What the Anthony, Turcotte and the NOTW scandal are teaching us.
By Gaëtan L. Charlebois
(This article has been corrected)
The Quebec Press Council is a group I have no time, respect or admiration for. (In the spirit of full disclosure the QPC has ruled against me once and for me once and I didn't present myself - or give a shit - either time.) They are now forming a policy to decide which news outlets are legit and which are not and accord accreditation depending on this decision. I have no idea of the machinations within this sect which led to this decision and will lead to the accreditation, but I do know that we should all be distrustful of any media that allows it to happen. We are already seeing a closing of ranks in traditional media to keep out the upstarts (like the one you are now reading) and this comes at a time when the traditional media has failed us miserably; in local, national and international coverage. That they are trying to legitamize this failure with government-endorsed crypto-guilds who can regulate should horrify all of us.
Why? Because this bunch of jabonies can't police themselves.
Local journalists were no better in their handling of the Turcotte case than that crazy monkey at HLN, Nancy Grace, was in her discussion (monologues) of Casey Anthony.
Look at the news. In the last 20 years the media has led us to believe (and I mean believe dogmatically!) that Clarence Thomas was a nice guy being hounded by some vindictive bitch, that OJ would go to jail, that the war in Iraq was necessary and, more recently, that Casey Anthony and Guy Turcotte were heading to the slammer and that we should not worry about our freedom of the press going over to media barons like Conrad Black, Pierre-Karl Péladeau and Rupert Murdoch. While bloggers screamed, the mainstream media let all of this happen. Local journalists were no better in their handling of the Turcotte case than that crazy monkey at HLN, Nancy Grace, was in her discussion (monologue) of Casey Anthony. The lions-share of the mainstream press (outside of the Murdoch empire and except for The Guardian) was no more organized in their investigation of The News of The World phone-hacking disaster than they were in their reporting of OJ's trial. In all of these cases, they were not just looking the other way, the were actively leading us that way.
I have to laugh at the movements of the QPP as Brits are now laughing at the toothless British Press Council which rolled over and played dead while Murdoch nurtured his cronie-to-cronie relationship with Margaret Thatcher, then Tony Blair and now David Cameron. Cameron's fuck-buddyhood with Murdoch is so intense that even now - as Murdoch's entire empire (including Fox News) and its corporate culture are being intensely scrutinized - the prime-minister (as of this writing) insists that a deal for a cable license for BSkyB (an enormous gift to Murdoch) should go ahead.
Readers - especially the young - trust them and the big media less and turn to Jon Stewart, Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere more and more.
What have the various press councils done for you, the readers? Dick. They are as cronied up as the various media they are meant to control and spend a good deal of their time having decisions on idiot cases largely ignored. Readers - especially the young - trust them and the big media less and turn to Jon Stewart, Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere more and more. For everything. For theatre opinions as much as music views as much as discussion and analysis of huge questions of social importance.
This is a tragedy, but not one nobody saw coming. The Guardian has been steeling itself for this gigantic sea-change since forever by offering all their content online free and having a current-news-feed at that site which is second to none. Hate her or love her, Arianna Huffington saw this coming as did the creators of Slate and Salon. Tragically, again, the only ones who did not see it coming were those governed (and some would say protected) by the press councils. They're all scrambling (with half-assed web sites, useless mobile apps and behind-paywall content). But it's too late.
Because, from OJ to Turcotte via Iraq and News of the World, the councils and the media blew it. They installed hack-ism and made it damn-near institutional and in the process misspent the public trust. The one thing they were offering, as the world changed, was in-depth analysis of events; what they did, instead, was count angels on the head of a pin. And not only did the councils let them, we all did.