Transcript: Is Canadian media losing its touch? | Sep 30, 2019

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and gray plaid tie.

A caption on screen reads "Are Canadian media losing their touch? @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says MEDIA, TODAY, ARE EVERYWHERE.
ONLINE, ON AIR, IN THE ELEVATOR
FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE.
THEY'RE UBIQUITOUS, BUT THEY'VE
ALSO GOT NO SHORTAGE OF CRITICS,
SOME BASHING THEM FOR BEING
ELITIST, OTHERS BEMOANING THE
SO-CALLED CLICKBAIT DUMBING-DOWN
OF THE NEWS.
HERE TO REFLECT ON WHETHER
THERE'S A WIDENING GAP BETWEEN
THE PRESS AND THE PUBLIC, WE
WELCOME:
SUANNE KELMAN, PROFESSOR
EMERITUS OF THE RYERSON SCHOOL
OF JOURNALISM...

Suanne is in her sixties, with short curly gray hair. She's wearing glasses and a magenta blouse.

Steve continues AND CHRIS WADDELL, PROFESSOR AND
DIRECTOR FOR THE BACHELOR OF
MEDIA PRODUCTION AND DESIGN
PROGRAM AT THE SCHOOL OF
JOURNALISM AND COMMUNICATION AT
CARLETON UNIVERSITY.

Chris is in his late sixties, clean-shaven, with short white hair. He's wearing a black suit and blue shirt.

Steve continues IT'S A DELIGHT TO HAVE YOU TWO
FAMILIAR FACES BACK IN THOSE
CHAIRS.
GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE TONIGHT.
CHRIS, HERE IS WHAT YOU WROTE
AROUND THE TIME THE JUSTIN
TRUDEAU BLACKFACE SCANDAL BROKE.
YOU WROTE...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Something isn't right." The quote reads "The media has traditionally played a valuable role in helping its audience sort out the consequential from the inconsequential or less consequential. The media makes that argument in positioning itself as an essential pillar of democracy. Allowing that to slip away when its economic future is threatened and audiences are already disappearing, seems both short-sighted and a self-inflicted marginalization when the media can least afford it."
Quoted from Chris Waddell, CapitalCurrent.ca. September 20, 2019.

Steve says LET'S GET INTO THIS.
GIVE US AN EXAMPLE OF HOW THE
MEDIA ARE SORT OF FORGETTING
THEIR TRADITIONAL ROLE OF
DRAWING DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN
WHAT MATTERS A LOT AND WHAT
MATTERS A LITTLE.

The caption changes to "Christopher Waddell. Carleton University."
Then, it changes again to "The case for the way things used to be."

Chris says I THINK
WE'VE SEEN A LITTLE OF THAT IN
THE BLACKFACE INCIDENT.
THE NIGHT THE STORY CAME OUT, IT
BROKE A LITTLE AFTER DINNER IN
THE EVENING.
I WATCHED CBC THAT EVENING AT
10:00.
THEY STOPPED PEOPLE IN THE
STREET IN VANCOUVER.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS?
WHAT WAS INTERESTING ABOUT THE
STREETERS IS NOBODY WAS
OUTRAGED.
SOME PEOPLE WERE DISAPPOINTED.
SOME PEOPLE WERE ANGRY.
SOME PEOPLE THOUGHT IT WAS
EMBARRASSING.
BUT THEY ALSO SAID, YOU KNOW,
THAT HAPPENED 20 YEARS AGO.
AND THEY SAID, AND I'VE GOT MORE
IMPORTANT THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
WHEN I DECIDE WHO I'M GOING TO
VOTE FOR.

Steve says EVEN PEOPLE OF
COLOUR SAID THAT.

The caption changes to "Chris Waddell, @cwaddell27."

Chris says I'LL TELL YOU SOMETHING MORE
ABOUT THAT IN A SECOND.
WHAT WAS MOST INTERESTING WAS,
HAVING WORKED IN THE MEDIA FOR A
WHILE, I KIND OF SUSPECTED, HAD
THEY FOUND ANYONE WHO WAS
OUTRAGED, THEY WOULD LIKELY NOT
HAVE BEEN IN THAT CLIP PACKAGE.
THAT CONTINUED THE NEXT DAY OR
SO.
ON FRIDAY THE GLOBE AND MAIL RAN
SEVEN PAGES ON THE STORY.
SEVEN PAGES.
I HAVEN'T BOTHERED TO GO BACK
AND LOOK AND SEE WHAT WAS THE
LAST EVENT... PROBABLY THEIR
COVERAGE OF SNC-LAVALIN WAS
SEVEN PAGES.
BUT IT SEEMED TO BE... AND THE
PUBLIC OPINION POLLING THAT'S
BEEN SUBSEQUENTLY, AND I'LL JUST
USE DAVID COLETTO AT ABACUS AS
AN EXAMPLE, HE FOUND 24 percent OF THE
PEOPLE THEY SURVEYED IN THE
THREE DAYS AFTER, THEIR OPINION
OF MR. TRUDEAU WENT DOWN AFTER
SEEING THAT.
THEY ALSO FOUND THAT 66 percent OF THAT
24 percent WERE CONSERVATIVES.
SO IT SEEMED TO HAVE A NEGATIVE
IMPACT ON SOME LIBERALS, SOME
GREEN SUPPORTERS, AND SOME NDP
SUPPORTERS, BUT NOT VERY MANY.
AND AS WE'VE SEEN WHAT'S
HAPPENED, THAT SEEMS TO BE THE
MEDIUM-TERM IMPRESSION.

Steve says DO YOU WANT TO SAY SOMETHING?

The caption changes to "Suanne Kelman. Ryerson University."

