The election showed we don’t know how to cover the far right

Hard to handle, this coverage issue:

Unlike episodes of “Seinfeld,” elections are never about nothing. While our 44th general election might have felt like it didn’t accomplish much in light of the final seat count, it is false to suggest that this vote doesn’t hold valuable lessons for regular Canadians and politicos alike in the future.

One of the major underpinnings of this campaign is that it exemplified just how unprepared our media and political chattering classes are when it comes to dealing with the rise of the far right in this country, and acknowledging the role misinformation plays in our current discourse.

While many political journalists and commentators are quick to dismiss Maxime Bernier and his ilk as being wholly disconnected from the larger conservative media and political network, the actual evidence would suggest otherwise. Bernier’s descent from Harper-era cabinet minister to conspiracy-theory-peddling zealot shouldn’t be viewed as some sort of one-off event, but should rather be seen as emblematic of an ecosystem that allows an alarming degree of misinformation in its mainstream discourse.

It’s incredibly easy to write off those who were protesting hospitals and claiming to be fighting against permanent lockdowns as cranks that are completely detached from reality. It’s much more difficult to question what role mainstream publications and commercial AM talk radio have in shaping some of these views. From columns in print media arguing that climate change lockdowns are in our immediate future, to talk radio hosts explicitly calling the prime minister a “globalist” who will destroy our country, Canadians don’t need to go to far-right online outlets like The Post Millennial or The Rebel to be misinformed.

In a lot of ways, Bernier and the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) are simply the next step in the evolution of the conservative movement in this country, as sitting Conservative MPs regularly peddle all sort of conspiracy theories. One might try to convince themselves that this is relegated to the Conservative back bench, like Cheryl Gallant echoing the climate change lockdown conspiracy or saying that Liberals want to “normalize sexual relations with children.” But in doing so, one would have to actively ignore Conservative front benchers like Pierre Poilievre, who recently tried to fear monger around the notion of a “great reset.”

The PPC was able to more than double their vote share in this election, garnering just over 800,000 votes this time around. Certainly not every single PPC voter is an avowed white supremacist, but it would be a mistake to ignore the clear ties the PPC has to far-right, extremist groups. And yet, this very salient detail often seems to be lacking in the media coverage surrounding the PPC. For example, columns and news coverage alike failed to acknowledge that the PPC riding president who was charged for throwing gravel at the prime minister had well-established, explicit ties to the white nationalist movement.

This past week Bernier published the contact information of journalists who had reached out to the PPC to ask questions, and called on his followers on Twitter to “play dirty” with the journalists Bernier had targeted. What happened next was predictable: journalists were sent racist messages along with death and rape threats by hordes of PPC supporters, Twitter reacted too slowly to take down Bernier’s tweet, and Bernier’s call very quickly ended up on a white supremacist forum.

It is irresponsible, and arguably journalistic malpractice, to cover the PPC as if it were any other mainstream political party in this country. And yet that is exactly how much of our political media is treating them.

Source: The election showed we don’t know how to cover the far right

Latinos vastly underrepresented in media, new report finds

Of note (not surprising):

Latinos are perpetually absent in major newsrooms, Hollywood films and other media industries where their portrayals — or lack thereof — could deeply impact how their fellow Americans view them, according to a government report released Tuesday.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office to investigate last October.

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, has made the inclusion of Latinos in media a principal issue, imploring Hollywood studio directors, journalism leaders and book publishers to include their perspectives.

Castro says the lack of accurate representation, especially in Hollywood, means at the very best that Americans don’t get a full understanding of Latinos and their contributions. At worst — especially when Latinos are solely portrayed as drug dealers or criminals — it invites politicians to exploit negative stereotypes for political gain, Castro said.

That could engender violence against Latinos, like the killing of 23 people in El Paso in 2019 by a gunman who was targeting Hispanics.

“None of this has been an effort to tell people exactly what to write, but to encourage that media institutions reflect the face of America. Because then we believe that the stories will be more accurate and more reflective of the truth and less stereotypical,” Castro said in an interview with The Associated Press. “American media, including print journalism, has relied on stereotypes of Latinos. If the goal is the truth, well that certainly has not served the truth.”

The report found that in 2019, the estimated percentage of Latinos working in newspaper, periodical, book and directory publishers was about 8%. An estimated 11% of news analysts, reporters and journalists were Latino, although the GAO used data that included Spanish-language networks, where virtually all contributors are Latino, and those employed in other sectors of news, not just necessarily news gatherers. That could inflate the figures significantly.

The report also found that the biggest growth among Hispanics in the media industry was in service jobs, while management jobs had the lowest representation.

Ana-Christina Ramón is one half of a team that has been collecting data on diversity in Hollywood for a decade, and began publishing annual reports in 2014. Ramón is the director of research and civic engagement at the UCLA College of Letters and Science.

Latinos account for only about 5% to 6% of main cast members in TV and film, despite being roughly 18% of the U.S. population, her research has found.

“It’s a bit of a ceiling. It doesn’t go over that percentage,” Ramón said, although she added that TV has made much bigger strides in significant roles for Latinos than movies have.

For years, Hollywood executives argued that films with diverse leads don’t make money. Ramón found that they do.

“There’s this idea that Hollywood has that ‘Oh, we can’t do too much diversity, it will scare off the white people.’ Well, it has not scared off the white people,” Ramón said.

Cristina Mislán, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Missouri, Columbia, was not surprised by the figures the GAO found, and noted that much of the growth in Latinos in media professions stems from the service industry.

“It’s important because the more representation we have of diverse cultures and peoples does allow for more opportunities to have richer, more complicated stories being told,” Mislán said.

Source: Latinos vastly underrepresented in media, new report finds

How the White Press Wrote Off Black America

Good historical account:

Newspapers that championed white supremacy throughout the pre-civil rights South paved the way for lynching by declaring African Americans nonpersons. They embraced the language once used at slave auctions by denying Black citizens the courtesy titles Mr. and Mrs. and referring to them in news stories as “the negro,” “the negress” or “the nigger.”

They depicted Black men as congenital rapists, setting the stage for them to be hanged, shot or burned alive in public squares all over the former Confederacy. These newspapers entered their bloodiest incarnations during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, inciting hellish episodes of violence during which white mobs murdered at will while sometimes destroying entire Black communities.

African Americans who fled these Southern horrors found the white Northern press only marginally less hostile. Yankee papers that congratulated themselves for opposing lynching in the abstract justified it in practice by depicting the victims as naturally disposed toward heinous crime.

