(Warning: this commentary is longer than what often appears on media websites.)
On Boxing Day, I read an enlightening essay by NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen about the mainstream U.S. media.
It highlighted the “strategic blindness” of NBC political director and Meet the Press host Chuck Todd and others in dealing with the Trump administration and the Republican Party.
Rosen described Todd’s response to the onslaught of lies as “malpractice” and “willful blindness to what the Republican Party had become”.
“The right wing ecosystem for news does not operate like the rest of the country’s news system,” Rosen pointed out. “And increasingly conservative politics is getting sucked into conservative media. It makes more sense to see Fox News and the Trump White House as two parts of the same organism.”
Yet Meet the Press and other mainstream current-affairs network programs operate on the premise of a “symmetry between the two major political parties”, according to Rosen.
He insisted that mainstream media figures like Todd have no idea how to respond to the spread of disinformation that occurs on their shows.
Here in Canada, media outlets face a similar predicament, though not quite as obvious because Fox News doesn’t have a large footprint in this country.
The Conservative Party of Canada and its provincial allies, including the B.C. Liberals, refuse to acknowledge the gravity of the climate crisis.
They’re ready to march straight into the abyss by promoting more fossil-fuel production and more fossil-fuel exports.
The Liberal Party of Canada professes to accept the reality of climate change. But in government, it continues approving fossil-fuel projects, ensuring that the country won’t meet its international obligations under the Paris Agreement.
Both major parties are aided by mainstream media reporters, columnists, and editors, who are willfully blind to the magnitude of the problem. And it can be argued that many of them, like Todd, are committing “malpractice” by failing to focus sufficient attention on the climate.
Canada’s major issue is fossil-fuel production
Meanwhile, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers forecasts daily production in Canada to rise from 2.9 million barrels per day in 2018 to 4.25 million barrels per day by 2035.
CAPP states that global demand will rise by 12 percent by 2040, reaching 106.3 million barrels per day.
But this math is very rarely seriously challenged in the Canadian mainstream media. Nor is it often juxtaposed with the national carbon budget under the Paris Agreement.
The Global Carbon Budget project noted this month that annual emissions of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2019 will likely be 62 percent higher than when the first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was prepared in 1990. That’s appalling.
“Oil Co2 emissions are dominated by national transport with almost linear growth over five decades,” the Global Carbon Budget project stated. “Road transport is half the total growing at 1.9% while national and international aviation is 8% growing at 3% per year.”
In B.C., the NDP government talks a good game on the climate. Its CleanBC plan will take the province part of the way toward its legislated 2030 emissions targets.
But Premier John Horgan remains on exceptionally good terms with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Both support a greenhouse-gas-spewing LNG plant that will gobble up an increasingly large share of the province’s carbon budget.
This will likely make it impossible for B.C. to meet its targets, according to Green MLA and climate scientist Andrew Weaver.
By 2030, Horgan and his environment minister, George Heyman, will have likely sailed into retirement, leaving the problem for future generations of politicians.
Horgan also shows no signs of using every tool in the toolbox, as he promised, to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
It will generate more downstream emissions each year than those emitted by the entire province of British Columbia on an annual basis. This fact is almost never mentioned in mainstream media coverage of the issue.
The $9.3-billion pipeline project won’t lower gasoline prices in B.C., as commentator Martyn Brown has documented. And this mania for fossil-fuel production is leaving Canada ill-equipped to adapt to a world in which there’s far greater demand for renewables.
In November, he coauthored a commentary in Nature stating that the “growing threat of abrupt and irreversible climate changes must compel political and economic action on emissions”.
The scientists pointed out that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change introduced the idea of tipping points two decades ago.
Back then, it was believed that “large-scale discontinuities” in the climate system were likely only if global warming exceeded 5 °C above pre-industrial levels.
That was reassuring at the time. But more recent IPCC special reports have come to a sharply different conclusion—these tipping points are now possible if warming only increases between 1 and 2 °C.
This should be a wake-up call to media around the world because the average world temperature has already risen by about 1 °C over the pre-industrial period.
The scientists also noted that Greenland’s ice sheet “could be doomed” at 1.5 °C of warming.
At 2 °C of warming, 99 percent of tropical corals are likely to be lost, having a devastating impact on marine biodiversity.
“With the Arctic warming at least twice as quickly as the global average, the boreal forest in the subarctic is increasingly vulnerable,” Rahmstorf and the others wrote. “Already, warming has triggered large-scale insect disturbances and an increase in fires that have led to dieback of North American boreal forests, potentially turning some regions from a carbon sink to a carbon source.”
And on it goes.
Yet it’s full steam ahead when it comes to Canadian and global oil production—with the full support of Canadian premiers and the prime minister.
Symmetry just isn’t working very well
So, getting back to NYU professor Rosen’s essay, how should the media respond to politicians who mislead the public on important issues like climate change?
During the recent federal election campaign, I chose not to accept an invitation to interview Max Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada.