Suanne says I WANT TO INTERJECT.
I WOULD SAY THIS IS NOT SO NEW.
AND THE TWO WORDS I WOULD THROW
AT YOU ARE "MEECH LAKE."
YOU WERE WORKING IN MEDIA IN
1987.

Chris says I WAS
WRITING FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL.

The caption changes to "Suanne Kelman, @suannekelman."

Suanne says YES. WE HAD
THE MISSILE ATTACK ON THE USS
STARK. WE HAD POOR OLD GORBACHEV
RUNNING AROUND TRYING TO SELL
PERESTROIKA AND GLASNOST TO HIS
OWN PEOPLE AND THE OUTSIDE WORLD
AND I, AT THE JOURNAL AT CBC,
AND I'M SURE YOU AT THE GLOBE
WAS SURROUNDED BY A GROUP THAT I
CALLED MEECH LAKE MOONIES.
EVERY TIME I MET ORDINARY
PEOPLE, THEY HAD NO INTEREST IN
MEECH LAKE AT ALL.
SO IT'S NOT SO NEW.

Chris says EXCEPT I
THINK THERE'S A SIGNIFICANT
DIFFERENCE.
AND THE SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE I
WOULD SUGGEST IS THAT WHAT WE
SEEM TO HAVE DONE, CUTBACKS,
LAYOFFS, REDUCED SIZE OF
NEWSROOMS, FINANCIAL PRESSURES
NEWS ORGANIZATIONS ARE UNDER, IT
STRIKES ME THAT, TO A
SIGNIFICANT DEGREE, WHAT
JOURNALISM IS DOING HAS CHANGED.
SO INSTEAD OF TELLING PEOPLE HOW
TO THINK ABOUT AN ISSUE, WHICH
IS PROVIDING THEM WITH THE
BACKGROUND AND AN EXAMPLE OF
WHERE IT'S HAPPENED BEFORE, THE
HISTORY, EVERYTHING ELSE, TOO
MUCH OF JOURNALISM IS NOW
TELLING PEOPLE WHAT TO THINK
ABOUT THINGS.
AND WITHOUT ACTUALLY GIVING
THEM... SO WE IMMEDIATELY JUMP
TO, MR. TRUDEAU AND BROWNFACE...
AND I'M NOT SAYING IT'S NOT A
STORY... IT'S A SCANDAL, IT'S A
BOMBSHELL, IT'S EVERYTHING ELSE.
WELL, THE PUBLIC DOESN'T SHARE
THAT.

Steve says THAT'S WHY I WANTED
TO FOLLOW UP WITH YOU, SUANNE.
THE SNC-LAVALIN GOT A TON OF
COVERAGE.
BLACKFACE, BROWNFACE, GOT A TON
OF COVERAGE.
IF THIS HAD HAPPENED IN THE
STATES, LET'S FACE IT, HE'D BE
DEAD.
IT'S HAPPENED HERE.
THE POLLS HAVE MOVED, BUT NOT
ALL THAT MUCH.
DOES THAT SUGGEST THAT THE
AMOUNT OF COVERAGE THE MEDIA
HAVE PUT TOWARDS THESE ISSUES
HAS BEEN UNWARRANTED?

Suanne says YES.
AND IT RELATES TO WHAT CHRIS
JUST SAID ABOUT HOW OVERWORKED
AND THE PRESSURES ON PEOPLE.
THEY KEEP LOOKING... WELL, THE
MEDIA... KEEP LOOKING FOR
STORIES THAT WILL GIVE PEOPLE A
JOLT, AND THEY THOUGHT THAT
THESE TWO WOULD BE THOSE KIND OF
STORIES.
JOURNALISTS LIVE IN A RARIFIED
WORLD.
IT'S LIKE RESTAURANT CRITICS.
I TEND NOT TO TRUST THE
RESTAURANTS THAT RESTAURANT
CRITICS LOVE BECAUSE THEY EAT
OUT ALL THE TIME AND THEY
DEVELOP A FONDNESS FOR PARTS OF
AN ANIMAL I DON'T WANT TO THINK
ABOUT, NEVER MIND EAT.
IT'S ONE OF THE REASONS PEOPLE
BECOME JOURNALISTS, BECAUSE
THEIR INTERESTS ARE MORE
RARIFIED THAN THE GENERAL
PUBLIC.

Chris says I THINK
THERE'S SOMETHING ELSE GOING ON
TOO.
THAT IS, IF YOU GO TO NEWSROOMS
THESE DAYS, A SIGNIFICANT
COMPONENT OF MANY NEWSROOMS IS
WHAT'S CALLED CHART BEAT, WHICH
IS IN REALTIME A DISPLAY OF HOW
MANY PEOPLE ARE READING
DIFFERENT STORIES.
AND INCREASINGLY, NEWS
ORGANIZATIONS RESPOND TO THAT.
THE STORIES THAT ACTUALLY DO
VERY WELL IN CHART BEAT TEND TO
BE THE STORIES... TEND TO BE NOT
NECESSARILY NEWS STORIES BUT
MORE COLUMNS, OPINIONS, THE MORE
OUTRAGEOUS THE BETTER, BECAUSE
THE MORE OUTRAGEOUS THEY ARE,
THEY THEN GET REPEATED ON SOCIAL
MEDIA AND THAT DRAWS MORE PEOPLE
TO LOOK AT IT AND BEFORE YOU
KNOW IT YOU'RE INTO
REINFORCING...

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Steve says DID THAT COMPEL THE
COVERAGE OF BLACKFACE,
BROWNFACE, DO YOU THINK?

