Thursday, March 3, 2011

March 3: World news flash - Harper may not be able to make royal wedding

In its News Today section, The Moncton Times and Transcript broke the news that Stephen Harper may be unable to go to the royal wedding. Kate is, I should think, in tears, and the Queen in bed with a damp towel on her forehead. The story, which will surely change the lives of all of us, takes up a quarter of the page.

There is a picture of a Canadian warship leaving Halifax to head for the coast of Libya. It is a big picture of a bow of a ship about to pass a lighthouse. The accompanying story is two sentences. Well, lots of food for thought, there.  Is it purely to evacuate Canadians? Or have we been committed to a war? If the latter, under what authority did that happen? If it is a military mission, why were we not consulted first through Parliament? Isn't that what we say every November 11 that our servicemen died for? Wasn't that the point of delaying our declaration of war for a week in 1939 was all about? Now all we get is a picture of part of a ship and a lighthouse.

Then there's a non-story about the federal budget. (It won't be public for almost three weeks. So what's to say?)

Then there's a story about a Halifax murder, and the usual rumours about the civil war in Libya. It was a whole page of either trivia or speculation. So much for Canada the rest of the world as seen from the hub of something or other.

There was, for example, no mention of the mass protests in Wisconsin against a state govenment that intends to break unions. Not only have the protests been huge; but the police have joined the protestors.  Think there might be a story in there of some importance?

Nor has The Moncton Times mentioned the story that the US and Canada have been negotiating a deal to send Canadian troops to the US (or American ones to Canada) in case of  "civil unrest". Obviously, somebody up there thinks that serious turmoil is just as possible here as it is in Libya. But it's obviously less imporant than Harper's social plans.

Nor did they carry the story of Hilary Clinton, just a couple of days ago, blasting the western news media as incompetent, shallow, sloppy - and just about every other fault one could think of. She made a point of stressing that she was referring to the privately owned media in radio, TV, and print.  She praised Al Jazeera as one of the best news services in the world, (and so it is.) She might have added to the good ones El-Haaretz (Israel), The Manchester Guardian and The Independent (Britain).  She also suprised me when she said that Russia and China have far surpassed the US in the quality of their English-language news services.

Ms. Clinton's aim, I gathered, was to demand a higher quality of propaganda. Well, I suppose it would be better to have high class junk than low class junk. But she's certainly right in her evaluations. The reality is there is not a single newspaper of world-class quality in Canada or the US. That includes even The New York Times and The Globe and Mail. American news commentary is so silly that  I once thought I was watching some satirical comedy show. (It was the first time I had Fox News on TV.)   Private radio and TV are of abysmally low news quality.

Even with such feeble competition, the Maritimes comes out low on the scale. For trivia, misleading reports, ignorant editorials, lack of insight and lack of jounalistic integrity, you would have to go to the US to find worse news media. (Or, perhaps, those parts of Russian and Chinese news that are designed for the locals, and not for the English language services.)

The Moncton Times and Tribune is not as bad as most other papers. It's commentaries, though of mixed quality, are often excellent. But it is terribly weak because of its bias, the often dreadful quality of its editorials, the trivia of its news, the weakness in providing any context to help readers understand the news, the neglect of major developments, and its lack of integrity and of ethics.

Perhaps The Moncton Times and Tribune could start a campaign to ease the humiliation that the Royal couple must be feeling. It could start a campaign to collect a wedding gift from the people of Moncton, something that would indicate a sacrifice on our part to help make life more meaningful for Kate and what's-his-name. It would be a wonderful bringing together of Monctonians of all social levels as they took their offerings to local collection  sites all over the city, sites that would soon be mountains of paper coffee cups with the rims not yet rolled up.

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