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The day M.J. (and all other news) died

Posted by Andrea -

Fri, Jul 24, 2009

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A few weeks ago, after countless days of Michael Jackson news in the headlines, I (of Toronto) wondered: Are Canadian newspapers failing the people? Or are we are fortunate enough that all of the world issues that seemed more important to report recently have disappeared?

Is the death or life of Michael Jackson – or any celebrity — more important than, say, acidic oceans, collapsing fisheries, energy decline, a 20 percent increase in the military budget, or an urgent global warming crisis? Whatever happened to Iran? Did the crisis there suddenly stop because Michael Jackson died?

Newspapers may believe they accurately report on our ecological and social challenges, but most Canadians remain completely unaware of the severe catastrophes that may befall them, their children, and grandchildren. Coverage of celebrities in the face of these urgent issues is a strange use of the public’s precious time to become informed. It leads one to believe that there are no serious issues to cover. Or, do editors and writers of Canada’s major papers secretly wish that they were working for People Magazine?

Should Canadians one day awaken to find themselves surrounded by an unstoppable global warming collapse, they will feel betrayed by the media. Global warming has been known by the scientific community for more than a century. James Lovelock had the CO2 data in hand in the 1960s. Yet we continue to pretend to “debate all sides” of this issue, deny facts, and cover our grief and fear in trivial news like Michael Jackson’s auctioned gloves. We all remember the Holocaust as something that has passed, but are we capable, as we often profess, of preventing future ones?

Like doctors, is it not the job of journalists to alert the public of danger, help citizens act in their democracy based on clear facts? This job is not being done.

We need perspective and a sense of our social priorities. If we fail to solve the challenges of global warming, energy decline, toxic wastes, and dying oceans, our progeny could witness a global holocaust beyond anything history has yet experienced. If we fail to confront dictatorships and war, we are bailing on the central role the news is supposed to play. If provided with the correct information most Canadians would prefer this to reliving ABC and Thriller, and feeling nostalgia for someone who was exploited by the press since childhood. Step back, and rethink the role you play.

Andrea Peloso is the coordinator of CODEPINK Toronto, yoga teacher and proud aunt.

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  • Janet W

    Important questions – and a serious rebuke both to decision-makers in the media, and all of us media consumers.

  • Lisa

    A free press has been perceived as necessary to democracy. The freedom of expression guaranteed in the 1st amendment of the U.S. constitution does NOT amount to a free press, as we have experienced. Corporate ownership of the means of distributing information is the primary factor enabling weapons manufacturers to hijack the U.S. government. Will Canada soon follow?

    Thank you, Andrea, for this thought provoking piece. We have to be our own media now, and I like your contribution.

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