October 18, 2008

My Favourite Reporter.

I was in Yellowknife last week for the NWT Aboriginal Business Association conference. There were some good speakers. It was also a bit of a mini North of 60 reunion; Tom Jackson and Dakota House were both there.

It was an interesting week - tiring and frustrating in many ways, but enjoyable in others. It was nice to reconnect with some people I hadn't seen in a while, one of whom was My Favourite Reporter. My Favourite Reporter reads this blog, but I write the following with the certainty that all of this will not go to his head. That's just the kind of guy he is. I should also point out that the following is not an attempt to "get on the good side of the press".  The odds are slim that My Favourite Reporter would have cause to interview me these days.

I first met My Favourite Reporter shortly after I moved to Fort Liard. He dropped by to interview me - the new guy in town. I had a miserable cold. It was one of those colds that affected my mouth's ability to cooperate with my brain. My brain wasn't functioning so well, either. I responded to his questions with disjointed, confusing answers, but it was the best I could do at the time.

My Favourite Reporter was able to take the delusional ramblings of a puffy-eyed, runny-nosed stranger and turn them into a story that made what I said intelligible. Intelligent, even.  It was what I would have wanted to say and how I would have wanted to say it, had I been able to articulate what I wanted to say.

I have, in the past, been misquoted by reporters who were attempting to sensationalise a story.  Never once have I heard of My Favourite Reporter doing that to anyone.
That's not why My Favourite Reporter is my favourite reporter, though. My Favourite Reporter is my favourite reporter because he is thorough and always tries to represent both sides of the story.

I know, it's hard to believe, but it's true.  

His writing is not inflammatory. He doesn't, as far as I've been able to tell, throw his own personal biases or judgements into his writing. He is careful, and makes sure that he's got the facts straight, even if it means passing on an otherwise juicy story.

In today's sound-bite dominated news world, I often feel dumber and less-informed for the stories I read or the news clips I see. It seems to me that news outlets have become little more than editorial machines, churning out opinion pieces for the masses.  Today, news programs seem more like current-events entertainment than the informative news programs they market themselves as. Rarely does a news item explore an issue further than a 10-second sound bite. Even the so-called "in-depth" news programs barely skim the surface of a story.

Imagine how different the world would be today if the press had dug a little deeper into the accusations of "weapons of mass destruction in Iraq" or the US sub-prime mortgage problem that some financial experts were predicting years ago. Or the illegal election that was called in Canada, just scant months ago, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.  Imagine how different Canada would be now if reporters had examined the accuracy of the recent election's candidate's claims about themselves and their opponents beyond the 10-second sound bite. 

I could go on and on. In the mess we call the news media, I am hard-pressed to find a single online current events story or article in a Yukon newspaper that meets the standard set by My Favourite Reporter.

My Favourite Reporter isn't reporting these days, but it's not a total loss for the news-consuming masses: My Favourite Reporter in now an editor. I can only hope that the reporters who pass their stories on to him for editing follow in his footsteps and raise the industry standard on news reporting.  For the most part, the bar has been set pretty low, but My Favourite Reporter has given me hope that that bar can be raised.

So, to My Favourite Reporter, it was great seeing you again.  Thanks for the pizza and thanks for everything else. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who shakes his head at what passes for journalism these days.

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