After my last blog post, I received feedback from a few people: my point wasn’t clear; the writing was rushed; my references were too vague; I was over-simplifying complex problems; I wasn’t being considerate enough of people born into different circumstances.
I agreed. Even as I was writing, I had a gut feeling it wasn’t my best effort – but I published it anyway.
And that brings me to one of the challenges with this blog. It’s a hobby and I love writing, but some days/weeks/months it feels like a chore. (Long-time readers may recall that feeling was one of my hesitations for starting a blog a decade or so late to the party.)
I have a tricky relationship with chores, and have spent the last few years trying to train myself out of a long-held work ethic that prioritizes my “To Do” list above my “Do Nothing Because You Need a Break” list. One reason the writing felt rushed on my last post is I’d had an overly busy weekend and really wanted a bubble bath. I was holding the bath as a “reward” for writing the blog, when I should have just skipped writing and gone straight for the bath. This lesson is one I re-learn on a regular basis, and could probably form an entire post on its own.
In fact, I was going to write that post. But before I got around to it, people started asking me about the “freedom” convoy here in Canada. That brings me to the next challenge with my blog: it’s a huge compliment that people wonder what I think about a topic, but what happens when the topic makes me want to run far, far away and never talk to anyone again?
Many people I know are (un)lucky enough to only be exposed to others who think similarly. And since Facebook makes billions of dollars by promoting the “everyone thinks like me” belief, these people get pretty firm in their opinions. According to some people in my life, the convoy is made of unlawful, selfish, racists. According to other people I know, the convoy is protecting our rights and promoting unity.
For a long time, my mom taught me that two opposing stories suggest the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Fortunately, a guy in Ottawa who usually blogs about geeky science decided to step outside his norm and blog about his experience meeting people in the trucks parked outside his home. Based on what he wrote, I think his mom must have taught him a similar belief to what mine taught me.
But guess what: the people I know who live in Ottawa and say they’re scared to go outside and the regular honking has them on edge? They’re not lying either.
Here’s a random list of other things that are true: provinces set most pandemic restrictions, not Ottawa; the goods stuck at the U.S. border are actually needed; covid-19 is a real virus that kills some people; masks and vaccines will reduce (but not erase) the chance of people dying; other protests are usually (and often forcibly) ended faster than this one; the people I know who support the convoy are not nazis.
I don’t want to write about the convoy. I do want more people to stop reading/watching their usual sources of information about the convoy.
And now we’re at my next challenge. I forget that not everyone was fortunate (?) enough to do a degree that involved a lot of over-thinking about media theories. And not everyone had a job where they talked to journalists regularly. In my relatively short time doing both, I learned a few things:
- The news media have evolved in dangerous ways, and yet still hold a valuable role. (Again: two things can be opposite, and still true.)
- The evolution has come from our putting profit above other priorities. Media companies are still companies; their first job is to make money, not help you understand the world. Sometimes, those two things can happen simultaneously, but not always. The money mostly comes from advertising, and the advertisers want big audiences. There’s a belief that big audiences flock to the sensational coverage. Do you wish the media talked to balanced, middle-of-the-road people instead of the yelling nazis? Then stop watching coverage of the yelling. You’re playing right into the game.
- TV news is for entertainment. If you want to hear from people sharing deeper thoughts instead of soundbites on top of pictures, then watch in-depth news programs. Or, read the news. People who write the news don’t have to worry about holding your attention with sensational video for fear of you flipping channels.
- Journalists are over-worked. Since we stopped paying for news (and advertisers realized that and stopped paying as much to advertise), the media companies started laying off reporters. Any journalist that once covered one area of business for one city is a) no longer working as a journalist, or b) covering many types of business, government, and events…for a large region. They did not magically receive more hours in the day to do this, so their work is not as good. And since the editing isn’t as good either, biases are more likely to creep in.
- Journalists are human, which means they have biases. And media companies are companies, which means they have biases too. Recognizing these facts, we can get news from multiple journalists at multiple outlets for a better-rounded view. But we should also remember that journalists are still professionals, and media companies know it’s good business not to get sued. These two points mean that the conventional media is still a better source than anyone on your social media feeds, anyone who writes a personal blog (including this one), and anyone that makes something look like a media outlet but isn’t clear about who they are (hint: if the “about” section sounds like it was designed to draw you away from conventional sources and get your emotions flowing, it was).
But enough of that…for now. I may not be craving a bubble bath today, but I do want to get away from this screen.