Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Misdirected Michael Douglas Campaign

So Michael Douglas, a favourite actor and a seemingly intelligent and compassionate human being, is upset with the U.S. penal system. His son Cameron is doing a long stretch in a federal prison for drug offences, and his dad doesn’t get to visit him because the lad is in solitary confinement for lengthy periods.
   The senior Douglas aired his complaints about the penal system at the Sept. 21 Emmy Awards, using phrases such as “non-violent drug addicts” and “happen to have a slip.” The junior Douglas also has been campaigning for attention from prison, writing an essay complaining about the prison system and the harshness against “non-violent drug offenders who are losing much of what is relevant in life.
   This PR campaign has garnered sympathy with blog commentary saying how wonderful Cameron is and how hateful the justice system is.
   The Douglas campaign needs to be balanced with a few facts. Cameron Douglas was given four years for drug distribution. He was part of a criminal system that distributed drugs intended to addict more of our young people. Later his sentence was extended by 4.5 years because he broke prison rules on more than one occasion. One of those was when he convinced an infatuated lawyer to smuggle him drugs in her bra.
    If the prison system is too harsh on people who take drugs but do not involve anyone else, then surely changes should be made. However, people who distribute drugs knowing that they are helping to destroy other people’s lives deserve everything that the system throws at them.
   Cameron’s best bet is to do his time productively and stop jerking around with the prison rules. Dad Michael can help his son, and the rest of us, by using his fame and wealth to help attack the roots of the drug culture and drug trade.
   There might be injustices against those already addicted, but surely most of society’s concern should be for those who will be drawn in and destroyed by the growing curse of illegal drugs.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Oh Canada!

   Just an observation, but it seems that Canada is a country often too busy to have much interest in its heritage. One example: it’s difficult to find the little bush country cemetery where famous Canadian painter Tom Thomson was first laid to rest. Or the Thomson memorial cairn on Canoe Lake in Ontario’s  Algonquin Park.
Anyone see the Maple Leaf flying?
   Today I’m on a 14th floor balcony overlooking much of the city of Barrie. Within view are most of the city’s major buildings, including City Hall, the main court house, the library. Much to view, but something is missing. It takes a while to figure out what: Flags. The Canadian Maple Leaf flag.
   There is not one to be seen throughout this panorama. None atop any of the buildings, including City Hall. Far off near the horizon there are flashes of red and white but this is from maple leaf banners at a car dealership.
   Even at street level the flag is not prominently noticeable. There is one at City Hall, kind of small and kept company by two other flags on posts outside the main entrance.
   The few Maple Leaf flags you do see are often faded and tattered. The greatest use of the country’s national symbol is by businesses flying them in rows or bunches to attract attention. Many of the flags you see do not meet protocols set by the government. More about the national symbol and how to use it properly can be found at http://www.pch.gc.ca/eng/1363356053583/1363342021822
   No big deal in the overall scheme of things. Just an observation, eh.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

No Money, No News, No Revolutionary Change

    Some Canadian newspapers decided not to publish on Labour Day because projected ad revenue was insufficient to cover that day’s production and delivery costs. Most prominent of the Labour Day dropouts is Toronto’s Globe and Mail whose publisher, Phillip Crawley, was quoted by J-Source.ca http://j-source.ca/ as saying “That’s the truth of the situation, so let’s not pretend it’s any other.”
   Cancellation of Labour Day newspapers reconfirms two regretful truths: Newspapers are published today to make a profit, not to perform public service. Secondly, the cancer that began eating away at traditional newspapers 30 years ago is in its final stages.

   Two statistics support that: nearly one-third of people questioned say they have abandoned a news outlet because it no longer provides the news and information they had grown accustomed to (Pew Research Centre Annual Report on Journalism) http://stateofthemedia.org/. And, newspaper newsroom staff levels in the U.S. were down 30 per cent in 2012 compared with 2000. 
   The newspaper industry’s primary problem is not its death, however. It is its inability to discover a path to rebirth. Newspaper people traditionally have devoted their focus to today, to the exclusion of how they will operate in the future.
   The path to rebirth has existed for some time. The folks running the business now, and over the past couple of decades, have been too busy, or too myopic, to see it. The newspaper industry requires revolutionary change in attitude and thinking. Many of the attitudes and much of the thinking that existed in newsrooms 50 years ago are still there and obviously out of step in today’s world.
   The role of editors needs redefining and strengthening. Editors should be the CEOs of the newspapers, not in title or actual job description, but in providing the tone, thinking, bold direction, and spirit of the news enterprise. Other folks, whatever you choose to call them, can provide the important mechanics of the operation. Too many modern-day editors spend their time fiddling with newspaper design, human resources challenges and being sycophants for panic-driven, save-your-ass ideas put forth by bosses whose chief interest is the bottom line.
   It’s been said tens of thousands of times that consumers of news want content that goes beyond the trivial. Content that tells them how people in their towns, their provinces, their country and the countries affecting them live their lives. Not how to make a perfect ice cream cone. Not simply the he said, she said stuff of governments. Newspapers offer too much thin, trivial content that is easy and cheap to get, while saying that’s what people want.
   What some people want and all people need is news and information that is specific, impeccably researched and sourced and fact checked. News with perspective and context.
   News outlets point to deadlines as excuses for generalization, inaccuracies and lack of stories placed in full perspective. The “rush” to get the news out is an anachronism based on a musty and egotistical idea that being first and exclusive is important. Being complete and in context is what counts now, even if it means missing a deadline and not having a ‘scoop.’
   Somewhere out there is a generation of journalists with fresh ideas for reviving the news business so it becomes a compelling part of each person's day.