by Harvey Oberfeld
April 26, 2022
First, let’s be perfectly clear, I’m happy to see the increased diversity in Canada’s media … especially on television.
I noticed way back, when I started becoming a news junkie in my teens, how white and male and WASPY were pretty well all the reporters and anchors and program hosts we saw on English-speaking tv in Montreal.
For years and years in the late 1950s or early 60s, I don’t recall ever seeing blacks or Asians or Hispanics or Muslims or Jews on TV as “star” reporters or anchors.
The one exception I do remember: Percy Saltzman made it big on the CBC … as a weatherman.
Change was too long in coming.
So I celebrate the increased diversity we now see on television … IF those hired (of ANY ethnicity, colour or religion) are competent reporters, good writers, have a basic knowledge of and appreciation of Canadian history and culture, know how to dig, ask questions … and not just parrot press releases or give free soft air time to politicians, bureaucrats and others in authority.
However, let’s keep it real!
In far too many cases among TV hires these days, skillful writing and entertaining story-telling is a non-existent art; grammar is deplorable; research is a forgotten science; and, the level of “questioning” often embarrasses Canadian journalism.
It certainly looks to me that, in local television news, national network on-air hiring and even in choosing “expert” panel members … too many are now being chosen because they tick other boxes: minority race, ethnicity and/or colour.
Whites … especially white males … need not apply?.
Surely some of these poorly-skilled reporters, writers and storytellers we now endure can’t be the best journalists who were available in BC and Canada to fill available positions! Especially for a major market like Vancouver!
More and more people … both within the industry and outside … are noticing the decline in reporting skills, writing and journalistic standards … as the “check-the-ethnic-box” hiring has increased … and speak of it … privately.
It’s actually a newsworthy public interest story/question … if any “working” media had the guts to take it on: Is the decline in journalistic standards in Canada directly proportional to the rush to be political correct and hire as many ethnics “reporters/hosts” as possible?
It should be done … and addressed … while “news” on local TV stations and even national networks in Canada have any credibility left!
And why should viewers care?
Because TV news/interview programs/panels help shape public opinion and ideas in our society … and are a reflection of those who manage, produce and report the stories you see.
And when hiring standards decline … so does the quality of services those stations and networks are licensed and charged with providing the Canadian public.
And in my humble opinion, the decline now … with what seems to me to be a management decision to make diversity, not journalistic excellence, the primary goal … is too widespread to ignore.
In fact, sometimes doesn’t it seem to YOU that my old alma mater, Global TV’s Newshour, is more like an East Indian/Asian “community broadcast” outlet … with fawning ethnic pieces now regularly being dished out as “news” ???
Sure doesn’t come close to the glory days of BCTV, when the hard-hitting Newshour regularly drew more than 600,000 viewers! I suspect the current ratings don’t even come close to that.
And recently, I saw a good example of how their news coverage has changed … and NOT for the better.
On April 4, Global BC’s Newshour carried a story about the upcoming religious festival season.
Using visuals of a mosque to open the story, the reporter talked about the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, then the Indian festival of Vaisakhi and Easter.
If I did the story, EASTER would be referred to first: reflecting the true BC/Canadian makeup.
And in the Global BC story, there was not a mention of the Jewish eight-day festival of Passover happening at the very same time … not a word.
That seemed VERY strange to me, since Passover has been celebrated by a 700,000 strong Jewish community across Canada for hundreds of years …. before Ramadan and/or Vaisakhi were ever even heard of by most Canadians.
And the Passover first-night ceremonial dinner is also integrally tied to the story of Easter and Jesus’ last supper.
Was Passover left out because of ignorance/stupidity? Religious prejudice? Political bias? Or just bad journalism?
To see the Jewish 8-day holiday pushed aside in a story on Global’s Newshour when three other religious festivals were all being acknowledged/celebrated stunk to me!
So I sent Global a Comment pointing out the omission, wondering what happened? My complaint was not even acknowledged … let alone responded to in any way.
In fact, Global BC seemed to double down. The insult to BC’s Jewish community was REPEATED on the Newshour on Good Friday: when again, the beginning of Ramadan and Easter were mentioned … but Passover, which also began that very same night across BC, Canada and the world, was ignored.
Ignorance? Religious prejudice? International politics? Or just lousy journalism??? You decide.
(Kudos to CTV News at Six, by the way, which did highlight Passover and Easter in a full, complete story that linked/explained the two.)
And it’s not just at the “news” level that I believe political correctness panelists has hurt the quality of programming in Canada.
Watch “panel” discussions on local and national news programs and it’s very easy to spot who is just there to check off those colour or ethnicity boxes. They offer NOTHING new to the discussions … just regurgitating what they (and we all) had previously already read in newspapers, heard on radio or saw on TV.
Canadians and Canadian journalism are not being well served by Canada’s television broadcasters pursuing political correctness and diversity more than excellence in reporting, writing and knowledge of our country and our history.
It’s time for Canada’s media to deliver to their audiences a better grade of journalism: stop hiring primarily for visual effect … but instead give the job to the BEST QUALIFIED … even if that person just happens to be white.