It just felt wrong to give a platform to a politician who was going to spew nonsense about global warming and immigration.
I also had a problem with Bernier campaigning vigorously for a candidate who wanted to roll back the LGBT-friendly SOGI 123 initiative in B.C. schools.
I wasn’t put on this Earth to help him undermine the human rights of transgender kids.
The old paradigm of symmetry, as Rosen points out, isn’t working in a world in which politicians deliberately pick fights with the media to pander to their base.
It’s time to tell the truth about the climate—and the politicians be damned.
That should be the new media standard on national current-affairs shows like CBC TV’s Power & Politics, CTV Question Period, Global TV’s The West Block, and CBC Radio’s The House.
Nobody’s under any obligation to give a platform to the likes of Bernier or Alberta premier Jason Kenney, for that matter.
Especially if they’re spreading disinformation in order to promote an industry that’s threatening the very existence of millions of people on Earth.
CBC Radio had been a constant companion for Colm Cobb Howes during quiet, bitter-cold commutes to work as a teacher in Indigenous communities in northern Canada. Little did he know he would one day be working to tell those stories he enjoyed listening to since he was a child.
Cobb Howes is among Western students graduating this fall and will join 328,000 Western alumni from more than 160 countries during virtual Convocation celebrations on Oct 25.
“It’s the reason I came to MMJC, to get into CBC and share the stories of the people I met during my time working in Indigenous communities,” said Cobb Howes.
Although Cobb Howes joined the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the start of the pandemic in 2020 and missed many of the in-person learning experiences, he was able to participate in a six-week internship that opened the door for him to work at the CBC – first as an intern and eventually as a full-time associate producer.
“I never assumed or thought that I would be able to work at CBC Toronto, right out of school,” he said. “I thought that perhaps I would get a good reference (from the CBC internship) and then it would help me get in somewhere like in a smaller market. And so I feel incredibly lucky to have that opportunity right now.”
Cobb Howes worked with Indigenous youth in the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee in Northern Quebec. (Submitted photo)
Before joining Western’s MMJC program, Cobb Howes worked for an educational not-for-profit organization as a teacher for Indigenous students, mostly in the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee in Northern Quebec. His work entailed travelling through nine Cree communities as well as the KuujuarapikInuit community on Hudson Bay in Quebec. He also had the opportunity to work in a Maliseet Community in New Brunswick, and in an Anishinabek Community in Northern Ontario.
It was during this two-year stint that Cobb Howes developed an interest in storytelling that led him to pursue a postgraduate program in journalism.
“I did teach high school science and math, but at the same time, we also ran programming that was delivered outside of schools. One of the programs is called the cultural mapping program, that’s done in partnership with the community, where it’s like an internship for youth in the community.
This program offered several workshops for the interns on things like camera operation and storytelling.
“I really enjoyed being able to help facilitate it, being out in the community and talking to people and telling stories,” said Cobb Howes. “It was amazing to see how it empowered these kids as they realized they were doing all of this work. And so that’s partly why I wanted to go into storytelling.”
Writing is not a new-found passion for Cobb Howes, however, who completed his undergraduate degree in English literature at the University of Guelph. When considering his postgraduate program in journalism, Western was the only choice for him.
“I really wanted to choose something I would enjoy and not just do it for the sake of getting a degree. I knew this is where I wanted to be. And that was how I chose Western,” said Cobb Howes, whose brother also attended Western for his undergraduate studies.
Work of storytelling
Working as an associate producer for CBC Toronto gives Cobb Howes the opportunity to talk to different people and share their “amazing stories.”
“We had someone on who was an astrophysicistand he was getting ready to retire,” he recalled. “We were asking him things like, ‘Is the universe going to be swallowed by a black hole? What do we need to be worried about? Or,should we be worried about, you know, asteroid hitting earth?’ And it was incredible that I, as a citizen, get to interact with this person who is a leading academic in their field, and have these kinds of conversations. I find it amazing that I get to do that every day for work.”
Asked if he was given the opportunity to choose one story, any story, that can make an impact on listeners, what would it be – and his answer took him back to his experience working with Indigenous communities.
“There’s a lot of stories that happen in the north, that people don’t know about, and oftentimes, they get segmented into categories… and it gets put in the Indigenous category of the news desk,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that those stories don’t just get told because they’re valid. Sometimes, something will happen in the north, and it doesn’t get told in Toronto, because it didn’t happen in Toronto. But people in Toronto need to know about that.
“If we’re serious about making meaningful change in the way that we tell stories, then we need to start thinking outside of the box, because so often stories like that go under reportedbecausethey don’t fit into the way that we think they should appear in the news.”
Virtual Convocation details:
Virtual fall convocation will be available to stream beginning at 7p.m. EST on Friday, October 22.
There will be three ceremonies, which will be pre-recorded and posted online by navigating through the uwo.cahomepage, allowing graduates and their families and loved ones to choose the ceremony they wish to see when they want to see it.
