Who Needs Journalism Schools?

Canadian Speeches, May-June 2003 | Go to article overview

Who Needs Journalism Schools?


What prospective journalists need to learn is economics, law, international relations, social science -- and how to write. Excerpts from evidence presented May 6.

I am not an employee of Radio-Canada, I have always been a freelance at Radio-Canada and I produce my own programs. I speak on my own behalf and I am going to tell you what I think.

I am living this life by working in public service. When I chose public service, we had the option of going into public service or private television. I chose public service television because I believed in education. I thought that television was a fabulous tool for social change--which was true at one time. I lived through this evolution and I adjusted over the years, while noticing actually that some things were disappearing.

First of all, we noticed a shift in the vocabulary. You know, words are not innocent. At Radio-Canada, we used to talk about television programs. Now we do "shows." And when we leave the studio, we say: "That was a good show."

I hear people at Radio-Canada talking about "la compagnie" or "the company." When I was with the Corporation, these words did not exist. We were in public service. In away, really, we had an almost religious attitude towards public service. Now we do "shows," we are in the "business." We do programs that are "business" programs, that is, we are keeping up with the times.

We know the private sector argument. Radio-Canada, in television, does exactly what the private sector does, with the help of subsidies -- which is not entirely true. It is a political choice in Canada. The CBC's budgets, the way they are allocated, thus the obligation for the CBC to go and seek commercial revenue, forces it to make a certain number of concessions. It nevertheless remains that nowadays, the obsession with ratings -- since we are living in a pop culture -- is such that quantity and quality are confused. To characterize, we could say that Celine Dion is better than Mahler because Celine Dion sells more records than Mahler.

There has been a trend towards entertainment in the very notion of information. We are in an entertainment culture, and television's primary objective is now to entertain, not incidentally, but in a less important way than to inform. Information, you know, is "show" information.

You have no doubt heard experts and read about sensationalism. Sensationalism in information drains it of its content. How can content regain its favour? This is a social problem but also one of education. …

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