October 3 Lecture

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University of Toronto St. George
St. Michael's College Courses
Michael Valpy

October 3 2011 SMC315 G1: Andrew Coin G2: Gerry Caplan Ontario Elections and Focuses on Newspapers - Guest lecturers - Valpy starts by asking what sort of narrative the newspapers have given us up til now and their coverage of the election --> has it been an aid to understanding; an obstacle to understanding G1 (Andrew) has said this election is not particularly enlightening --> says we are prisoners of narrative in coverage. We as human beings are pushed to arrange events of our own lives into narrative to take an order. This can be overwhelming when taken on by the media. - narrative: arrangement of events in a coherent story line where one thing leads to another; technically a hero/villain; ritualized communication; characters fit in a story line - we cover the campaign more than we cover the election - problem is there isnt alot of news in election campaigns - they are meaningful to parties, but basically campaign events. They are not hugely significant in themselves. We tend to invest more significantly than they warrant - we become obsessed with news events that dont really matter --> gilles duceppe wears a funny hair net why do we care? - tell you whos ahead, whos behind; but when its clear that someones behind we gather around him and ask him why hes behind - what were really trying to do is make him cry - alot of our coverage is aimed at political junkies and so we write for who we imagine our readers to be political junkies -- but most of the time theyre not - readers want to know who these leaders are, and what they will do for us. Says that people should not be covering the political junkness of the election and the campaign, but should probably be more about the actual news of the election - says jealous of insiderism --> journalists arent the main people in the room but the onloker in the room G2 speaker - fascinating relationships between reporters, opinion writers, politicans themselves, and how each lives are interdependent with each other, yet we all fear of all them - proivincial politics always gets thin end of the stick -- literally impossible to have any idea what happens in queens park in any sort of systematic organized way - newspapers cover the nation, and the local scene - provincially you get little sense of whats going on - the star/the globe has one regular columnist who writes 1-3 times a week and write overview pieces - one of the most fascinating parts of provincial legislature as opposed to house of commons is question period --> issues are never really told - we begin each election campaign with ignorance - the coverage is erratic, superficial, but mostly it is disconnected each piece from each other - you learn a little today, you never learn a follow up -- lets move in for the kill - entire election based on complete fraud and complete lie of whats going to happen to the economy of ontario. Its an all party lie. None of them can do what they all say they will do -- reduce the deficit or end it in the next year, not cut services, not increase taxes. None of them have paid attention to mass of public information of how the world is going to hell -- but luckily for ontario not going to happen as soon. Thats the news coverage (awful) then there are the trivial generalizations of the three leaders that become part of the pack mentality - ex., Andrea Horvath --> cute, doesnt think of public policy - Hudak --> nicer guy out of politics than in politics - McGuinty --> nice guy means well; globe and mail endorsed him G1 -- says we are trapped in a model that encourages poor journalism. We are not doing as well as we can do Q from Valpy: how can we get out of it and why are we in it? A from G1: something hard for us to resist. Part of it is we are locked into a news model of covering election campaigns. We sometimes wish we would all agree to not go on the leaders planes/buses. I think a big part of it is we have to fill the news hole. 24 hours a day, and if there isnt news were going to be in alot of trouble. I have proposed that one possible way of this is that it occurs to me is that we do a terrible job in the tv debates. The tv debates ought to be a great opportunity for the elector to take the measures of these candidates. We ought to have alot more. By having only one, we treat it as a prize. Sure enough, after the ontario election debate we saw the usual headlines of no knockout blow -- there has never been a knockout blow! We are looking for a defining moment that doesnt necessarily exist in real life. If we had more debates then everyone would calm down a bit -- candidates would be less wired, debates would be substantive, and the best part about it is it would give us [reporters] something to write about than cheesy news. There would be analysis of what was said, looking forward to the next debate have topics for each debate ex., healthcare. Give us more substantive news and less about the campaign. G2: Cynical about debates for couple of reasons. On the politicians part, the debate is not an attempt to get any policy understood by anyone. Ex., kim campbell a campaign is no time to discuss public policy because no one is interested. The candidates just want to create a slogan that people will remember. None of the leaders are confident in how well theyre doing. G1: We leave things in self interested parties -- leaders and media. Leaders are looking to minimize their risk, the ones who are behind want more, they screw the leaders of the green party. The winners dont want to have debates, the losers do. Says Gerry to cynical about potential role of policy in debates. He says we should notgive in to that, we should not say that it cannot be about policy because sometimes it is about policy. In the last federal election, Ignatieff was too focused on the attack and opposition rather than the policy. G2: We saw Ignatieff like this and told everyone to think it Valpy: Lets focus on positive things -- what can newspapers do to help serve democracy. Ex., truth checks, gone out and looked at issues and done own analyses of the issues. What can newspapers do more of to serve democracy? G1: We are in a very interesting age in social media where newspapers and media organizations can help be a forum for interaction b/t public and each other, public and politicians and public and newspapers. Newspapers can convene in a more formalized way. Public opinion emerges from official opinion in ways that which none of us understand. A better understanding of how public opinion are formed would serve us all, but facilitating that is part of a newspapers modern role. He wants to be careful of being too prescriptive we have to remember at the end of the day that they are the candidates, they can say what the election is about ultimately. Nothing matters if youre not read -- nothing matters as a journalist if you are not read. Whether we like it or not we are in the information business but also in show business. Valpy: Why do you use twitter? G1: Interesting literary form if I can call it that. He is exploring it as his role as a journalist.
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