Chris says POTENTIALLY.
I DON'T KNOW.
THAT'S BEING DRIVEN BY MONEY
BECAUSE IT'S BEING DRIVEN BY THE
FACT THAT NEWS ORGANIZATIONS
HAVE LOST SIGNIFICANT
ADVERTISING REVENUE.
YOU'VE TALKED ABOUT THAT ON THE
SHOW BEFORE.
ONE WAY THEY THINK THEY CAN GET
SOME OF IT... AND HERE WE'RE
EMULATING THE WORST OF THE U.S.
MEDIA AT THE MOMENT, I'D SAY...
WE'RE TRYING TO DO THINGS THAT
ARE BASICALLY CLICKBAIT, BUT THE
PROBLEM WITH THAT IS, I THINK IN
THE PROCESS... I'M JUST
SPECULATING HERE... I THINK
YOU'RE ALIENATING YOUR
TRADITIONAL AUDIENCE, AND THE
CLICKBAIT YOU'RE GETTING IS NOT
AN AUDIENCE THAT'S GOING TO PAY
FOR YOUR NEWS REGULARLY, WHICH
IS WHAT YOU NEED, BECAUSE THEY
ARE PEOPLE WHO WILL DROP IN IN
RESPONSE TO A SPECIFIC SOCIAL
MEDIA PROMPT, WILL READ THAT
STORY, EITHER SEND IT TO THEIR
FRIENDS, AND GO OFF AND DO
SOMETHING ELSE.
SO IT'S IN PURSUIT OF SHORT-TERM
MONEY, I'M WONDERING WHETHER, TO
SOME DEGREE, NEWS ORGANIZATIONS
AREN'T IN FACT CREATING GREATER
GREATER...

Suanne says LONG-TERM DISASTER.
WHAT HE SAID, YES.

Steve says WOULD YOU SAY THERE
ARE ISSUES THAT MATTER
REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THERE'S AN
AUDIENCE FOR THEM OR NOT?

Suanne says YES.

Steve says WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT THAT?

Suanne says THIS IS A REAL PROBLEM.
I'VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT THIS A
LOT.
WHEN I STARTED WORKING IN THE
BUSINESS, AND FOR MY WHOLE
CAREER, I STARTED IN PUBLIC
BROADCASTING, LIKE TVO, SO IT
WASN'T THE SAME PRESSURE.
BUT EVEN AT THE PRIVATELY OWNED
COMPANIES, LIKE THE GLOBE AND
MAIL, JOURNALISTS FELT THAT THEY
WERE NOT THERE JUST TO MAKE
MONEY FOR A CORPORATION BUT TO
TELL THE PUBLIC WHAT THE PUBLIC
NEEDED TO KNOW AND IN THE COURSE
LEARNING IT THEMSELVES, TO BRING
PEOPLE THE ISSUES THAT WERE
IMPORTANT TO THEM.
THEN, I DON'T KNOW, 15 YEARS
AGO, I WAS AT A JOURNALISM
EDUCATORS CONFERENCE, AND WHILE
MY COLLEAGUES WENT OFF TO THE
HISTORY AND TEACHING SEMINARS, I
WENT TO SEE WHAT SATAN WAS DOING
IN DEMOGRAPHICS AND AUDIENCE
MEASUREMENT, AND A STATION
MANAGER FROM ARIZONA GOT UP AND
EXPLAINED, PERFECTLY CALMLY,
THAT THEIR TARGET AUDIENCE WAS
WOMEN 25 TO 45, AND THEY HAD
DONE FOCUS GROUPS, AND THOSE
WOMEN DIDN'T LIKE WAR COVERAGE
AND TENDED TO TURN TO A
DIFFERENT STATION IF THERE WERE
WAR COVERAGE.
SO THEY DIDN'T COVER THE IRAQ
WAR MUCH.

Steve says WOMEN FROM 25 TO 45...

Suanne says IN ORDER TO SELL TO THEM,
THEY DECIDED IT WASN'T
IMPORTANT.
I SEE THAT KIND OF REASONING ALL
OVER THE PLACE, AND IT
CONTRIBUTES TO THAT LEVELING
THAT YOU REFER TO IN THE
ARTICLE, THAT VLADIMIR PUTIN IS
TREATED IN EXACTLY THE SAME WAY
AS JUSTIN BIEBER AND THE
KARDASHIANS.
THE PUBLIC DOESN'T NEED TO KNOW
THAT MUCH ABOUT JUSTIN BIEBER
AND THE KARDASHIANS, BUT IT'D
BE USEFUL TO KNOW MORE ABOUT
VLADIMIR PUTIN BECAUSE THAT
COULD AFFECT THEIR LIVES.

Chris says I DON'T KNOW
THAT THEY LOVE TO KNOW THAT.
YES, THEY CLICK ON IT, BUT WHAT
DOES THAT ACTUALLY MEAN?
BECAUSE FOR SOME PEOPLE IT'S A
RATIONALIZATION FOR WHY WE DO IT.
NOBODY CARES ABOUT INTERNATIONAL NEWS.
SO WE DON'T DO VERY MUCH OF IT.
I'M NOT SURE THAT'S TRUE.

Steve says IT GETS THEIR
ATTENTION, CHRIS, C'MON.

Chris says IT GETS THEIR ATTENTION BUT
THINGS GET YOUR ATTENTION ALL
THE TIME.
I HONK THE CAR HORN WHEN YOU'RE
CROSSING THE STREET AND THAT
GETS YOUR ATTENTION.
IT DOESN'T CHANGE YOUR MIND
ABOUT ANYTHING.
IT DOESN'T DO ANYTHING EXCEPT
CATCH YOUR ATTENTION FOR A
MINUTE.
ONE OF THE CHALLENGES, AND WE
SEE IT IN THE ELECTION CAMPAIGN
AT THE MOMENT, WE COVER
ELECTIONS NOW LIKE WE DID IN
1970.
WHY ARE WE STILL DOING IT.