As the historian Rayford Logan writes in his iconic study of this period, the white Northern press cemented the stereotype of the Negro barbarian by making Blackness synonymous with crime. Headlines included phrases like “Negro ruffian,” “colored cannibal,” “dissolute Negress” and “African Annie.” By portraying Black people as less than human, the white popular press justified the reign of terror that the South deployed, while stripping African Americans of the rights they had briefly enjoyed during the period just after the Civil War known as Reconstruction.

Since the early 2000s, historically white newspapers in Alabama, California, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and North Carolina have apologized with varying degrees of candor for the roles they played in this history. When read end to end, these statements of confession attest to blatantly racist news coverage over a more than century-long period that encompasses the collapse of Reconstruction, the rise of Jim Crow, the two world wars, the civil rights movement, the urban riots of the 1960s, the Vietnam era and beyond.

The Raleigh News & Observer in North Carolina has admitted to engineering a landmark episode of racial terrorism — the 1898 white supremacist coup that overthrew the government of the majority-Black city of Wilmington. The Montgomery Advertiser in Alabama, once the voice of the Confederacy, acknowledges being complicit in racial terrorism through the 1950s. The Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky could well have spoken for hundreds of newspapers when it confessed that it had “neglected” to cover the civil rights movement at a time when that movement was changing the face of the country.

The Orlando Sentinel touched on a familiar theme of the struggle for racial justice when it repented for supporting the wrongful prosecution of Black defendants, known as the Groveland Four, who were charged with rape in 1949. The paper was known as The Orlando Morning Sentinel when its bloodthirsty coverage featured a front-page editorial cartoon that depicted four empty electric chairs under the headline “No Compromise!” A threatening editorial warned that “innocent Negroes” might suffer if civil rights lawyers sought to free the defendants based on “legal technicalities.”

The Los Angeles Times apologized for being “an institution deeply rooted in white supremacy” for most of its history and admitted to a record that included indifference and “outright hostility” toward the city’s nonwhite population.

The Kansas City Star confessed that it had “disenfranchised, ignored and scorned generations of Black Kansas Citians” and “robbed an entire community” of “dignity, justice and recognition.” While showing keen interest in military operations abroad, the paper noted, it remained silent when bombs exploded in the homes of Black people not far from its own offices.

The Star shut out even world-famous Black Kansas Citians like the saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker, who did not get a significant headline in The Star until he died, in 1955 — “and even then, his name was misspelled and his age was wrong.” When a flood devastated the city in 1977, The Star and its sister paper focused on businesses and suburbs, all but ignoring the fact that the flood had also swallowed homes of residents in Black areas. The newspapers showed more concern for missing pets than for Black citizens whose lives had been swept away in the torrent.

The apology movement is historically resonant on several counts. It offers a timely validation of the besieged academic discipline known as critical race theory — by showing that what news organizations once presented as “fair” and “objective” journalism was in fact freighted with the racist stereotypes that had been deployed to justify slavery. It lays out how the white press alienated generations of African Americans — many of whom still view the leading news outlets of the United States as part of a hostile “white media.”

The movement illustrates what President Lyndon Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders — also known the Kerner Commission — was talking about in 1968 when it criticized the press for writing and reporting “from the standpoint of a white man’s world.” It also vindicates the hundreds of African American men and women who established anti-racist newspapersduring the late 19th and early 20th centuries and engaged in open combat with the white press over how Black life would be represented.

The white press in the South dictated how anti-Black atrocities were viewed all over the country by portraying even the most grotesque exercises of violence as necessary to protect a besieged white community. White news organizations elsewhere rubber-stamped this lie. The editors of small, struggling Black publications often risked their lives to refute what they rightly saw as white supremacist propaganda masquerading as news.

Ida B. Wells of the fiery Memphis weekly known as The Free Speech was the best known of these Black press paladins. Her investigations showed that mobs regularly lynched innocent victims as part of a terror tactic that was intended to keep the Black community on its knees. Her most explosive finding was that the Black men who were charged with raping white women were often involved in consensual relationships with them.

Her editorial calling the common rape charge a “threadbare lie” conveyed more truth than the white aristocracy could bear. The white-owned Daily Commercial called for the writer of the editorial to be lynched without using the term. The Evening Scimitar presumed the editorial writer male and called for him to be tied to a stake at the intersection of Main and Madison Streets, his forehead branded with a hot iron and castrated “with a pair of tailor’s shears.” Ms. Wells was fortunately out of town when a mob destroyed the Free Speech office.

John Mitchell Jr. of The Richmond Planet, a Virginia weekly, had been born into slavery, as had Ms. Wells. He was known in his time as the “the fighting editor” — a posture that The Planet reflected with a logo depicting a muscular Black arm whose clenched fist radiated lightning bolts. During the late 19th century, Mr. Mitchell was acutely aware of the connection between the lynching fever that was sweeping the former Confederacy and the fact that Southern cities were filling their public squares with monuments to Confederate soldiers who had plunged the country into war with the goal of preserving slavery.

Speaking of a monument erected in Richmond to the Confederate general Robert E. Lee, Mr. Mitchell said that it would “ultimately result in handing down to generations unborn a legacy of treason and blood.” He foresaw more than a century ago that this and other monuments to white supremacy might not stand in perpetuity. Speaking of the African American labor used to erect monuments, he said of the Black man, “He put up the Lee Monument, and should the time come, he’ll be there to take it down.”

Mr. Mitchell and his Virginia contemporaries were no doubt watching when the white press in North Carolina began to campaign for the interracial government of Wilmington to be overthrown. On the eve of the coup, the majority-Black city was a stronghold of African American economic and political success and home to a thriving community of Black craftsmen and businesses owners, as well as African American public servants who included aldermen, magistrates and mail carriers.

The News & Observer rallied the white press beyond the carnage by relentlessly equating Black voting rights with corruption, anti-whiteness and, inevitably, the rape of white women. The paper ran infamous editorial cartoons like the ones depicting a giant Black foot crushing a white citizen and another showing a Black vampire bat labeled “Negro Rule” hovering over the state.

This toxic campaign yielded fruit on the morning of Nov. 10, 1898, when a mob marched into the city and burned the offices of The Wilmington Daily Record, widely thought to have been the only Black-owned daily newspaper in the United States at the time. The vigilantes swept through the streets shooting some African Americans and exiling others, along with their “white nigger” allies, from the city.

The New York Times referred obliquely to the overthrow of the Wilmington government as necessary for restoring “law and order.” The Richmond Planet — under the headline “Horrible Butcheries at Wilmington” — made clear that the coup was aimed at removing Black officeholders and restoring white control of the city.

