What it is to burn
I knew I was in trouble at the end of high school when it came time to decide whether I wanted to pursue law school or journalism school. I have found, several cocktail parties and fancy dinners later, that answering either, “reporter” or “lawyer” to the “what do you do” question are both wrong answers.
Unless you have time to spend defending your choices, that is. For an argumentative, prose-adoring student, I don’t mind explaining to people why I’d want to be one of “those.”
I entered Carleton University’s journalism school, and am now counting down the weeks to graduation. (Unfortunately, there are still 51). Just this past weekend at a garden party, speaking with another presumptuous recent university graduate, I was challenged with the scoff and eye-rolling response. “Wait ‘til you’re counting change for coffee to write stories that adhere to your editor’s personal agenda,” he said.
It’s popular to pick on “the man.” The media is the vessel through which information is passed to the masses, so why not jump on the bandwagon and slam them for brainwashing. Look, I know that major newspapers are owned by one of the two big chains. I know CBC is a government corporation. But stories are written by journalists, by real people who don't get paid well. In the same way that I will not publish something under my name that I have not thoroughly researched, you can accuse me of being the enemy of society when you have some concrete facts to back up your arguments.
One of my history profs once told me that while my perspective on class issues will be different as a trained journalist and not a historian, my role is actually a historian who writes about thing as they happen. Interesting, when I thought about it after. In high school civics classes and university political science, what defines most real democracies (and not just the tyrannical countries that call themselves the Democratic Republic of…) is that country’s restrictions on the media. On that note, it can be understood that us journalists are actually your democratic tools to call people on their goof-ups.
I attended a lecture given by an American defence expert a few months ago. He said he was impressed that Canadian journalists dared to ask questions that challenge the government’s credibility, as that was almost unheard of around Washington. Last week, 20/20’s John Stossel was on CTV when the reporter asked him, “And why should Canadians believe what you say?” He chuckled and said, “You know, ever since I’ve got to Canada, I’ve been asked that by a few journalists. American journalists just don’t ask those type of questions.”
Slam us if you will, and don’t return our calls when we ask for interviews. We can deal with that. I can even be OK with people scoffing at me, “another reporter, oh good,” at the events I go to cover. But the next time you want to roll your eyes at me because I’m a journalist, know that I’m not going to let you get away with it, just like I wouldn’t let a public official get away with the mismanagement of public resources, or your tax dollars. Boo-ya.