Steve says WHICH IS WHAT?

Chris says WE TRAVEL ON BUSES, WE ALL
COVER THE SAME STORY.
HAVE YOU HEARD... HAS ANY NEWS
ORGANIZATION TAKEN A PAGE OR A
HALF-PAGE OR A MINUTE OR TWO AND
SAID, HERE'S WHAT THIS LEADER IS
SAYING TODAY?
NO.
RIGHT?
NOBODY DOES THAT.
HAVE WE GONE OUT TO... HAVE WE
GONE OUT TO ALL CANDIDATES
MEETINGS AT THE LOCAL LEVEL, NOT
TO HEAR WHAT THE CANDIDATES SAY
BUT TO HEAR WHAT THE VOTERS ARE
ASKING AND THEN SAY, HMM, THOSE
QUESTIONS THE VOTERS WERE ASKING
WERE A LITTLE... THEY DIDN'T
REALLY UNDERSTAND THE ISSUE.
MAYBE WE SHOULD DO A STORY
EXPLAINING WHAT THE ISSUE IS.

Suanne says WHICH
EXPLAINS WHY SO MANY OF THE
OUTLETS THAT I PARTICULARLY
ADMIRE WERE WRONG ABOUT DONALD
TRUMP AND HIS CHANCES OF
BECOMING PRESIDENT, BECAUSE THEY
ARE URBAN PEOPLE, EDUCATED
PEOPLE.
THEY WEREN'T OUT THERE FINDING
OUT WHAT RURAL VOTERS...

Steve says OUT OF TOUCH IS WHAT
YOU'RE TRYING TO SAY.

Suanne says OUT OF TOUCH WOULD BE WHAT
I'M TRYING TO SAY.

Chris says LAID ON TOP
OF THEY DON'T WANT TO SPEND THE
MONEY TO GET THE JOURNALISTS IN TOUCH.

Suanne says FOR A
24-HOUR NEWS CYCLE, THEY'RE
WORKING ALL THE TIME.
THEY DON'T HAVE TIME TO THINK
AND STRATEGIZE.

Steve says WE SEEM TO BE IN A
PERIOD OF TIME THAT PEOPLE ONLY
WANT THE NEWS THAT FIT WITH
THEIR PARTICULAR WORLD VIEW AT
THE MOMENT AND THEY'RE CERTAINLY
LESS INTERESTED IN HEARING
COMPETING VIEWS, RIGHT?

Suanne says THIS IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE.
THIS IS THE CONSUMER APPROACH TO NEWS.
AND IT'S EXTREMELY DANGEROUS,
ESPECIALLY SINCE MEDIA TENDS TO
CATER TO IT.
FOR EXAMPLE, IF YOU ARE
FOLLOWING ONLY CANADIAN MEDIA,
HOW MUCH DO YOU HEAR ABOUT
MEXICO?
125 MILLION PEOPLE AND ARE ONE
OF OUR MAJOR TRADING PARTNERS.
HOW MUCH DO YOU HEAR ABOUT
NIGERIA?
MORE THAN 200 MILLION PEOPLE.
OR EVEN INDONESIA, 250 MILLION
PEOPLE.
THE KARDASHIANS YOU CAN READ
ABOUT.
BUT WE ARE COVERING THE WORLD
LESS AND LESS ON THE PRINCIPLE
THAT THE AUDIENCE ISN'T
INTERESTED.
THE LESS THEY HEAR ABOUT IT, THE
LESS INTERESTED THEY'LL BE.
IT'S AS IF WE'RE TRAINING PEOPLE
TO TURN AWAY FROM THE MEDIA.
IT'S NOT A GOOD ECONOMIC MODEL.

Chris says WE EVEN
DON'T COVER THE UNITED STATES
VERY WELL.
I MEAN...

Steve says WHO'S WE?

Chris says THE MEDIA IN CANADA.

Steve says LEGACY MEDIA IN CANADA?

Chris says YES.
WE COVER WASHINGTON, WE COVER
NEW YORK, WE COVER WALL STREET.

Suanne says AND HOLLYWOOD.

Chris says AND HOLLYWOOD, YES.
WE DON'T COVER WINNIPEG TO
CHICAGO.
WE DON'T COVER CALGARY AND
DENVER, AN RELATIONSHIP ON THE
ENERGY INDUSTRY.
SO DONALD TRUMP WAS A BIG
SURPRISE TO US TOO BECAUSE, JUST
LIKE THE AMERICAN MEDIA THAT MAY
BE MOSTLY IN WASHINGTON AND NEW
YORK, MUCH OF OUR MEDIA IS IN
TORONTO AND OTTAWA, AND THOSE
MAY BE COMPARABLE CITIES.
BUT I WOULD, STEVE, SAY, YOU'RE
PROBABLY RIGHT ABOUT WHAT YOU
SAY ABOUT, THAT'S WHAT PEOPLE
WANT.
BUT WHO IS IT THAT'S OFFERING
THEM ANYTHING ELSE THAT WE CAN
TEST THAT THEORY AGAINST?

Steve says NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE.

Chris says NOBODY
EITHER FOR FINANCIAL REASONS OR
FOR OTHER REASONS, MAYBE IT'S
PARTLY BECAUSE MUCH OF OUR MEDIA
IS CHAIN-OWNED BY VERY FEW
ORGANIZATIONS.
WHO IS TRYING SOMETHING
DIFFERENT?
WHO IS DOING SOMETHING DIFFERENT
THAT'S SAYING, WELL, LET'S SEE
IF THERE'S AN AUDIENCE?