The Planet described unarmed Black people being shot dead in the streets or driven into the woods, making clear that the carnage had resulted from “a concerted conspiracy which has been underway for several weeks,” with the goal of securing “the reins of the city government by treasonable practices.” In his characteristically acid tone, Mr. Mitchell admonished President William McKinley for failing to restore the legally elected government of the city and observed that the “good white people” of the Wilmington vicinity had either acted as “aiders and abettors of murder” or fallen “painfully silent” in the face of a treasonous attack on democracy.

A similar scenario — complete with distorted news accounts — played out two decades later after the massacre of Black sharecroppers in Elaine, Ark. The sharecroppers had angered their white landlords by banding together to demand a fair price for the crop. After a shootout instigated by whites, as the historian David Levering Lewis has written, “enraged white planters and farmers chased down Black men and women in the high cotton of Phillips County in a frenzy lasting seven days, until the count of the dead approached 200.”

It was widely — and falsely — reported in the white press that the sharecroppers had intended to kill every white person they could and take control of the county. The African American press pointed out soon after the bloodletting that the sharecroppers had been slaughtered for contesting a form of slavery under which white overlords swindled them out of their earnings.

The white Southern press degraded African Americans in a variety of everyday ways. One of the humiliations that continued into the 1950s involved denying Black adults the courtesy titles Mr. and Mrs., and referring to them by first name only, at a time when African Americans could be beaten or even lynched for addressing white people in this fashion. By identifying married Black women by their first names, instead of as Mrs., white newspapers denied the legitimacy of African American marriage and reinforced a racist slander that labeled women of color morally “loose.” Jim Crow society used this defamation to justify the rapacious conduct of white men who targeted Black women for sexual assault.

Black newspapers like The Baltimore Afro-American, The Chicago Defender and The Pittsburgh Courier served as a haven against white press hostility, while incubating and advancing the early civil rights movement.

At a time when African Americans had to commit crimes to appear in the white press, The Defender and its sister papers filled their society pages with scenes of the Black middle class succeeding at business, convening civic organizations or taking their leisure at tony vacation spots. In other words, the Black press was a century ahead of the news media generally in discovering the African American middle class as a marketable subject of journalism.

Black news organizations started to wither as segregation eased and the white press became interested in the civil rights movement. Nevertheless, it would take decades for that interest to extend beyond stories about crime. The Kerner Commission underscored this problem when it admonished the news media to “publish newspapers and produce programs that recognize the existence and activities of the Negro, both as a Negro and as part of the community.”

News organizations that were not moved to address this problem when the business represented a license to print money have come to see things differently since the business model began its collapse. The apology movement represents a belated understanding that these organizations need every kind of reader to survive. The challenge is that the gap news providers are eager to close is vast and was generations in the making.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/10/opinion/sunday/white-newspapers-african-americans.html

CNN, MSNBC Insiders Shudder at Idea of Hiring MAGA Mouthpieces

Of note:

If soon-to-be former Trump White House officials were hoping to snag paid talking-head roles at the major television networks, they may be in for a rude awakening.

It’s become a political ritual every four years: After each presidential election cycle, cable and broadcast news executives race to woo outgoing administration officials or top figures from the winning and losing campaigns for cushy roles as talking heads.

Not this time. With Trump’s top aides and advisers all taking their sycophancy to perilous new heights, actively participating in the outgoing president’s efforts to undermine the integrity of the vote, their utility as political pundits may have expired.

The Daily Beast spoke with executives and insiders from many of the top cable and broadcast news networks including CNN, MSNBC, CBS News, and ABC News, and most relayed the same message: Unless they retreat to the comforts of Fox News or even far-right outlets like Newsmax or One America News Network, the former Trump officials who have repeatedly lied to or denigrated reporters shouldn’t expect to land a network paycheck.

CNN, in particular, has traditionally been a safe landing spot for former top campaign officials, regardless of party affiliation. Just days after he exited Trump’s 2016 campaign team, former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski landed a commentator gig at CNN, despite his at-times physically aggressive relationship with the press and the fact that he had a non-disparagement agreement preventing him from speaking freely about the president. His colleague, Trump 2016 spokesman Jason Miller, was also hired by CNN, until being canned in 2018 over allegations (which he vehemently denied) that he impregnated a woman and secretly slipped her an abortion pill.

But the post-2020 outlook for former Trump campaign and administration officials will likely not be as friendly.

“Most of us probably are hoping that we will be seeing very little of these people—unless they are willing to be more honest,” a well-placed CNN insider told The Daily Beast. “The ones that are still out there who are well-known creeps like Jason Miller and Boris Epshteyn—nobody is going to be hiring these people.”

People who work with CNN chief Jeff Zucker relayed that he has been personally offended by the frequent and vicious attacks on CNN from Trumpworld figures, who’ve flamed any and all news outlets reporting remotely negative information on the president. Throughout the Trump era, the network became increasingly emboldened in taking the fight back to a hostile administration. Aside from on-air chyrons fact-checking various Trump lies in real-time, some of the network’s top news personalities have been publicly critical of the administration, in some cases abruptly ending interviews mid-broadcast when Trump officials refuse to substantively engage with the questions, and instead launch ad hominem attacks against journalists.

CNN insiders who spoke with The Daily Beast said there would likely be internal discontent if network bosses decided to pay ex-Trump officials who’ve repeatedly denigrated the network and are now working to undermine the 2020 election on behalf of the outgoing president. There seems to be zero interest, these sources said, in trying to poach even the most visible Trump campaign and White House staffers like Hogan Gidley and Tim Murtaugh—who both have extensive comms backgrounds in D.C.—or Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, a career right-wing pundit with previous stints at Fox News and CNN.

But Zucker himself may not be a part of the network’s future for long. It’s widely known in media circles that the CNN boss is unhappy with parent company WarnerMedia’s restructuring moves, which reduced his role, and has not yet re-upped his soon-to-expire contract. It’s possible that a CNN without Zucker—who personally meets with and vets many on-air contributors—could be more receptive to some ex-Trump officials, sources cautioned.

Unlike CNN, MSNBC does not have the same extensive history of paying partisan contributors for on-air appearances, though throughout Trump’s term the network cultivated a stable of so-called “Never Trump” Republicans. Multiple network insiders said the liberal-leaning, Comcast-owned cable network is unlikely to welcome any high-profile Trump loyalists, even gratis, to share their insights into the ongoing failures of a Joe Biden presidency.

