Saturday, August 6, 2011

August 6: The purpose of a newspaper is to...

...well, it's not to tell the news. Canada's first newspaper set the tone for almost all that followed it. The Montreal Gazette was founded  to serve the interests of the wealthier businessmen of the city.Until the 1920s, that meant it was Conservative because the Conservative party then,as now, represented the interests of the dominant economic group in the country.

A rival appeared in the mid-nieteenth century, The Globe (Toronto). It was founded to represent the interests of the growing Toronto business leadership. They wanted policies quite different from those of the Montreal business elite; so The Globe was Liberal.

Most newspapers throughout history have had such biases. Almost all have represented special interests - sometimes religious groups, but usually business interests. The first purpose of most newspapers, then, is to serve the interests of a upper business class and, freqiuently, at the command of the owner.... who is of that class.  The same is true of private radio and TV.

The second purpose(so long as it doesn't interfere with the first one, is to serve the the local business community, fromn small shops to big hotels.

 The third one is to sell advertising.

All news and opinion usually has to fit purposes 2 and 3. They must, without question, fit purpose one, the interest of the owner.  That is all one needs to know to understand The Moncton Times and Transcript.

Take, for example, the issue for August 6, 2011.Start with Section A.

You'll notice there is not a word might be taken as critical of any of the dominant business people in this province. There never has been. There never will be. And, since those people are the major figures in New Brunswick life, that means there isn't a whjole lot to report in section A.  That's why almost half of section A is trivia, and over half is advertising (purpose 3).
Section B, NewsToday, seems to be there just so the paper can say it has some world news. The stories are so few and so casually chosen that one can do better looking up Google news. It includes a business page, mostly trivial - and one that is perhaps the only business page in North America to be unaware that we are in the midst of the biggest economic crisis of the past centry. The rest of Section B is trivia and ads. (Fifty percent ads.)

Section C, Sports, is like any sports secton except it's cut down to two and a half pages to save eleven and a half pages for ads.

Section D (Job Market) has one page of pretty useless advice and information, then some two-thirds of the rest is ads.  Unfortuately, they didn't have enough ads, so that left two pages - editorial and op ed. The editorial page, in particular, would be much more interesting if it were all ads.

The op ed page starts with the susual opinion column by a staffer. This column is always about something  trivial. The words fracking, Ganong, McCain,Irving never appear in it.  Today's issue carries the story of how Brent Mazerolle got a ticket. Sit up, world, and listen.

He is followed by Norbert Cunningham, talking about big shows like U2, and how economically good they are for Moncton. I wonder. Like most people,  I don't own a hotel or a restaurant or even a parking space. Like other residents, I helped to pay for U2. But I didn't make a cent out of it. Relatively few Monctonians did - and that few at minimum wage or little more. It would be very useful if, instead of reading about Mazerolle's parking ticket, we could get some information about exactly how much we paid - and where the biggest profits ended up.  Norbert's column would be a lot more convincing if we had some information on these points.

Section E is Life and Times. It's a great read if  you care that today is the birthday of an actress named Catherine Hicks. The Faith Page is MUST reading for all those who are concerned about the job market for female rabbis or about  new editions of The Bible. The latter are not different in any important respect from the old editions, except - they are designed for target audiences. One, for example, is designed for golfers. Just reading that information gave me a whole new understanding of my faith.

Section G, Leisure and Travel is pure advertising.

Section H is called Whatever. Two os its eight pages are pure drivel, hype for the next big show in Moncton. They are two pages of photos of people telling us which band they'd like to see live. Three pages of comics. Two pages of columns by teen-agers. This teenagers section is a bit lightweigth this time, but still the classiest act in the Moncton Times and Tribune on a Saturday.

The Moncton Times keeps people ignorant of what is going on around them (or anywhere else), That gives politicians and big business freedom to do whatever they like, however damaging it may be to the rest of us.  And it gets people to pay for the thrill of reading propaganda, trivia and ads.

 It's a very successful business operation, different from other newspapers in North American only because it doesn't even pretend to tell us the news.

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