Steve says I THINK ONLINE
THEY'RE TRYING A LOT OF
DIFFERENT THINGS.

Chris says YES.
BUT THEY ALSO TEND TO BE MORE...
THE MEDIA ONLINE TENDS TO BE
MORE AROUND A SINGLE ISSUE OR A
FEW ISSUES, NOT TRYING TO COVER
THE WATERFRONT OF EVERYTHING.

Steve says LET'S SHARE SOME
NUMBERS HERE. THIS IS A POLL
DONE BY A GROUP CALLED HISTORICA
CANADA. AND SHELDON, CAN WE
PUT THESE NUMBERS UP AND I'LL
READ THEM OUT LOUD FOR THOSE
LISTENING ON PODCAST.

A slate appears on screen, with the title "Reality versus wishful thinking."

Steve reads data from the slate and says
69 percent OF SURVEY RESPONDENTS
BELIEVED THEY COULD TELL THE
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FACT AND
OPINION BUT ONLY 12 percent GOT A
PERFECT SCORE WHEN ASKED TO
CLASSIFY SIX TEST STATEMENTS
INCLUDED IN THE POLL.
WE'RE GOING TO GIVE YOU SOME
EXAMPLES OF THAT RIGHT HERE.

The slate changes to one titled "Facts versus opinion number 1. The Montreal Canadiens have won more Stanley cups than any other team in the NHL."

Steve says FOR EXAMPLE, THE MONTREAL
CANADIENS HAVE WON MORE STANLEY
CUPS THAN ANY OTHER TEAM IN THE NHL.
AND APPARENTLY ONLY 54 percent WERE
ABLE TO IDENTIFY THAT STATEMENT
AS A FACT.
IT'S A VERY UNFORTUNATE FACT...

[LAUGHTER]

Steve says BUT WE HAVE TO
KNOWLEDGE IT IS AN EMPIRICALLY
PROVABLE FACT.

Chris says I WAS ALIVE
THE LAST TIME THE LEAFS WON THE
STANLEY CUP.

Suanne says DON'T ADMIT IT.

Fact number 2 appears and Steve reads
THE BATTLE OF VIMY
RIDGE WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT
MOMENT IN CANADIAN HISTORY.
FACT OR OPINION?
WELL, ONLY 41 percent OF PEOPLE
SURVEYED WERE ABLE TO CORRECTLY
CLASSIFY THAT AS A STATEMENT OF
OPINION.
WAS VIMY RIDGE THE MOST
IMPORTANT MOMENT IN CANADIAN
HISTORY?
WELL, YOU CAN MAKE AN ARGUMENT
THAT IT WAS.
BUT IT'S SOMETHING UP FOR
DEBATE.
IT'S NOT AN EMPIRICALLY PROVABLE
FACT.
WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THE FACT
THAT APPARENTLY SO FEW OF US CAN
TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FACT
AND OPINION?

The caption changes to "Telling the difference between fact and opinion."

Suanne says I'M NOT
SURPRISED ANYMORE.
THIS ISN'T JUST A QUESTION OF
MEDIA LITERACY.
IF YOU CAN'T SEE FROM THOSE TWO
STATEMENTS WHICH ONE IS FACT AND
WHICH ONE IS OPINION, YOU'RE
PROBLEM IS NOT MEDIA LITERACY,
IT'S SIMPLE LITERACY.

Steve says WHAT'S THE DISTINCTION?

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Suanne says THAT YOU'RE NOT READING
CRITICALLY OR INTELLIGENTLY AT
ANY TIME, BECAUSE IT'S QUITE
OBVIOUS WHICH ONE IS WHICH.
I HATE TO DO THIS, BUT I HAVE TO
BLAME THE MEDIA FOR THIS
PARTIALLY.
I WAS AT THE GLOBE IN THE LATE
'80s TOO.
FOX NEWS HAD JUST STARTED.
FOR SOME REASON, THE
EDITORIAL... THE HEAD OF THE
EDITORIAL GROUP DECIDED THAT
PEOPLE WERE GETTING THEIR NEWS
FROM TV AND THEREFORE THE GLOBE
NEEDED MORE OPINION AND MORE
DIFFERENT KINDS OF FEATURES.
THIS WAS HAPPENING EVERYWHERE.
FOX THEN COMES ON THE SCENE FOR
TV THAT IS ESSENTIALLY ALL
OPINION.
I WAS AT AN ADVERTISING
CONFERENCE YEARS AGO AS THE
TOKEN ETHICS REPRESENTATIVE.
EVERY PIECE OF ADVERTISING THAT
WON AN AWARD THAT YEAR HAD SOME
SORT OF MAJOR ETHICAL BREACH AND
A LOT OF THEM INVOLVED PUTTING
ADVERTISING INTO EDITORIAL
CONTENT.
WE'VE BEEN ALLOWING THOSE LINES
WHICH USED TO BE VERY SHARP TO
BLUR AND BLUR AND BLUR TILL IT'S
NO WONDER THAT PEOPLE CAN'T TELL
THE DIFFERENCE.

Chris says ADVERTORIALS
AND THINGS LIKE THAT.

Steve says THEY NEED THE MONEY.