“If you’re a person who was a career government official who happened to serve the Trump administration—somebody like Mark Esper or Elliott Abrams—we might have them on,” said an MSNBC insider, “but it’s likely that if Kayleigh McEnany has a book she’s selling, she will definitely be blacklisted. The same goes for someone like Hogan Gidley.”

But it’s not as though they aren’t already trying to get back into the professional pundit class. Even as top Trump officials entertain the president’s “voter fraud” delusions, one agent told The Daily Beast, “They’re all emailing saying, ‘Can you come meet up next week?’” Fox News reported on Wednesdaythat Trump’s communications director Alyssa Farah has been interviewing TV agents, pursuing a job after her White House exit. (Farah declined to respond to The Daily Beast on the record.)

Another MSNBC insider suggested that some shows like Morning Joe would consider booking less aggressive Trump supporters like former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, currently a contributor at ABC News, “because he has had enough access to be in the room for Trump’s debate prep and get COVID, but at least he’s rooted in reality.”

Meanwhile, predictions that MSNBC’s and for that matter CNN’s ratings are likely to decline under the relative normalcy of a Biden administration might be inoperative if Trump—as seems likely—continues to exert political and cultural influence and presides over a kind of resistance shadow presidency after leaving the White House on Jan. 20.

MSNBC, for one, found a solid business model over the past four years in the relentless narrative, especially in primetime, that Trump was a malevolent force whose presidency was apt to end at any moment in impeachment.

It’s possible, said one cable-news executive, that Trump could still drive ratings even when out of office. “It remains to be seen whether that would compel people to watch obsessively every day like they’ve been doing for the last four years,” the exec said.

Some networks also now have the added concern that Trump-loving contributors could use their perch to feed inside information to anti-media activists as part of Trumpworld’s ongoing efforts to discredit any and all of his critics.

“As a news org, how do you allow someone in your news organization who could James O’Keefe you in a second?” one network executive wondered, referring to the founder of Project Veritas, a right-wing group that uses hidden-camera footage to attempt to show bias at media organizations.

Of course, lack of network interest likely won’t stop some of the most high-profile Trump White House and admin figures from ever popping up again on television.

Gidley, McEnany, Murtagh, and others already get top billing when they appear on Fox News, where they could well join former Trump White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who regularly appears on-air and has a network contributor contract. Other former administration officials like Sean Spicer have found gigs at Newsmax, while others like Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon—the federally indicted (for alleged fundraising fraud) former White House chief strategist—have expended their talking-head energies in right-wing radio and podcasting.

“Can I see Mark Meadows appearing as an analyst on MSNBC? No, but on Fox News, yeah, for sure,” one network executive remarked, singling out Trump’s pugnacious chief of staff. Another cable-news insider suggested Fox News might look to hire several MAGA officials to boost its suddenly lagging credibility with Trumpkins angry with the network for calling the election for Biden and not fully playing along with the president’s baseless voter-fraud allegations.

And for networks like CNN and MSNBC—self-styled guardians of democratic norms and civil discourse—President-elect Joe Biden’s reconciliatory Saturday evening victory speech may loom large over decisions on whether to extend an olive branch to ex-Trump henchmen and women.

“Let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric. To lower the temperature. To see each other again,” he implored. “To listen to each other again. To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans.”

“Obviously there are 71 million people who voted for the president and there should be someone that represents their views and can talk about the political landscape,” another network executive told The Daily Beast.

And the networks are already seeking workarounds for representing conservative views on their air without hiring toxic ex-Trump officials. One TV industry insider said there has already been interest from various outlets in hiring the Republican Senate candidates who lost this year, as well as other outgoing GOP members of Congress. Like former Sen. Rick Santorum—a CNN contributor who essentially acts as a the network’s pro-Trump punching bag—these outgoing conservative lawmakers would likely be expected to speak about Republican politics as well as the ravings of the soon-to-be former president and his devoted base.

But some cable-newsers are skeptical that even the most repulsive ex-Trump officials will be totally shunned from a career in punditry.

“I won’t be surprised if some of the folks who were most reviled by mainstream media, Democrats, the resistance, etc., find pretty good jobs when this is over—in the media and in Washington—because ultimately politics is transactional,” said one CNN insider. “And the impulse to punish people leaving the Trump administration will be overshadowed by the impulse to profit off the people leaving the Trump administration.”

Source: CNN, MSNBC Insiders Shudder at Idea of Hiring MAGA Mouthpieces

Elsewhere they get it but the Australian media is still living in White Australia

Haven’t seen anything as comprehensive with respect to Canadian media although there have been partial samples showing underrepresentatioon:

Few would argue that Australian media does well at representing cultural diversity. Certainly not in a way you’d expect when we are a multicultural society, often trumpeted as the most successful of its kind in the world.

Now, for the first time, we have the numbers that show us just how representative – or rather, unrepresentative – the state of play is.

In our report, Who Gets to Tell Australian Stories?, we gathered data to provide the first comprehensive picture of who tells and produces stories in Australian television news and current affairs. We examined about 19,000 news and current affairs items broadcast on free to air television during two weeks in June 2019.

In their frequency of appearance on screen, we found that more than 75 per cent of presenters, commentators and reporters have an Anglo-Celtic background. While about 18 per cent have a European background, only 6 per cent of those on screen have an Indigenous or non-European background. Within our sample, none of the commercial networks had more than 5 per cent of presenters, commentators and reporters who have a non-European background.

Compare this with the Australian general population. Based on the 2016 Census figures on ancestry, the Australian Human Rights Commission has previously estimated that 58 per cent of Australians have an Anglo-Celtic background, 18 per cent have a European background, 21 per cent have non-European backgrounds, and 3 per cent identify as Indigenous.

It has been nearly five decades since an official multiculturalism was adopted in Australia. Yet that has had limited visible impact on our media.

To be fair, Australian media isn’t the only arena where this is the case. Anglo-Celtic and European backgrounds dominate the leadership ranks of politics, business, the public service and our universities. Our institutions fail to make the most of the talents within our society.

Diversity is often embraced only in name, and not in norms. If there’s a glass ceiling that many women in work hit, then those from minority backgrounds hit a cultural one. According to a survey we conducted as part of our research, more than 85 per cent of non-European background journalists believe having a culturally diverse background represents a barrier to career progression.

Representation, though, matters. It particularly matters for our television media: the medium shows us who we are as a people and as a culture. News and current affairs media have a special role in identifying and telling stories about issues of importance to all Australians.

Yet it’s overwhelmingly journalists who have Anglo-Celtic backgrounds who report, select and produce these stories. The result? Too often, media does a poor job of covering race issues.

