Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Media And Robert Pickton

There is a curious contradiction going on in the media. Today, I read another navel gazing exercise that attempts to reconcile how much coverage should be devoted to the Pickton trail. Earlier in the week, there was an online poll that found a full 70% of respondents thought the coverage was overdone. CBC radio discussed viewer feedback, and concluded that the decided majority didn't want this story to dominate the news. This information was given, within the context of an ethical debate involving the CBC braintrust about how much coverage was justified.

I'm not sure why the media is openly telling Canadians that it is conflicted, because the fact of the matter is the coverage is bordering on obscene. Case in point, watching a local Global news telecast, the broadcast was interrupted with "breaking news" to tell me one new line that Pickton had uttered- it was all very CNN and sensational. If you visit the Globe and Mail site, you find an entire section devoted to the trial, same with the "conflicted" CBC. This reality begs the question, is all the navel gazing driven by a sense of guilt, because sensationalism is in fact winning the day?

I count how many times a news piece has included the fact that this trial has drawn the world's media. Canada has finally reached the mass murderer bigtime, some strange importance is attached because Canada is getting noticed. We justify more coverage because international rags have taken the predictable interest. The media should concern themselves with what Canadians think, and decide the correct balance to ensure this issue doesn't overshadow the hundreds of other issues that are equally important in the scheme of things.

The fact of the matter, this trial will go on for months, and we can expect subsequent trials. I don't want this trial to become part of the daily digestion for years, but it is all too tempting for the media. The families deserve the right to have all Canadians know their tragedy, but that doesn't translate into wall to wall coverage. We already know that Pickton is an evil, disgusting excuse of a human being. We already know enough about the horrible details in this case. Does knowing every intimate detail, every gesture made in the courtroom educate us properly?

I think the media navel gazing betrays some sense of guilt. Deep down they know that the coverage is disportionionate, but they can't help themselves. From the "story" perspective, this case has all the intangibles, with the sensational at center-stage, despite the internal protests. The hand-wringing is a waste of energy, because ultimately the media will choose the overkill route, the temptation too much to overcome. Public "backlash" won't really factor into the equation because their is an audience for the macabre. I don't get any sense of responsibility, the "where to draw the line" discussions are convenient formality and will be proven again on Monday when everywhere I go will be Pickton, Pickton, Pickton.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Although the media is indeed carpet-bombing us with Pickton coverage, it is up to the individual to tune it out, if one so wishes. I'm happy the guy was caught and I trust that the court system, although not perfect, will deal with him appropriately. I don't need, nor do I want, to be informed of every gristly little detail and so far, every time I start hearing them, either on tv or radio, I just turn it off or change the channel.

I've written off big-media long ago, so it comes as no surprise to me that they are focusing on this sordid story instead of more important national issues like deep integration or how our hard-earned tax dollars get squandered every day.