News-conscious boomers like to remember journalism in times past. At least the good parts.
We recall well-resourced broadcasters competing to deliver outstanding local news programs.
Today, a recorded hour of local TV news can be viewed in about 10 minutes. Of course, that means skipping commercials, outside source features devoid of originality and news value, upcoming content previews, promotions, repetitive weathercasts, sports reports, and, of course, happy talk.
We miss content-rich newspapers that kept us in touch with events all over the world. The publications held feet of elected officials close to the fire. While remembering his own partisan concern for a fearless Press Gallery pundit, Rafe Mair wrote in 2006:
Politicians, not too long ago, feared the press.
Much has changed, not because corporate media owners are suffering financially, since most are not. Good journalism is available, much of it from new media that, ever in need of financial support, survives on the knife edge between survival and insolvency.
Tenuous job security ensures that few real characters survive in today’s mainstream media. It was not always so.
Once there was Hugh Watson, who thought newspapers should be informative and entertaining. For one of those reasons, he worked hard to celebrate Len Schwartz, elusive star of the Howe Sound Basketball league.
Sports stories, whether based on observations or fantasies, do not greatly affect our communities. But factual news reporting and diverse commentary is a different matter. These remain vital to a just society.
Great voices of media past have been silenced but they are not all forgotten.
Shuffling books sitting on shelves long in need of dusting, I came across a 27-year-old title: Marjorie Nichols: Mark My Words.
Marjorie Nichols believed political journalism was a sacred calling, that good journalists were secular clerics, who, through reporting and analysis, upheld the mystical system of belief we call democracy…
Said Hugh Windsor, “…Neither friendship nor anything would get in the way: in the journalistic sense, Marjorie would turn in her own mother.“
Marjorie would also do something else that wasn’t and isn’t standard practice in the business: she read countless government documents, financial reports, white papers and federal budgets without coming up for air.
While most reporters have only the time and inclination to read one-page summaries, she studied everything…
Imagine if Ms. Nichols had been in Victoria when Craig James was splitting firewood for the Legislative precinct. She would have given no free rides to villains.