For example, just about every time there’s a panel discussion about racism on commercial breakfast television, it involves an all-white panel that has minimal understanding of what has happened. Worse, commercial breakfast television currently seems to thrive on stoking prejudice. For sections of the media, racism is part of their business model.

Even our public broadcasters have their blind spots. For the past 10 years, the ABC’s Insiders program had no journalist who was a person of colour on its panel – something it has only rectified last month. Multicultural broadcaster SBS has recently been criticised for how it treated Indigenous journalists, and for the lack of cultural diversity within its senior management.

It’d be unthinkable for any television network to have a football commentary team on air, where not a single commentator would have experience playing the sport. By the same logic, networks should understand it’s a problem, in a multicultural society, when there’s little or no diversity within its news and current affairs.

Media elsewhere seem to get it. Indeed, Australian media lags significantly behind English-speaking counterparts. What we look like on screen can seem decades behind the United States and the United Kingdom. While they are themselves far from perfect, US and British media organisations have better collection and monitoring of data on their diversity. They’ve also been bolder at setting targets for minority talent.

For change to happen here, Australian media organisations will need to take similar steps. But more than that, there needs to be a cultural change in mindset. Too often, there is unwarranted defensiveness about criticisms concerning diversity. People can wrongly feel that a critique of systemic patterns of under-representation amount to personal attacks, or even a form of “reverse racism”. Deflections and denials come all too easily.

Talk about diversity and race will always spark debate. But it’s hard to argue with the evidence. In the case of our media, the numbers tell us we are still living in a White Australia, even if the White Australia policy was dismantled nearly 50 years ago.

Source: Elsewhere they get it but the Australian media is still living in White Australia

Calls grow for news outlets reporting on systemic racism to address own failures

Of note. Ironically, and perhaps not surprising, on Wednesday, watched a Star panel on equity. Including the moderating, 4 women, 1 man, 4 visible minorities, much more diverse than others I have watched:

Journalists have not had to go far to uncover searing stories of racism in Canada — they’re finding them in their own newsrooms, among their co-workers and involving their bosses.

All while reporters increasingly turn their attention to detailing institutional discrimination in nearly all other facets of society, including justice, politics, health care and education.

For the similarly flawed media industry, a long-standing problem has suddenly become harder to ignore: Many outlets striving to inform the public of widespread racial bias do so with stories that are assigned, reported and analyzed by predominantly white editorial staff.

The not-so-surprising result? They’re failing, say industry watchers and a growing number of staff members risking their jobs to speak out. And while many media organizations are expressing renewed commitments to diversify their newsrooms and coverage, those journalists say it will take more than pledges to create meaningful change.

A SERIES OF MISSTEPS

Revelations have emerged in recent weeks of racial indignities suffered at multiple news outlets, where current and former employees are attempting to lift the curtain on how and why tensions persist.

Corus Entertainment faced a public lashing by rank-and-file staff over claims of toxic workplaces for people of colour; the National Post endured a newsroom revolt over contentious columns that denied the existence of systemic racism in Canada; CBC suspended and disciplined star Wendy Mesley for twice quoting a racial slur in editorial meetings and CBC Radio’s “Yukon Morning” host Christine Genier resigned over the lack of Indigenous representation in Canadian media.

While there might be an increase in the number of on-air personalities who are people of colour, that’s not an accurate measure of success, says diversity consultant and former journalist Hamlin Grange, whose firm DiversiPro Inc. was recently hired by Corus Entertainment to review its operations.

“It’s the people who are behind the scenes, the decision-makers that really matter and that’s where the media in this country have failed.”

It’s not for lack of trying, of course.

Over the years, there have been recruitment efforts, training sessions, and diversity pledges, just as there have been in other business sectors.

But anything that fails to dismantle systemic and structural barriers are superficial measures that don’t achieve meaningful change, says Brian Daly of the Canadian Association of Black Journalists.

MORE EFFECTIVE SOLUTIONS

The CABJ and Canadian Journalists of Colour have partnered for a joint call to action that includes: regular disclosure of newsroom demographics, more representation and coverage of racialized communities (in part through hiring), and proactive efforts to seek, retain and promote Black and Indigenous journalists and journalists of colour to management positions.

They also suggest regular consultation with racialized communities on news coverage, identifying and addressing systemic barriers, targeted scholarships and mentorship opportunities, and encouraging journalism schools to lay the groundwork with diverse faculty and more focus on how to cover racialized communities.

Many on the ground agree conditions won’t improve without system-wide changes.

An expressed desire to address diversity is not enough, says TSN’s SportsCentre anchor Kayla Grey, who weathered blowback and sparked a Twitter hashtag when she criticized white freelance journalist Sheri Forde for using the N-word in a Medium blog post that ironically detailed Forde’s efforts at building racial awareness.

“Companies and newsrooms are showing their ass right now,” says Grey, the first Black woman to anchor a national TV sports show in Canada.

“I’m seeing people fumble and it’s clear that they just don’t have those voices in those rooms that check them in the first place. Or they might have those voices in the room, they might have that representation, but are they listening clearly to those voices? And have those voices felt empowered to speak out about such issues?”

THE IMPACT ON STAFF

The National Post met condemnation both within and outside of its newsroom for several inflammatory commentaries, most notably one from Rex Murphy on June 1 that declared, “Canada is not a racist country.” The online link now features an apology for “a failure in the normal editing oversight” and points readers to a rebuttal by Financial Post writer Vanmala Subramaniam.

Nevertheless, Murphy defended the piece in another column June 16 and Post founder Conrad Black added his denials of systemic racism in columns June 20 and 27, the latter of which dismissed the current reckoning with racial injustice and systemic racism as an “official obsession” causing “an absurd displacement for other concerns.”

A few frustrated staffers began withholding bylines from their own stories shortly after that first Black column, growing to involve more as the week wore on.

Editor-in-chief Rob Roberts would not comment on the byline strike, only saying: “We stand by our columnists’ right to state their opinion.”

Phyllise Gelfand, vice-president of communications for Postmedia, says in an emailed statement that the company is revisiting its diversity and inclusion programs and that diversity training for its newsrooms will roll out “immediately.”

Daly says it would be harder to dismiss the lived experiences of Black people if they were welcomed into newsrooms and their leadership.

“Allow people of differing worldviews and differing lived experiences to coexist in a newsroom environment, and then you’re going to get a healthy newsroom,” says Daly, a TV producer for the CBC in Halifax.

Throughout a 25-year career spanning five provinces, Daly has worked at CBC, CTV and Global, plus The Canadian Press and the former QMI Agency, and says he has never had a manager of colour. He recalls just three full-time colleagues who were Black.

