Sunday, May 03, 2009


A couple of weeks ago, a movie written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilroy and Billy Ray based on the TV series written by Paul Abbott called "State of Play" opened. It's a political thriller featuring a journalist investigating the connection of a Washington D.C. murder to a much larger crime.

Virtually all the reviews I read (whether positive, negative or indifferent) reiterated the sentiments expressed by New York based critic Maitland McDonagh (Miss Flick Chick)...

"When the newspaper thriller's obituary is written, 'State of Play' may well be cited as the genre's last gasp. (It) acknowledges the grim state of traditional print journalism while remaining firm in its faith that ink-stained wretches are steadfast foot soldiers in the war against political corruption, institutional malfeasance, spin control and all forms of business as usual."

It struck me as interesting that while all of those newspaper reviewers were more than aware of the decline of their industry, none of them twigged to one of the main reasons people no longer rely on newspapers -- most have simply stopped being "steadfast foot soldiers in the war against political corruption, institutional malfeasance, spin control and all forms of business as usual".

My own sense of the reason the crusading reporter isn't doing his job anymore is that the people he works for are usually part of one of those confusing media conglomerates that includes everything from oil companies to political think tanks and aren't sure who they can afford to piss off.

As truth was always the first casualty in times of war, now it's often sidelined or has its veracity questioned because more and more of us are aware of the corporate links that allowed it to reach our front steps in the first place.

I'm a big fan of the critical faculties of the Globe & Mail's TV critic John Doyle. And I'm sure nobody messes too much with his opinions. But in the last weeks, as Mr. Doyle has repeatedly voiced support for television Carriage fees in this country, no thinking person can help wondering if the fact that his paper belongs to a conglomerate desperately seeking those fees has played a part.

I always used to wonder why despots of one form or another always went after writers, poets and playwrights. The first I was really personally aware of was Chilean theatre director, poet and songwriter, Victor Jara.

Jara was rounded up with other "dissidents" during the 1973 Coup and tortured with many others in a soccer stadium that had become an open air prison. His captors mocked him, urging him to play his guitar with broken hands. Instead, he sang one of his songs of freedom before he was executed.

Today the stadium where he was murdered bears his name.

Over time, I've come to realize that all writers, whether of a journalistic or artistic bent, have a desire to get at and get out the truth. And that can be a real threat to those who'd rather their own view of the world were believed instead.

You can see another example in Ottawa right now, where the Writers Guild of Canada has been denied the right to voice their (our) views to the CRTC during what might be the most important television regulation hearing of the last decade.

One wonders what the Commission fears might be revealed...


Hey, Good News -- the Writers Guild has been invited to speak with the Parliamentary Committee on Canadian Heritage May 6th and the CRTC on May 7th! Tune in to CPAC for the fireworks!

Despite what the corporate owned (and controlled?) newspapers might have you believe, journalists with ethics still ply their trade. They just do it on that other platform newspapers despise -- the internet.

And like the journalists who inspired most of the current crop to get into the business in the first place, these "new" or "citizen" or "anonymous" journalists are risking their very lives to speak the truth.

A double feature about two groups of these people is my offering for your Sunday viewing. The first on the massive blog movement in Iran, and the last, a trailer for a feature documentary that opens later this month on Video journalists in Burma.

Political repression, Corporate repression -- what's the difference? The truth really will set you free. Some of you guys working for newspapers should try it. Enjoy your Sunday.

Iran: A nation of bloggers from Mr.Aaron on Vimeo.

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