Saturday, January 09, 2010

What, exactly, is the newspaper for?

An object lesson in media dysfunction for the weekend:

1) Rex Murphy promotes scientifically illiterate talking points, as part of his ongoing efforts to make the Canadian audience stupider.

2) The publisher of the Globe and Mail responds -- to his employee undermining the public purpose of the institution he works for -- with the mildest imaginable reprimand: Rex Murphy could keep his high-profile column in one of Canada's highest-profile newspapers, but would move from Saturday to Monday. [1]

3) Rex Murphy throws a hissy fit, takes his ball and goes home.

4) Home, in this case, being the National Post, for whom no climate denialism can be too illiterate or hysterical.

So who looks worse in this whole exchange: Murphy, for abdicating even the fig leaf of being an honest participant in the public sphere; The Globe, for accommodating Murphy and attempting to go along with his crap for too long; or the Post, for once again having open arms for flat-earthers?

My vote is Murphy, but YMMV. Nevertheless, this is a good time to raise the question of why newspapers think technological fixes (paywalls! e-readers! barcodes!) will save them when their problems are farces like this: a newspaper exists, nominally, to be a place for honest debate and dissemination of facts. Murphy was lying [2], on TV and in his newspaper column. But he couldn't be fired. No, that wouldn't do. So instead he was going to be moved to a marginally less prominent position. Instead, a different newspaper will give him a prized position for him to spread more lies.

I'm an enormous consumer of news. But why, in 2010, would I bother paying for either of these newspapers?

[1] It's possible to imagine milder reactions, but I daresay anything milder than this couldn't possibly be called a "reprimand" in the usual sense of the word.

[2] Spare me the hair-splitting over whether he knew he was wrong, etc. Murphy either knew he was lying or didn't care to find an honest answer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Look on the bright side. Rex belongs with The Pest, the home of commentary and analysis so achingly stupid that it’s a wonder it doesn’t make your brain bleed. Being taken on as a columnist there is virtual confirmation of the man’s irrelevance and misguidedness.

The Globe, of course, deserves a kick in the ass. The more newspapers choose to behave like this, the more people tune them out and turn to the sources traditional newspapers sniff at. They haven’t figured out that they don’t get to decide who has credibility.