I was on Twitter, past midnight, reading some of the things people were saying about the network’s demise. There was a lot of gloating and awful stuff being said.
I slept for four hours, then got up to watch the network disappear. They showed a promo for Pat Bolland’s show, and then that was it. The screen in my bedroom went black at exactly 5 a.m. I stared at it for a while, and tried to formulate what I wanted to say.
It’s not you who I want to say it to, former Sun News Network folks. It’s to those people on Twitter, last night and this morning, the ones who were gleefully celebrating the end of Sun News.
They’re celebrating, I guess, because they disagreed with the opinions that were found on Sun News. They didn’t like conservative opinions being broadcast, so they think it’s funny that 200 people have lost their jobs. I find that completely insane, for two reasons.
Firstly, folks, I disagreed with those conservatives, too. Plenty. On sex ed, on CBC, on abortion, on niqabs, on social programs, on climate change, on Islam, on gay marriage, on Liberals and liberals, on just about anything you can imagine: I would regularly appear on Sun News Network to argue with those conservatives, face-to-face, on-camera. I would argue, aggressively, against the conservative point of view.
And, over almost four years, a funny thing happened: they kept inviting me back. They asked me to come on much more than my day job would permit, in fact. And they were professional and courteous and fair to me. Only once did they try and shut me down – here – but multiple Sun folks called me afterwards to apologize, and to say that it would never happen again. It didn’t.
That’s the first thing: if you disagree with someone’s opinion, debate them. Present evidence. Argue with facts. Be passionate. Because that’s what Sun News Network gave me an opportunity to do, over and over, for four years.
Here’s the second thing: in case you haven’t noticed, our traditional news media are dying.
There are all kinds of reasons for that: the Internet, Google and Facebook and Craigslist, bad business decisions, whatever. We can debate the causes ad nauseum. But the fact is that the media, as we knew it, is disappearing.
Bloggers and social media mavens will celebrate the mainstream media’s demise, too. But they shouldn’t. Because bloggers and tweeters don’t generate actual news – they just comment on it. They offer opinions on someone else’s work. Someone else’s journalism.
When that journalism disappears, mark my words: our democracy will be diminished, and possibly even in peril. I’m not exaggerating. There is nothing that keeps the powerful in check – not Question Period, not a public opinion poll, not even the police – as effectively as journalists do. I’ve worked on both sides, and I know, I’ve seen it: every time a newspaper dies – every time a TV network dies – the powerful grow more so. You may think that’s okay, but I sure don’t. They are not always benign in the way they exercise power.
Anyway. Those are the two things I wanted to say, this bitterly-cold Friday the Thirteenth: if you disagree with someone, debate them. Don’t let out a cheer when they lose their job, and their ability to pay the rent and feed their kids. Because one day, in this economy, you’re probably going to lose your job, too. And it would be pretty shitty for someone to find that funny, on that day, wouldn’t it?
Remember this, too: every news reporter – every news editor, every news producer, every news technician – is a crucial part of a flourishing democracy. And when we lose them, our democracy loses. The Sun News Network ones, too.
And I guess there’s a third thing I wanted to say: Kory – and Matt and Dennis and others – put together an actual national news network, and they had some good folks there. I may have vociferously disagreed with the opinions they expressed – and you may have, too – but I am so, so sorry that they have lost their jobs, at 5 a.m. this morning. I will miss many of them.
So, don’t celebrate them losing their jobs. Don’t be indifferent to the effect it will have on our democracy. Because if you do, you’re just being an asshole.
Anyway. Back to work. I’m lucky to still have a job – and if you’ve got one, you should be, too.