After taking the kids to see Clash of the Titans last night – which is about Greek mythology, sort of, and powerful forces toying with the lives of humans – I actually sat down and watched both CBC and CTV’s national newscasts, last night. It was interesting.
When you have a national news broadcast, or a newspaper, you can only choose to make one story your main story. There’s no way you can give two stories equal prominence. You have to choose.
So, last night, CBC chose the historic ruling of House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken. And CTV chose the historic events playing themselves out in Europe, with Greece (and maybe Portugal and Spain and others) possibly getting ready to trigger a new global recession/depression.
I wasn’t at the editorial meetings at either network, but I reckon that CBC’s editors decided that the ruling in Ottawa had all the requisite elements for a Big Story: drama, conflict, power, and the potential for the toppling of the Canadian government. On the other side of town, at CTV, I figure all of those arguments would have been made by the Ottawa bureau’s staff, but a decision was made to pay attention to the chilling economic developments in Europe – because those events, too, are dramatic and so on.
At both news organizations, the guiding principle would have been this: what is most relevant to the lives of our readers/viewers/listeners? What do they care about? What matters most to them? (I can tell you that every political party goes through the same existential analysis every day, too, for different reasons.)
CTV’s top guys and gals would have concluded something like this: “What is happening in Ottawa is interesting, but do our viewers really care about a dense, complex ruling by the Speaker of the House of Commons that may or may not result in an election or a reference to the Supreme Court, or whatever? Do they really care about Afghan detainees? What they care about is their families being plunged into another global recession. That’s what they care about.”
CBC’s bosses, meanwhile, might have said: “The European debt crisis is important, but it’s been a ‘crisis’ for weeks now. The IMF will step in sometime soon, and – besides – when was the last time our audience cared about the stability of the economy of a small country in Europe? Don’t they care, instead, about the fact that their government is possibly trying to cover up allegations of torture, and that the politicians seem ready to plunge us into yet another election, because none of them are capable of compromise?”
There are merits to both sides. What is ironic, to me, is that the Conservatives will almost certainly use the latter to offset the former. They’ll say – just you watch – that Canadians don’t want an expensive, unnecessary election about the fate of some likely members of the Taliban. And that what matters most is putting bread on the table. Having an election during another economic crisis is foolhardy.
Personally, I think CBC probably made the right call. I look at the Conservative argument, and invert it: the European economic crisis is real and significant, and it will have implications for every Canadian. To get through it, everyone will need to pull together. Your arrogance and intransigence and deceit are pitting everyone against each other, yet again. We need a government that understands the necessity of compromise – particularly if we are to emerge whole from the chaos that possibly lies ahead. When there is a Clash of the Titans – politically, economically – it is usually the little guy who gets hurt. So, cool it, already.
What do you think? CBC or CTV? Comments are open.