Chris says THEY NEED THE MONEY.
BUT AT SOME POINT YOU START TO
COMPROMISE WHO YOU ARE AND WHY
PEOPLE THINK YOU'RE IMPORTANT.
I WOULD AGREE WITH SUANNE ON
LITERACY AND MEDIA LITERACY.
THERE'S BEEN BIG EFFORTS BY
VARIOUS ORGANIZATIONS TO START
TO COME AT MEDIA LITERACY AT THE
HIGH SCHOOL LEVEL, STUDENT VOTE
AND SOME OF THOSE THINGS HAVE
DONE THAT, CANADIAN JOURNAL AND
FOUNDATIONS HAVE BEEN INVOLVED
IN THAT, NEWS ORGANIZATIONS HAVE
BEEN INVOLVED WITH THAT.
THE CHALLENGE WE FACE, STEVE, I
THINK IS THIS: WE USED TO HAVE
ALL THAT EDITORIAL JOB DONE FOR
US BY NEWS ORGANIZATIONS.
BUT NOW WE CONSUME NEWS TOTALLY
DIFFERENTLY THAN WE USED TO.
WE DON'T RELY ON THE TORONTO
STAR OR THE GLOBE AND MAIL OR
THE MONTREAL GAZETTE OR CBC.
WE SEE INFORMATION FROM ALL OVER
THE PLACE.
AND SOME OF IT WE KNOW IS AN
AUTHORITATIVE ORGANIZATION
BECAUSE WE KNOW ABOUT THEM.
SOME OF THEM WE DON'T.
THAT DOESN'T MEAN THEY'RE NOT
GOOD BECAUSE THERE ARE A LOT OF
NEW ORGANIZATIONS POPPING UP.
BUT WHERE... WHERE PROFESSIONALS
USED TO DO THAT EDITORIAL
CULLING OF FACT FROM FICTION AND
ALL THINGS, WE NOW HAVE TO BE
THE EDITORS OURSELVES.
AND YOUNG PEOPLE ARE PRETTY GOOD
AT THAT.
OLDER PEOPLE ARE NOT VERY GOOD
AT IT.
AND THE SURVEY RESEARCH THAT'S
OUT THERE SUGGESTS THAT IN FACT
IN TERMS OF PASSING AROUND
MISINFORMATION AND
DISINFORMATION, IT'S OLDER
PEOPLE RATHER THAN YOUNGER
PEOPLE THAT ARE WORSE AT IT.
WE ALL HAVE TO LEARN TO DO IT
BECAUSE WE ALL HAVE TO BE OUR
OWN EDITORS.

Suanne says WE'RE USING
NEWS AS... MORE AND MORE PEOPLE
ARE USING IT NOT TO GET
INFORMATION BUT GET AN EMOTIONAL
JOLT.
IT WAS WHAT CHRIS WAS TALKING
ABOUT EARLIER.
I WAS INVOLVED WHEN I WAS
FREELANCING FOR A STUDY FOR ONE
OF THE TELEVISION NETWORKS ON
WHAT PEOPLE GOT OUT OF THE
NIGHTLY NEWS. AND WHAT THEY GOT
WAS A SOPORIFIC.
IT WAS THEIR ROUTINE.
THEY CHOSE IT ON THE BASIS OF
WHICH ANCHOR THEY LIKED.
THEY DID NOT ABSORB INFORMATION.
IT WAS SOMETHING YOU DID BEFORE
YOU WENT TO BED.

The caption changes to "Is there a solution?"

Steve says COMFORTABLE SHOES.

Suanne says EXACTLY.
IF YOU WATCHED FOX BEFORE YOU
WENT TO BED, IT WOULD NOT HAVE
THAT EFFECT.
PEOPLE WATCH THE NEWS, READ THE
NEWS, TO GET ANGRY.
IT'S MUCH WORSE IN THE STATES.
REMEMBER, SUN TV FAILED HERE.
WE'RE BECOMING ADRENALINE
JUNKIES WITH THE NEWS AND THAT'S
NOT A GOOD WAY TO LEARN ABOUT
THE WORLD OR MAKE AN INFORMED
DECISION ABOUT WHO YOU'RE GOING
TO VOTE FOR.

Steve says I WONDER HOW MUCH
REPORTERS AND-OR COLUMNISTS HAVE
TO TAKE THE BLAME ON THIS,
CHRIS, INASMUCH AS MANY MEMBERS
OF THE PUBLIC BELIEVE PEOPLE WHO
ARE WRITING STRAIGHT-AHEAD NEWS
ARTICLES ARE WRITING ARTICLES
LADEN WITH THEIR OPINIONS,
THEY'RE BEING SURREPTITIOUS
ABOUT IT, AND THEY DON'T MAKE A
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN...

Chris says ONE OF THE
REASONS FOR THAT... I PRODUCED
THE NATIONAL IN THE '90s.
I HAD A PRETTY GOOD IDEA WHEN WE
PRODUCED THE PROGRAM EVERY NIGHT
THAT MOST OF THE AUDIENCE DIDN'T
KNOW VERY MUCH ABOUT THE STORIES
WE WERE PUTTING ON THE AIR.
TODAY FOR TELEVISION NEWSCASTS
AND PAPERS AS WELL, YOU'RE
TRYING TO PRODUCE PRODUCTS FOR
AN AUDIENCE THAT RANGES FROM ONE
GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO KNOW
EVERYTHING ABOUT THE STORY, AND
THE OTHER GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO
KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THE STORY.
ON BOTH AN OVERALL NEWSPAPER OR
PROGRAM LEVEL, AND ON AN
INDIVIDUAL STORY LEVEL, HOW DO
YOU FRAME YOUR STORY?

Steve says THAT'S TOUGH.

