I got serious about following American news a few months back, first following the Democrat and Republican primaries and then the election campaign and then the aftermath. It got so bad I was routinely PVRing the three network’s evening newscasts then watching them all on top of a steady dose of CNN panels.
It left me with some definitive thoughts on the quality of their journalism. In some ways it was very good and in others it left a lot to be desired.
Overall, I have always found Canadian media more balanced in political coverage, but of course it’s hard to compare when it’s the US election, but two stories in recent days offer a particular glimpse of the mainstream media in the US, and not in a good way.
The first is the recent developments in North Dakota where an ongoing peaceful protest led by the Standing Rock Sioux Nation to a pipeline project has been met with state sanctioned force. The governor called in the National Guard and army and police, and the natives and supporters have been pepper sprayed, tear gassed, shot with rubber bullets and had water cannons turned on them despite the cold temperatures. Some have been arrested while others have required treatment for hypothermia.
Despite who you think is right or wrong, by any journalistic standard this is a major story – five thousand protestors, reportedly 300 injured, more than 500 arrested, and despite an announcement that the army has given a deadline for the protestors to move, and the protestors serving notice they have no intention of going anywhere, coverage has been sparse.
There has been precious little in the American mainstream media about the tactics of the authorities. For example, hardly a word on any of the three major Sunday morning news shows on CNN yesterday.
When the media don’t do their job, the obvious question is why? Could it be because President-elect Trump owns shares in the pipeline company? Hate to think that’s the reason but it has become a valid question.
The other story of questionable journalism was the coverage of the death of Fidel Castro. No doubt he did some bad stuff, but to listen to the U.S. media everything he did was evil. The total focus of the stories and panels I saw was his suppression of detractors, his firing squads and imprisonment of anyone who didn’t support his regime, his alignment with the Soviet Union and the Cold War, especially the Bay of Pigs fiasco. And a healthy dose of Cubans in Miami celebrating. Not a mention, from any of the media I saw, of the fact he set up social safety nets so in that country while there is poverty, no one is starving to death, no one is homeless, the literacy levels are much higher than those in the States, health care is better, education is better, there is hardly any gun violence and crime rates are much lower than in the US. No, not a mention.
I don’t know if it is because he was communist that they ignored the other side of the story, but ignore it they did. Those Sunday morning talk shows on CNN I mentioned earlier – they ignored it too.
But know who didn’t? The Canadian media. The CBC National had a very balanced report from Paul Hunter, and Adrienne Arsenault did a special report on the history of Castro’s revolution, from his then mountain hideaway where much of it was planned and carried out. CTV interviewed a professor who is an authority on Cuba, and he offered insight that covered both the good and the bad.
Mind you none of this is in anyway a thorough or definitive assessment of American coverage of either of these stories. For one thing it’s only television coverage. It’s just what I happened to notice from watching a lot of American and Canadian news over the past little while. It’s not the first time Canadian coverage has been better than what is fed to the American public. Coverage of the Iraqi war jumps to mind as a most blatant example, where CBC’s work was in many cases far superior.
Hell knows I am critical of various Canadian media from time to time, including our public broadcaster, but there is no question that on the big stories our broadcast media serves us better than the American broadcast media serves its public. This blog references just two examples. There are many more.
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Photo Credits: Standing Rock - Rolling Stone; Castro - CBC; Miami Cuban celebrator - CNN.com