Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sun News: 100% Canadian? Not really, and not always news

Sun News claims to be 100% Canadian.
Blogger Glen McGregor of the Ottawa Citizen made an  interesting observation: The video that Sun News showed the CRTC to argue the news network uses all Canadian content contained a segment using American actors portraying "older Canadians."

The footage in question can be found on the iStockphoto site, licensed from Morgan Lane Studios of Oregon.

Sun News CRTC Video Presentation with U.S. actors portraying Canadians.

The footage originated with iStockphoto, an online stock photo agency.

"Canadian broadcasting should be Canadian . . . Canadian content matters . . . " according to the Sun News video. The cable network claims to be your 100% Canadian source for news.

Sleazy stock photo and news story.
Using stock photography to illustrate news stories is cheap, and all too common, but it's the Sun Media/Quebecor approach to covering the news. The London Free Press, where I once worked, now part of the Sun Media/Quebecor chain, often uses stock photos to illustrate news stories. Sad. (In the paper's defence, the stories using the cheesy art often originate with QMI.)

What is wrong with using off-the-shelf art to illustrate news stories? Well, it reinforces clichéd, stereotypical thinking and, worse, it may not depict the truth. Sadly, it is the next logical step in the Sun Media/Quebecor approach to news.

Do you recall the uproar when a Canadian court ruled women in Canada could legally go bare-breasted in public? Sun Media went wild. When the Ottawa Sun couldn't find a woman baring her breasts on the local beach, a couple of models were hired. Sun Media wasn't going to let reality get in the way of a good story.

The models had limits for news shoot.
The really sad part of the Sun stunt was that the paper moved the phony images on the wire. CP carried the picture and their partner in the States, AP, picked it up. The New York Times ran one of the pictures to illustrate a story on topless beaches. The picture was used to support the claim that bare breasted women were common on beaches near the Canadian capital. Common if they are paid models, modest Canadian models.

Presenting the news in an objective, accurate manner has always been hard — good journalism is tough — but under the rule of Sun Media/Quebecor journalism in Canada has suffered.

This is not to say the CBC is not without its flaws. It has 'em, too. One need look no farther than CBC morning anchor Heather Hiscox and her frequent discussions with Kevin O'Leary. When he's finished ranting, Hiscox graciously thanks O'Leary for his great insights, saying they are always appreciated.

Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with being polite, with being gracious. But, we all know that O'Leary is not always right nor insightful. Surely Hiscox could unsheathe her once formidable journalistic skills to engage the braggart and buffoon when the need arises. Journalism is about getting at the truth; The Hiscox-O'Leary discussions are about show business.

I know Hiscox from her UWO days when she was earning a masters degree in journalism and I wonder if treating O'Leary like a respected business journalist doesn't grate on her journalistic sensibilities. The CBC itself says online about O'Leary:

"O’Leary’s presence is unique in CBC news and information programming. . . . He is employed not to be a journalist . . . he is not positioned as a journalist. Nor does he present news content as a journalist would."

Yes, it is not just Sun Media/Quebecor that are guilty of shoddy journalism, but the Quebecor group plays the tune and the CBC is all too ready to dance to it.

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