Chris says WHAT DO YOU ASSUME YOUR
AUDIENCE KNOWS, WHAT DO YOU
ASSUME YOUR AUDIENCE DOESN'T
KNOW?
NEWSPAPERS... THAT'S RIGHT.
MORE PEOPLE GET NEWS FROM
TELEVISION.
NEWSPAPERS DECIDED WHAT WE'RE
GOING TO DO AS MORE AND MORE
PEOPLE... THERE'S NO POINT
PRINTING TODAY'S NEWS TOMORROW
WHEN MOST PEOPLE ARE GETTING
NEWS TODAY, SO WE NEED TO DO
SOMETHING DIFFERENT.
WHAT THEY STARTED TO DO IS, HOW
CAN WE CAST STORIES FORWARD SO
SOMEONE WHO IS READING A STORY
ISN'T READING WHAT THEY MAY HAVE
SEEN YESTERDAY, OR A PERCENTAGE
OF THE AUDIENCE WHO DID, BUT
THEY'RE GOING TO TELL THEM WHAT
HAPPENS NEXT.
PERHAPS AN INTERESTING OR
VALUABLE THING TO DO.
BUT THAT LEADS YOU AWAY FROM
SAYING WHAT HAPPENED AND LEADS
YOU MORE TOWARDS WHAT YOU THINK
IS GOING TO HAPPEN.

Suanne says AND YOU'RE OFTEN WRONG.

Steve says AND THAT'S OPINION BASED.

Chris says YOU'RE ON
THE ROAD TO OPINION, YEAH.
AND TV IS DOING SOME OF THAT TOO.

Suanne says REMEMBER
ALSO WE'RE SEEING MORE AND MORE
POLARIZATION IN SOCIETY AND THE
BLACK-AND-WHITE THINKING.
SO IF YOU'RE WRONG ONCE, THAT'S IT.
YOU'RE OUT.
THAT'S THE ONLY EXPLANATION I
CAN COME UP WITH FOR THE POLLS
THAT SHOW THAT MORE AND MORE
PEOPLE ARE TURNING AWAY FROM
EVIDENCE-BASED KNOWLEDGE.
THEY DON'T TRUST SCIENCE.
THEY DON'T TRUST CLINICAL
TRIALS.
THEY TRUST SOME LUNATIC HOLISTIC
HEALER ON THE INTERNET INSTEAD.

Steve says YOU WROTE IN YOUR
PIECE THAT WE QUOTED FROM AT THE
BEGINNING THAT ONE OF THE
REASONS WHY ONLY 9 percent OF
CANADIANS... IMAGINE THIS... 9 percent
SAY THEY ARE WILLING TO PAY FOR
NEWS ONLINE MAY BE BECAUSE THE
NEWS THEY RECEIVE SEEMS SO
FOREIGN TO HOW THEY PERCEIVE THE WORLD.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN "FOREIGN"?

Chris says FOREIGN IN
THE SENSE THAT, ON ONE LEVEL IN
THE SENSE THAT MOST PEOPLE WHO
SEE THINGS DON'T AUTOMATICALLY
GET OUTRAGED.
MOST PEOPLE CONSIDER THINGS.
I MEAN, IT COMES BACK TO THE
POINT OF TRYING TO SORT OUT
WHAT'S CONSEQUENTIAL AND
NON-CONSEQUENTIAL.
THERE'S LOTS OF REASONS IT'S
ONLY 9 percent AND IT'S BEEN 9 percent FOR
THREE OR FOUR YEARS AT LEAST.
ONE OF THE REASONS IT'S 9 percent IS
BECAUSE THE PUBLIC PERCEIVES IT
CAN SEE IT EVERYWHERE FOR FREE,
SO WHY SHOULD THEY PAY ANYTHING?
BUT THE INVERSE OF THAT IS THEY
DON'T SEE THAT WHAT NEWS
ORGANIZATIONS ARE PUTTING OUT
HAS ENOUGH VALUE OR ENOUGH
RELEVANCE TO THEIR LIVES TO
ACTUALLY WANT TO PAY FOR IT.

Steve says ONE OF THE THINGS
THAT HAPPENED IN THE UNITED
STATES TO WANT PEOPLE TO PAY FOR
STUFF IS TRUMP.
WHEN TRUMP CAME IN, PEOPLE
THOUGHT, HMM, MAYBE WE SHOULD
SUPPORT BUYING A SUBSCRIPTION TO
THE NEW YORK TIMES BECAUSE WE
ACTUALLY NEED TO KEEP THIS GUY
IN CHECK.

Chris says BUT BE CAREFUL.
DON'T USE THE NEW YORK TIMES AS
YOUR EXAMPLE.
WHY I SAY NOT IS BECAUSE THE NEW
YORK TIMES MAYBE HAS A POTENTIAL
AUDIENCE OF HALF A BILLION
PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD.

Steve says THAT'S PRETTY GOOD.

Chris says THAT'S PRETTY GOOD.
IF YOU CAN FIND THREE, FOUR,
FIVE, SIX MILLION OUT OF HALF
A BILLION THAT WANT TO PAY, YOU
MAY BE ABLE TO DO ALL RIGHT
FINANCIALLY.
THE OTTAWA CITIZEN, FOR
INSTANCE, THERE WEREN'T HALF
A BILLION PEOPLE AROUND THE
WORLD THAT WANT TO READ THE
OTTAWA CITIZEN OR SOMETHING ELSE.
THE NEW YORK TIMES, WASHINGTON
POST GET POINTED OUT AS EXAMPLES
OF WHAT WORKS.
BUT THEY'RE GLOBALIZED MEDIA.

Steve says DO YOU THINK IT'S
POSSIBLE, SUANNE, TO HAVE A
CULTURAL CHANGE IN THE MINDS OF
CITIZENS THAT IF THEY WANT TO
HAVE A THRIVING FOURTH ESTATE
THAT KEEPS A CHECK ON THE
GOVERNMENT OF THE DAY, THAT THEY
MAY ACTUALLY HAVE TO PAY
SOMETHING FOR THAT?