NEXT STEPS

In June, the CABJ penned an open letter to Corus Entertainment urging improved supports for Black voices and staff while expressing solidarity “with Black employees at Global News who have grappled with feelings of defeat” over repeated microaggressions.

That was followed last Thursday by another open letter to Corus and its Global News division signed by more than 100 hosts, producers, reporters, editors and camera operators with similar demands. “If we are to expect accountability of others, we must demand it of ourselves,” they wrote.

Corus has hired Grange’s agency, DiversiPro Inc., to review the entire organization, while its executive vice president of broadcast networks, Troy Reeb, says in a statement it’s “acting immediately” at Global News to increase representation, remove systemic barriers to retention and promotion, and consult with marginalized communities on news coverage.

Grange, who wouldn’t discuss details of the review, notes an enduring lack of diversity in the broader media industry when it comes to those who decide which stories are covered and how they’re told.

Entire communities and perspectives are at risk of being ignored or distorted when coverage is filtered through a predominantly white lens, says Daly.

And when that happens, news coverage can effectively uphold the status quo, sustain systemic barriers and actively deepen racial inequities, adds Anita Li of the Canadian Journalists of Colour.

“That’s actually bad for democracy because if people don’t see themselves reflected in the news they’re less likely to vote, to trust their neighbours, to engage civically,” says Li, whose career has included stints with CTV Ottawa, CBC, the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail.

These are not new problems, she adds, suggesting recent scrutiny rather than genuine insight has spurred some organizations to declare serious plans to address race-related failings.

Li notes the CABJ and CJOC issued their joint calls to action in January but the response from legacy organizations “was crickets.”

“We didn’t hear anything from them until these mass protests started happening,” she says of widespread demonstrations against anti-Black racism and police brutality.

Grange, too, says the majority of his clients have not traditionally been media. But that’s changing.

“Suddenly, we’re getting them. It’s kind of interesting.”

THE GROWING RESPONSE

Despite recent high-profile transgressions, the media industry does appear to be confronting its role in upholding white bias, says Li, pointing to emerging outlets, major media unions and larger organizations that have publicly committed to the calls to action.

She says they include the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail union, Global News, and the Walrus.

The Canadian Press says it has met with the CABJ and CJOC on the recommendations and is working to ensure it has the proper infrastructure in place to fully enact them.

“I actually feel like there’s genuine traction being made and there’s actual, candid conversations about the barriers that journalists of colour are facing,” says Li.

The conversation is long overdue at the Winnipeg Free Press, editor Paul Samyn wrote July 3 in an opinion piece titled, “An apology for marginalizing people of colour; and a promise to atone for our past.” The article admits the paper has, “at times, been part of the problem, not the solution,” while promising to better reflect and serve marginalized communities.

Measures there include the addition of four full-time reporters of colour, a special news project examining race and racism, and plans to close online commenting as of July 14 because it too-often served as a magnet for racist commentary.

Li acknowledges that dwindling ad revenues, dropping readership and fragmented audiences amid a plethora of free online competitors make it financially difficult for many outlets.

But investing in diversity and inclusion pays off in the long run, she says, noting Canada’s immigrant and racialized population is growing.

“So you’re just increasingly missing a bigger and bigger portion of Canadian society,” she says of ignoring change.

“Sooner or later these folks, these communities that are being overlooked, are going to go to alternative sources of media.”

Li encourages journalists and outlets to guard against feeling defensive when forced to acknowledge failures.

“For me it’s about calling them in, not calling them out,” says Li.

“The only way we can solve this issue is collaboratively together, with all hands on deck. It’s not just the responsibility of people of colour or journalists of colour. It’s the responsibility of the entire industry.”

Source: Calls grow for news outlets reporting on systemic racism to address own failures

Time to act on newsroom inequality

From the Star’s Public Editor:

“For years, we at The Star have talked about, sometimes in terms of despair, the need to reflect the changing nature of this city… Our coverage has not been inclusive enough. One obvious solution would be to hire more reporters and editors of all colors and cultures. New perspectives and new contacts would clearly improve the breadth and scope of our coverage.”

1995: Toronto & the Star: Report of the Diversity Committee

How can it be that a generation – a quarter century — has passed and still the Toronto Star and newsrooms throughout North America have not come to terms with the reality and repercussions of predominantly white newsrooms that look nothing like the communities they seek to serve?

Certainly, journalists at all levels of news organizations have seemingly long understood that a more diverse newsroom can provide more representative, more accurate and more complete news coverage that is necessary in a just and equitable society. Yet, after all these years, the truth of this matter is found in statements released earlier this year by the Canadian Association of Black Journalists and Canadian Journalists of Colour.

“Canadian newsrooms and media coverage are not truly representative of our country’s racial diversity. We acknowledge that journalism outlets have made efforts to address this worrying gap, but glaring racial inequity persists.”

I am not the first person to note that the brutal police killing of George Floyd and the subsequent global protests against systemic equality and for racial justice have presented journalism with something of a “#MeToo” moment – a seemingly rapid and revolutionary recognition of the need for change and broad refusal to accept the status quo of a long simmering situation.

Indeed, as Canadians confront the broader realities and repercussions of systematic anti-Black and Indigenous racism in our own country, it is well past time for a “reckoning” within journalism, a time to listen, to learn and to examine journalism’s role in the damaging prevalence of systemic racism.

As many have also made clear, this is most of all, a time for action. To its credit, the Star and its parent company, Torstar, committed this week, in a statement sent to all staff, to “taking concrete measures to address inequality, exclusion and discrimination.”

That was followed by a memo to the newsroom from Star editor Irene Gentle, who endorsed well-justified calls to action by the CABJ and CJoC that hold newsrooms to account for racial equality in Canadian media.

“Calls on behalf of Black, Indigenous and journalists of colour are founded in principles of anti-racism, justice and accountability this newsroom has long stood for in its reporting but did not live up to in its internal make-up, organization and, at times, judgment,” Gentle said. “Words don’t matter without actions and these actions can only make us a better, more fair newsroom to work in, inspire more relevant, vital journalism and help make our ideals a reality.”

In an earlier note to staff, Gentle acknowledged that the Star’s newsroom is not representative of the communities it reports on, even as its own outstanding anti-racism reporting continues to expose systemic racism within other institutions and organizations such as education and police.

“Internally, we obviously cannot ignore our own deficits,” she said. “There are historical and financial reasons for this, but that, while a fact, is not an excuse.”

