Commentary | Life Lines: Beware of the Canadian journalistic apocalypse

There may be tangible reasons why stereotypes sprout up, but many of us know you don’t have to delve deep into history to find that painting everybody with the same brush can make for an ugly picture.

Stereotypes mostly just form a perception in our minds of an individual before we even talk to that person. They may be fine as baseline assessments or material at comedy clubs, but as far as knowing an individual: sit down and chat.

But I write for a newspaper. And ultimately it’s nice if people read it. And since it’s not the news section (those guys are such nerds), I can write till the middle of my column, then spin it all around you, screw with my thesis, sprinkle some fairy dust and BAM: here’s a very readable, if somewhat hypocritical piece of literature for you.

Here’s the rub. All those things I said about stereotypes I stand with, but sometimes there are things which are mostly, if not strictly, true. In the following mini-essay I will be influenced by stereotypes directly affecting me – about the journalistic world and those news section geeks – which makes it kind of okay.

There’s something you quickly notice when comparing American news media and Canadian news media. Spend 30 seconds on CNN or Fox News and you’ll feel like the world is imploding upon itself while Angelina Jolie is having a baby as another baseball player uses enhancement pills at the same time Joe the Plumber has won the biggest lottery yet. Spend an hour on CBC and you will know that it might snow tomorrow.

This kind of matter-of-fact and sincere media is a pinnacle of Canadian journalism. Whether the news bringers serve downtown populations or university students, we in Canada need to retain this element of “everything is alright. We will approach all necessary topics in due time, let us not fret, and start with the weather.” It is what makes us different. It is the dividing line between Hollywood and Tim Hortons. One screams sensational; the other asks if you want a donut.

Why am I worried, you ask? Has anything changed in the last couple years? YES! Yes, dammit, it has. Want proof? Here it is: on March 5 I did a comparison of two similar news outlets, one led by Canadians, the other by Americans. Namely, Yahoo! Canada and Yahoo! USA. These are some of the headlines on the Canadian site:

“Store Shooting: Murder-suicide at Wal-Mart!”

“‘Crazy Diet’: Milla Jovovich loses 70 pounds!”

“Deadly rider: cobra found in couple’s car!”

“Close call: huge asteroid almost hits earth!”

These are legit, by the way; do a search and you’ll find them. On the other side of the spectrum, spitting in the face of my treasured stereotype is the American site:

“Acer Laptops: cheap but not fully-loaded.”

“American Idol: next 3 chosen.”

“Sports: Cowboys drop Owens.”

“Web Hit: the sleepwalking dog.”

C’mon, Canada! Let’s change this right now. There’s nothing wrong with exciting media, but let’s tell people about the world using well-rounded perspectives, not just eye-grabbing headlines. And this goes for The Daily as well. You are the ones we’re serving: if it gets too sensational out here, call us out.

Johanu will be back with another round of hard-hitting investigative journalism next Monday. Send your thoughts to lifelines@mcgilldaily.com.


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