Suanne says IT'S GOING
TO BE TREMENDOUSLY DIFFICULT
BECAUSE AS CHRIS SAID, THEY'VE
BEEN GETTING IS FOR FREE.
WHEN YOU'VE BEEN GETTING
SOMETHING FREE FOR A WHILE, YOU
FEEL YOU'RE BEING CHEATED IF YOU
HAVE TO PAY FOR IT.
I WOULD SAY... THIS IS SO AWFUL,
BUT I THINK IT'S TRUE.
I THINK THE ONE THING THAT WOULD
TURN PEOPLE MORE TOWARDS SERIOUS
NEWS, NEWS THAT ATTEMPTS TO BE
OBJECTIVE AND MAYBE MAKE THEM
WILLING TO PAY FOR IT, WOULD BE
SOMETHING CATASTROPHIC.

Steve says LET'S HAVE A
DIFFERENT ALTERNATIVE, CAN WE?

Suanne says I WISH I COULD COME UP WITH
ONE.
I REALLY DO.
BUT SO FAR I HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE
TO.
YOUNG PEOPLE REALLY THINK THAT
NEWS DROPS FROM HEAVEN UNLESS
THEY'RE ACTUALLY JOURNALISM
STUDENTS OR JOURNALISTS.

Chris says NOT ALL OF
THEM READ NEWSPAPERS.

Suanne says SO WHY ON
EARTH WOULD YOU PAY FOR IT?
THEY THINK EVERYTHING TURNS UP
ON THE INTERNET BY MAGIC.
AND AS YOU'VE BEEN POINTING OUT
ALL ALONG, WITH THIS FAILURE TO
DISTINGUISH BETWEEN OPINION AND
ACTUAL REPORTING, THEY THINK
THAT PEOPLE JUST SIT AND MAKE IT
ALL UP, AS INDEED A LOT OF THE
FAKE NEWS WE'VE BEEN SEEING,
THAT'S EXACTLY HOW IT
ORIGINATES, FROM SOME GUY IN
ROMANIA.

Chris says THERE'S
ANOTHER CHALLENGE IN THAT TOO,
WHICH IS... AND THE PRIVATE
MEDIA WILL SAY THIS... THE
PUBLIC BROADCASTER IS GIVING IT
AWAY FOR FREE, SO HOW CAN WE
COMPETE AGAINST THEM?
AND THE CHALLENGE AND THE
QUESTION THERE THAT WE HAVEN'T
SEEN ANSWERED IS, THE FEDERAL
GOVERNMENT, AS THE OWNER OF THE
CBC, WHAT ROLE DO THEY SEE FOR
THE PUBLIC BROADCASTER IN THIS
NEW MEDIA ENVIRONMENT?
AND EVEN IF YOU LOOK, SOME OF
THE CRITICISM OF THE CBC IS THAT
THE CBC... AND MADE BY THE
PRIVATE MEDIA COMPANIES... IS
THE CBC HAS VENTURED A LONG WAY
INTO OPINION AND INTO
COMMENTARY, WHICH USED TO BE THE
PRESERVE OF THE MAINSTREAM
MEDIA.
SO THERE'S A BUNCH OF ISSUES OUT
THERE THAT... AND AT THE SAME
TIME, THE GOVERNMENT HAS GOT A
PROGRAM OUT WHERE IT'S GOING TO
SUPPOSEDLY GIVE 600 MILLION dollars TO
KEEP MEDIA ALIVE WHILE IT'S
GIVING IT AWAY FOR FREE.

Steve says IF ONLY SOMEBODY
WOULD WRITE A BOOK ABOUT SOME OF
THESE TOPICS.
DO YOU KNOW ANYBODY, CHRIS, WHO
MIGHT BE UP TO THAT?

Chris says IT MIGHT BE
UP NEXT YEAR.
IT'S CALLED "THE END OF THE
CBC?"
WITH A QUESTION MARK.
PUBLISHED BY U OF T PRESS IN
JANUARY, WE HOPE.
IT'S A SERIOUS QUESTION ABOUT
THE MEDIA ENVIRONMENT.
BUT ON THE OTHER SIDE, FROM THE
CBC'S POINT OF VIEW, YOU CAN'T
EXPECT THEM TO BE A RADIO AND
TELEVISION BROADCASTER AND NOT
WANT TO GET INTO ONLINE MEDIA,
IF THAT'S WHERE EVERYBODY IS
GOING, AND SIMILARLY IF YOU'VE
GOT PLACES LIKE LONDON, ONTARIO,
OR KELOWNA, OR
KITCHENER-WATERLOO WHO AREN'T
BEING WELL SERVED, MAYBE THEY
SHOULD GO IN AND SET UP
STATIONS. THAT INEVITABLY,
AT SOME LEVEL, COMPROMISES THE
ABILITY OF STEVE PAIKIN AS
ENTREPRENEUR TO START A MEDIA
PUBLICATION.

Suanne says NO, NO, HE'S
ON A PUBLIC BROADCASTER NOW.

Chris says THE SECOND STEVE PAIKIN.
IF YOU WANTED TO BE AN
ENTREPRENEUR AND START UP SOMETHING...

The caption changes to "Producer: Wodek Szemberg, @wodekszemberg."

Steve says ACTUALLY, YOU KNOW
WHAT? THE ONLY MISSION I HAVE
IN LIFE RIGHT NOW IS TO END THIS
SEGMENT AS WE'RE OUT OF TIME.
THANK YOU BOTH FOR COMING IN AND
SHARING YOUR VIEWS ON IT.
CHRIS WADDELL, CARLETON
UNIVERSITY AND SUANNE KELMAN,
RYERSON SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM.
GREAT TO HAVE YOU BOTH ON TVO.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Both guests say THANK YOU.

Watch: Is Canadian media losing its touch?