Roundup: The voices we privilege

There was an exchange over Twitter yesterday between economist Stephen Gordon that made me stop and think about what it represented. (The original tweet has since been deleted).

Why this gave me pause is because of what this exchange signals about whose voices we are privileging in the media as a matter of course. It’s rare to find a story that involves any kind of spending that does not include the CTF as a source being quoted, because they are reliable to give one “side” to the issue, whether it’s appropriate or not. And this also goes back to my Unifying Theory of Canadian Punditry, where most of the pundits and editors in this country still believe it’s 1995 and will always be 1995 on any fiscal matter – that the county is facing a debt bomb that will threaten it forevermore. That’s not the case, but these voices from the mid-nineties remain central – and indeed, that is where several of our political leaders hailed from, including Jason Kenney and Stephen Harper – and they still have sway because the editors and pundits of this country are also beholden to this era and its beliefs. It’s also about the language employed around the time, where citizens became “taxpayers” in their conception of the country. The CTF fits the ideological niche that these editors and pundits built for themselves, so their voices are privileged, regardless of whether they actually give truthful assessments or not.

Part of the reason also has to do with the media’s general preference to both-sides issues, and when you have a group that reliable offers one “side” – especially because they will always pick up the phone and have a quote for you when you’re on a deadline – then they get amplified. And it’s not just the CTF – it’s also Democracy Watch, and certain professors who are guaranteed to give an outraged quote on no matter the subject, and because they are reliable, they keep getting quoted, and get standing that they would not otherwise be afforded if we subjected their views to actual scrutiny. But this is one of the trade-offs that comes with the twenty-four-hour news cycle and constant deadlines to publish to the web. Journalists start to rely on voices who they know will always answer the phone and give a quote to one of the both-sides, so half the job is done.

This is one of the tells that I look for with many stories I read now – which voices are being privileged? Is it the CTF? Is it Dr. Jack Mintz? Is it Democracy Watch? The inclusion of those voices will pretty much indicate to you how much value to place on the story, because that helps outline what the framing of the piece is – and media literacy goes hand-in-hand with civic literacy.

Good reads:

  • The first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine has arrived in Canada.
  • As Health Canada nears its approval of the Moderna vaccine, the government is negotiating to receive its initial doses early.
  • Here is a bit more about the group of senators and MPs who raised the PornHub issue months ago (though they conflate a lot of things with “trafficking”).
  • The government’s new privacy legislation continues to leave political parties unaccountable for the vast amounts of data they collect.
  • As the UNDRIP bill is on the Order Paper, Senator Murray Sinclair says the government still has a lot of work to do toward reconciliation.
  • Erin O’Toole says he won’t push for an election until after the pandemic is over.
  • The Bloc have launched a holiday ad campaign to replace “Bonjour-Hi” in Montreal with “Bonjour-Ho,” and I cannot even.
  • Former prime minister Brian Mulroney is said to be on the mend after receiving emergency surgery on Friday night.
  • Chantal Hébert recounts the premiers’ reactions to the delay in health transfer negotiations, and wonders if they’ll use it as ammunition in a federal election.

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Roundup: The voices we privilege