Each ceremony will include celebratory music by Convocation Brass, with administration and faculty on stage and with remarks by honorary degree recipients.
Receiving honorary degrees are: lawyer and community philanthropist Janet Stewart; writer/visual artist Shani Mootoo; historian Natalie Zemon Davis; and medical researcher Tak Mak.
An orator will read out each graduating student’s name, which will also be featured on individually displayed slides during the ceremony.
Executives with United Parcel Service Inc, Walt Disney Co and other companies met with White House officials on Tuesday to discuss President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement plan for private-sector workers, amid concerns it could worsen labor shortages and supply chain woes.
The mandate would apply to businesses with 100 or more employees, and would affect about 80 million workers nationwide.
Several industry sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the rulemaking process was moving with urgency and they expect the mandate to be formally announced as early as this week. It was not clear how much time employers will have to implement it.
The White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has been meeting with several influential business lobbying groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and the Business Roundtable as part of its rulemaking process. The meetings were requested by the trade groups and companies and is part of the regular rulemaking process.
Tuesday’s meetings were disclosed in filings with the White House. Disney did not respond to requests for comment. A UPS spokesperson confirmed the meeting and said it is reviewing what a vaccine mandate means for the company and its employees.
Many of the industry groups have raised concerns such as labor shortages and how regulation by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) could worsen existing supply-chain problems facing U.S. companies ahead of the holiday shopping season. Other topics, such as testing requirements and who will bear the cost, also were raised.
Evan Armstrong, RILA vice president for workforce, said it will be tough for the retail industry to implement the rule in the middle of the U.S. holiday season and that pushing it to January would help. He said the group raised the topic with the White House during their meeting.
“The implementation period needs to push this out past the holiday season because obviously for retail that is the biggest time for us,” he said. RILA’s members include large U.S. employers such as Walmart Inc and the industry supports over 50 million U.S. jobs.
Biden’s plan has drawn a mixed reaction from industry trade groups and companies.
Several big employers including Procter & Gamble Co and 3M Co, along with airlines such as American Airlines and JetBlue Airways Corp, have imposed vaccination mandates since Biden’s announcement last month. Others such as IBM have said they will require all U.S. employees to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8, no matter how often they come into the office.
Some other large U.S. employers, such as Walmart, have yet to issue broad requirements.
The vaccine order has spurred pushback from many Republican governors, including Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott of Texas, who issued an executive order banning businesses in his state from requiring vaccinations for employees. Although some, such as American Airlines, have said they plan to proceed with vaccination rules.
The mandate will be implemented under a federal rule-making mechanism known as an emergency temporary standard.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)
Elections Alberta says it has launched a formal review into activities on its social media accounts after someone who was managing its Twitter profile on election day got into a snarky argument with users over sharing photos of a ballot online.
In a statement Tuesday, acting deputy chief electoral officer Pamela Renwick said the review is being conducted internally by Election Alberta’s compliance and enforcement unit, which is the same unit that investigates complaints as directed by the election commissioner.
“ The review will look at the conduct of our personnel on our social media platforms and the policies and processes that are to be followed for social media engagement and message approval,” she said.
“As the review includes personnel matters, those results will not be made public. Following the review, however, we will determine if there are results that we can share publicly without breaching confidentiality. “
The spat started on Monday when former conservative MLA Derek Fildebrandt posted a photo of his ballot voting in favour of the referendum on removing the principle of equalization from the Constitution.
Users pointed out that posting a photo of a ballot is illegal, referencing a 2019 tweet from the Elections Alberta account that warned posting photos is an offence.
“Who would’ve expected a two-year-old tweet would apply the same to this event?” the Elections Alberta account replied.
In a further exchange, this time with University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach, who accused Elections Alberta of given false information on Twitter, someone behind the account appeared to suggest that it wasn’t Elections Alberta’s responsibility to enforce the rules of a municipal election.
“I’m sure you’re well aware of the federalist state, the three levels of government, and how extra veres (sic) and intra veres (sic) powers are assigned, just as much as an old tweet holds no value versus an up-to-date one. Move on, Andrew,” the account tweeted.
Renwick confirmed that provincial elections, like the one in 2019, and municipal elections like Monday’s, are covered under different pieces of legislation but both make it illegal to publicly post photos of ballots.
In the case of municipal elections, she said, the responsibility of enforcing the rule falls to the local authority.
Elections Alberta, an independent, non-partisan office of the legislative assembly, initially apologized for the tweets, posting on Twitter that “Albertans have the right to expect Elections Alberta to always remain unbiased and respectful in the election process” and said that the staff member in question had been removed from its social media accounts. The staff member was not named.
The tweets in question have since been deleted.
“Elections Alberta is committed to rebuilding the trust of Albertans in the integrity of our office,” Elections Alberta tweeted.
Renwick said Elections Alberta doesn’t have a timeframe for when the review will be completed but that it has already started.
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