last one.
The important point here — and I’d curious to hear your view on this — i: We spend a lot of money on stuff that some people in this country call “culture”. Many people complain that “real culture” is not getting enough while others complain that “real culture” is getting too much! Why don’t we have a debate about what it means to be a cultured Canadian?
But that’s not really the point, is it? Akin’s criticism isn’t that I’m pro- or anti-government: his beef is that, as a blogger, I’m not “independent”, I lack the oversight of an editor, hence I’m inferior to the good ol’ MSM (mainstream media). For despite his blogging and Twitter acumen – he’s the second top federal tweeter for the month of July 2009 – Akin is nothing if not a staunch defender of the MSM, threatened as it is by the the likes of little ol’ me.
No, no, no no, no, no. Please, no. If you’ve got that impression, then we have definitely got off on the wrong foot. I have been arguing long, loudly, and often that the MSM is not and should not be automatically privileged in any info-hierarchy. There is no ‘royal jelly’ that makes something published in The Globe and Mail or National Post more special than something published on a blog read by 20 people. If you make a good point, you’ve made it. Period. Where you make that point is irrelevant.
Now, it’s true that I’m a professional journalist which means I pay the bills by going out and finding something interesting going on in the world and writing about it in a way that as many people as possible find it interesting. And, because I’ve been doing this for a long time now, I’m pretty sure that I’ll continue to find interesting things and write about them in a compelling way. But this is not a zero-sum game. You, other journalists, other bloggers, etc. will also find interesting things to say and will write about them in a compelling way. There’s plenty of interesting stuff going on in the world every day. How can any of us be threatened by that? The more the merrier — and, again, that’s something I’ve been saying for a long time.
My first response is that our inferiority is debatable.
I don’t think it’s debatable at all. I’m no smarter than you are and you’re no smarter than me. We’re neither our inferiors just as we’re neither our superiors.
Where would liberals (not to mention Liberals) possibly find news coverage reflecting their values?
Oh not this canard again. Of course Liberals think the MSM is dead-set against them. The Conservatives think the same thing. If anyone’s got reason to complain it’s the NDP! They just get plain ignored by the MSM. And, are you suggesting that my reporting reflects one party’s values to the exclusion of others?
In any event, we go back to the idea that this is not a zero-sum game between MSM and non-MSM information sources. The more the merrier. Democracy is well served by having all of it. And, in fact, as others smarter than me have argued, weakening either the MSM or the ability of anyone to blog, tweet, or what have you, would weaken democracy. We need both, not one or the other. So how about this? Isn’t it kind of pointless to keep arguing if the MSM or bloggers are better/less biased/more fun/valuable? Who cares? We’re all here and we’re all staying. Move along, already!
My second response is, well, tough bananas. Akin seems to think that he and I ought to be treated as equals, and insofar as my having no training or experience, that’s rather complimentary. However, I have no paid subscribers, receive no funding; I’m not an agent of the Liberal Party of Canada so my posts and tweets don’t carry the weight of partisan officialdom. I don’t even try to compete with the likes of David Akin in terms of facts and figures.
I ain’t got any training, either. I never went to journalism school. I wanted to be a history professor or a theatre critic but got slightly sidelined. But your last line strikes me as kinda weird: Why wouldn’t you want “to compete” with me or anyone for that matter by finding new facts and figures?
In short – as the MSM is quick to point out – I’m not a journalist, and I never claimed otherwise. You can’t contend that blogs don’t count as journalism then hold us bloggers up to journalists’ standards. That’s ridiculous.
Absolutely. And, in any event, who the hell knows what these standards are these days anyhow? People don’t read this blog because it’s written by A Journalist. They read it cuz it’s interesting. People don’t read your posts cuz they’re written by A Liberal Blogger. They read them cuz they like them.
Here’s the thing: folks like English and Akin have to heed “professional journalistic standards” (though going out of one’s way to censor a columnist or argue with a Liberal blogger might not count). Bloggers don’t. We make our own standards, and I’d say mine aren’t bad, really: I try to avoid personal attacks, I post all comments that aren’t spam or highly offensive (yes, even David Akin’s), and I heed constructive criticism even if I don’t always agree. But I’m not subject to “professional journalistic standards” ’cause, well, I ain’t a professional journalist. (See, I just used “ain’t” – that proves it.)
Well, your standards sound a lot like the “professional” standards over here.
The MSM made the choice to start blogging and tweeting because the alternative – ignoring social media’s impact – might mean further dwindling sales and increasing irrelevance in the digital age. But the MSM doesn’t set the rules for anyone but itself. The blogosphere is our turf, and one reason why we bother is that we don’t have to answer to anyone. It’s a little notion I like to call freedom of speech.
I wouldn’t equate slowing revenues for media organizations with increasing irrelevance. In fact, it seems to me that there is no dimunition in the hunger for information. In fact, more people than ever want information about more things than ever. Traffic to MSM Web sites is increasing every week. But traffic goes to people who are saying interesting things. So traffic to any number of popular non-MSM sites is also increasing. Again: No zero-sum game. It’s all good. You can claim the blogosphere as “your turf” but you know perfectly well that, the whole value of the place, is that it’s no one’s turf. And you’re right: You don’t have to answer to anyone but it sure seems to have got yer goat that an MSM reporter decided to answer back to something you said on “your turf”!
So, in closing, get off our backs, oh, and incidentally I’m still right about the Conservatives and cultural spending. And don’t block me, dude. That is so not cool.
Ok, you’re unblocked. Happy travels! Dude.