The media is the message
“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.” –Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787. ME 6:57
A free press plays a vital role in a democracy. It is essential that governments be open to investigation and criticism. Furthermore, competing free presses are even better. We need the Toronto Sun to balance the Toronto Star. The press is important. But, the citizens must keep the press honest. We cannot allow the press to behave in a way that undermines the democratic process. The press can undermine the democratic process through acts of omission. Consider the following …
On May 13, Toronto Star columnist Royson James, wrote an interesting article where he pointed out that of 26 candidates for Mayor only 6 were invited to the debate. The remaining 20 candidates were not acknowledged or considered fo inclusion in the debate. Mr. James noted (among other things that):
“So, we attach a stamp of approval on a few of them, using some imperfect criteria.
To wit, if you are a city councillor then you are automatically given a pass to credibility — no matter your views. How else to explain that Giorgio Mammoliti is given access to the debate podium night after night, while better equipped representatives are held at bay?”
“It’s not all ad hoc, of course. Rob Ford, Joe Pantalone, George Smitherman and Mammoliti get an automatic pass because they’ve been elected by a constituency and have a public record. Rocco Rossi headed up the Liberal Party of Canada, and, as such, has some bona fides. Sarah Thomson? That’s a bit more difficult, as she has no public record of note. But she is female.
The selection doesn’t seem rigorous enough, though. Rather, it seems skewed towards the status quo — another means of shutting out new blood.”
This article prompted me to write the following comment:
Category 1 – Inventions of the media Example: The current “front runner” – according to the Toronto papers he is THE “front runner” for mayor. Based on what? The papers say so. The fact that he has yet to articulate a single idea is irrelevant. (This is likely to remain true if the “front runner” changes over the weeks).
Category 2 – Candidates supported by the voters Example: Who might they be? We will see on election day. These candidates will get votes whether the media supports them or not. We have already banned unions and corporations from making contributions to campaigns. Perhaps the time has come to ban the media from “inventing the credibility” of otherwise weak candidates. Voters complain that they are not happy with the candidates. They should look beyond the inventions of the media.”
In a “breath of fresh air”, Betterballots.to is hosting a Mayoral debate on June 1. They are running an online poll to decide which additional candidates to invite. Although, this doesn’t go far enough, it is a clear step in the right direction.