Among the actions the Star and Torstar news organizations have committed to are: voluntary surveys of newsroom demographics to measure employment diversity statistics, hiring and promoting of Black and Indigenous employees and other people of colour and diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, training and mentoring of young and aspiring journalists of colour, including possible collaborations with journalism schools. Gentle also committed to establishing ongoing consultations with racialized and other communities through advisory groups.

“Some of these are underway or beginning. Others will require some time to set up and entrench,” Gentle said. “But we are committed to doing it because we, like all of you, know it is the right thing to do.”

The Star’s newsroom commitments are supported fully by the Torstar organization overall. In the memo to all staff, Torstar CEO John Boynton made clear the company “cannot just talk about appointing more committees, more task forces more study groups to look at these actions.”

“As a media company with a long history of championing equality for all, Torstar is uniquely positioned to learn from our past, to give voice to the present through our news coverage and providing opportunities in our pages and on our websites for frank, honest and open conversations about race and diversity and to help provide guidance and examples for future generations,” he said.

While I have been discouraged at knowing how long Canadian newsrooms have been talking about this issue, with so little real and necessary change happening. I am heartened by these statements of actions and our CEO’s words seeking accountability: “We will be – and we should be – held accountable for ensuring that we act. If we fail, please let us know.”

Indeed, equality and diversity are not simply “nice to have,” an exhaustive 2019 report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism on “the struggle for talent and diversity in modern newsrooms” tells us.

“More diversity and a better representation of the underlying population is not only a question of justness and fairness, it’s also a question of power, as the media still largely decide who gets to be heard in society and thus who gets to shape political and social issues,” that report states.

Within the Star, I believe there is strong understanding that this week’s commitment to action is just the beginning as we all listen to learn and understand our own roles in the perpetuation of newsroom inequity. I see need for ongoing discussion and debate among journalists, their employers and unions, people of colour from the wider community, journalism scholars and industry associations about newsrooms structures, and journalism’s practices, standards and values. Most important, as is happening throughout North America now, this time demands a rethinking about how journalism and its mission in a democracy that stands for universal human rights is defined — and more important, who defines it.

Whether we regard this moment as a reckoning or a revolution, the time for that is now.

New Zealand is a far more multicultural place today – its mainstream media is not

Similar issues in Canada and some interesting info regarding their ethnic media:

Let’s start with a test, about references to Indian people in the news. Last year, an Indian Naval crew completed the first-ever circumnavigation of the globe by an all-women team, in about eight months. They had a scheduled stop-over (one of only four worldwide) in Lyttelton, Christchurch, for over two weeks in 2017. They were facilitated by the Mayor, ministers, local MPs, and the wider community.

Such a great, inspiring story for women around the world, and in New Zealand, right? But I’m sure a majority of you are reading about it in New Zealand media for the first time. By contrast, stories about the Kiwi-Indian Christchurch GP Rakesh Chawdhry, who in 2018, was found guilty of sex offences against his patients, are hard to miss. His case was, and is, extensively reported by all mainstream New Zealand media.

No one can – or should – question a newsroom’s editorial judgement on what to cover, and what not to cover on an individual story basis. But editors, and even more importantly, owners, must realise that journalism is a business with public interest at its core. And that ‘public’ in New Zealand has changed, and is now more multicultural than ever.

Recently released Census 2018 figures tell us that almost 30% of the country’s population is non-European now. If we just take the three main Asian ethnicities – Chinese, Indians, and Filipinos – two-thirds of whom live in Auckland, they make up about 25 percent of the city’s population. Nationwide, there are more than 700,000 people of Asian descent living in New Zealand.

And to my mind, the recent financial struggles of mainstream New Zealand media are partly due to a failure to acknowledge, appreciate and cater to anyone except the majority community. Apart from a token mention of celebrations such as Diwali and Chinese Lantern Festival, any coverage of multicultural communities tends to invariably be negative, if they get a mention at all.

I dare say that a business that ignores a quarter of New Zealand’s only big city – especially a business that runs on public trust and goodwill – is a recipe for financial failure. The same argument applies to the rest of the country.

I am not for a moment denying the two main reasons being put forward for the struggles of commercial media. The dominance of Google and Facebook in terms of digital advertising revenues, and the subsidisation of state-owned media organisations in New Zealand.

But it is worth adding that ignoring 30% of the population is a third and equally important reason. Google, Facebook, RNZ and TVNZ are not going anywhere, any time soon. So this third reason is really the only one within our control.

A question might be asked – ‘why should we cater to these communities, they don’t matter financially?’ This assumption is incorrect, on two counts. There is a difference in income levels – per NZ Stats June 2019 quarter figures, European median weekly income ($1,060) is almost $100 more than Asian ($959.) But this gap is reducing every year. This is partly due to the aspirational nature, and emphasis on achieving social mobility through education, in the multicultural communities.

Secondly, due to discrimination in securing a job in the New Zealand market, many migrants turn to entrepreneurship. The salaried class doesn’t bring in the same advertising revenues as the business class. So migrant businesses are where some significant untapped advertising dollars are sitting.

Don’t believe me? Attend a Meet the Press programme, which the Indian High Commission in New Zealand regularly organises. I went to one recently held in Auckland. There were more than 10 Indian-origin media organisations present – including print, radio and digital – which report in English, Hindi, Punjabi, and Gujarati, among others. There is a similar number for the local Chinese-origin media. We also have some Filipino, Korean, and Japanese publications across the country. And this number has only grown over the last decade or so.

Clearly, communities are sustaining all these publications.

Hence, the market, the audience, the stories, and the business, is all there for someone who is able to appreciate the changing nature of New Zealand, and is willing to change with it.

Mainstream news media in New Zealand is struggling because, as one CEO said, consumer behaviour is changing. What he failed to say was that the consumer itself is changing. The emerging consumer is is young, urban, earning – and increasingly multicultural.

Source: New Zealand is a far more multicultural place today – its mainstream media is not

‘Plain cruel’: Vanuatu stops newspaper chief boarding plane home after China stories

Another reminder of the influence of China:

The media director of a Vanuatu newspaper whose visa renewal was refused this month has been barred from flying home to Vanuatu from Brisbane with his partner.

Dan McGarry, who has lived in Vanuatu for 16 years, applied to have his work permit renewed earlier this year but it was rejected. McGarry believes his visa was refused due to articles he had published about China’s influence in Vanuatu.

In July the Daily Post broke the story of Vanuatu deporting six Chinese nationals – four of whom had obtained Vanuatu citizenship – without due process or access to legal counsel.

McGarry said he was “quite confident” it was that series of reports which had upset the government.

McGarry, who is Canadian, left the country to attend a forum in Brisbane on media freedom in Melanesia, at which leading journalists and the editors from the region spoke about attacks on journalistic freedom in the region and discussed his case in detail.

The parties went negative, and the media enabled them

Good reflections on election coverage:

It is hard for outsiders to understand how gruelling, exhilarating, exciting, frustrating and physically demanding it can be for journalists covering an election. In the modern multi-media, multi-tasking universe in which journalists live, reporters on campaign planes may be tweeting, doing live interviews and writing several stories in the course of 18-hour days, often eating crappy food at irregular hours without proper exercise and with inadequate sleep. All while trying to be fair and accurate. On election night, columnists like the Toronto Star’s Chantal Hébert and the National Post’s Andrew Coyne were writing their pieces for the next day’s papers while simultaneously appearing on live TV shows.

Ordinary reporters broke stories in this campaign and exhaustively documented the statements of the leaders. Analysts and commentators took apart the platforms. And despite what you may have thought or heard, they collectively produced reams of copy on policy issues. Every time I saw someone complaining that no one was writing about some specific issue, I went online and found deeply reported stories. There were policy pieces on housing affordability and the dependency ratio, and examinations of party platforms on child care and the environment, just to offer a few examples.

But for all the individual excellence and all the expenditure of energy and intellectual capital from journalists, this was a deeply dissatisfying election for many Canadians, and the media played a part in that.

First, let’s be clear. Despite talk that the mainstream media have been displaced by social media, they continue to play a dominant role in the way most Canadians experience a campaign. More than half of Canadians relied on the evening national TV news to form their views on the election, according to a survey by Abacus Data. That was followed by talk radio. Both of these old-fashioned news sources were ahead of social media, as was the influence of “family and friends.”

Not surprisingly, the picture was quite different when it came to the youngest cohort, those 18-29 years of age. For them, the most important source of election information was not social media, though, but family and friends. True, social media were more important to this group than mainstream media; nonetheless, TV news, talk radio and newspapers were all important sources of election information for more than 40 percent of them. What this suggests is that the grip of the mainstream media might continue to diminish over time, but the day of its irrelevance has surely not yet come.

So, the coverage mattered. And the coverage, certainly as it was experienced by many voters, was predominantly negative. We have some interesting data on this from Greg Lyle at Innovative Research Group. He asked respondents mid-campaign whether they had read, seen or heard anything in recent days about each leader. Among those who had heard anything about Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, they said it led them to think less favourably of him by a margin of two-to-one. Almost precisely the same was true of Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

This is very much in keeping with the unprecedently negative tone of the entire 2019 campaign in which both major parties trended down in the polls and which produced a government with the lowest-ever share of the popular vote.

Like any campaign, so much happened in such a short time that it can be easy to forget the way it began. In the first few days after the writ was dropped, it felt like a formless void, a space without narrative. And this was a vacuum that was gleefully filled by the Liberal war room. The Liberals had obviously accumulated a little video storehouse of horrors: Conservative candidates saying controversial or outright offensive things on abortion, Quebec, homosexuality and race. In that first week, they dropped bits of what they had found onto social media with deliberate menace just hours before Scheer made campaign appearances with particular candidates.

They did this before Scheer appeared with Rachel Willson in York-Centre (her call for anti-abortion legislation). Boom! When he was about to appear with Arpan Khanna in Brampton North (his homophobic Facebook posts). Boom! When he was on his way to see Justina McCaffrey in Kanata-Carleton (her friendship with far-right commentator Faith Goldy). Boom! (Each of these candidates ultimately lost, by the way.)

So, it was the Liberals, not the media, who set the tone of the campaign in its first week. Gloomy Ways! But they did so by performing a sort of hack on the media, exploiting their weakness for novelty and tension. Because it was in video form, it took little or no effort to verify on the fly.

What reporter rushing to a constituency event where the less-than-electric Scheer was slated to address some small-bore policy idea recycled from Harper 2015 could resist the lure of the video the Liberals had just dropped on Twitter? Particularly when the Tory candidate obliged the Liberal war room by running away from the camera, as Justina McCaffrey did.

So, the media did not set the tone, but their weakness for a particular kind of story enabled and amplified it. This kept everyone occupied until that blackface photo appeared on Time’s website, giving Justin Trudeau his time in the barrel (and forcing the Liberals to cage in the residents of their war room for a while). Two weeks later, though, the media dug up information about Andrew Scheer’s resumé and then his citizenship, swinging the narrative back to him.

Of course, the media are not helpless in the face of the narratives that campaigns present any more than the parties themselves are. Indeed, every day is a struggle among the parties themselves and between them and the media to decide what the election should be about. On the very first day of the campaign, the Globe and Mail dropped a story on the RCMP looking into the SNC-Lavalin affair that the paper may have hoped would set the frame for the entire campaign. It did set the frame, but for only a day. Later it seemed plain that many people in the media expected the blackface controversy to dominate the rest of the campaign, until it seemed it had not made much of a dent in the Liberals’ polls, at which point they moved on.

Neither of those narratives would have elevated the tone of the election campaign, it has to be said. You could argue in contrast that the Toronto Star strove admirably to frame the election around climate change, which if you believe is real, as I do, is surely as worthy a subject to debate at election time as free trade in 1988 or cutting the GST in 2006. The Star published a series of vividly reported stories that helped remind those who read them of the stakes if we do not act. But it was Swedish activist Greta Thunberg’s journey to North America that raised the profile of the issue in the media more generally, at least for a week, along with an assist from the Liberals on the hustings anxious to move on from blackface. But then climate change, too, faded into the cacophony.

In the last week, it was the most familiar of media narratives that dominated: who is ahead in the polls; can anyone get a majority; if not, who will play with whom in the new Parliament? This emptied the election of most of its policy content and opened up a mostly negative conversation among the parties about which voters should fear the most. Should we be more afraid of Liberal/NDP profligacy or of Conservative budget cuts?

It would be wrong to say that the media alone were responsible for the negativity of this campaign. What we witnessed was rather a cycle, much of it beginning with the parties themselves, turbo-charged by the media, spun through social media, then picked up again and further amplified by the politicians. This cycle could have been broken had the parties presented big ideas or divided more clearly on issues of principle or policy, but for the most part they chose not to. And there were signs of resistance in the media — reporters and columnists who worked mightily to bring us back to what mattered, or should matter: climate change, the economy, taxes and deficit, systemic racism, the scandal of the condition of Indigenous people, foreign policy even. But in the end, all their efforts to save us from this dismal election were in vain.

Source: The parties went negative, and the media enabled them