I’ll never forget reading the unsigned editorial that a local B.C. community newspaper printed just before Earth Day 2017, titled “Earth Day in need of a facelift”. Varied lengths of the same editorial was also run by other community newspapers, all owned by the same news-media mogul, who’s also an aspiring oil refiner. It opined that “some people would argue that [the day of environmental action] … is an anachronism,” that it should instead be a day of recognizing what we’ve societally accomplished. “And while it [has] served us well, in 2017, do we really need Earth Day anymore?”
I’ve never heard anyone, let alone a mainstream news outlet, suggest we’re doing so well as to render Earth Day an unnecessary “anachronism”. Considering the sorry state of the planet’s natural environment, I found it one of the most irresponsible acts of editorial journalism I’d witnessed in my 33 years of news-media consumption.
Thus, the aspect I like about social media in general is that it enables far greater non-gate-kept information freedom — particularly in regards to corporate environmental degradation — than that offered by what had been a virtual news/information monopoly held by the mainstream news-media, including that of print.
While I don’t know his opinion of social media, Noam Chomsky has noted that while there are stories published about man-made global warming, “It’s as if … there’s a kind of a tunnel vision — the science reporters are occasionally saying ‘look, this is a catastrophe,’ but then the regular [non-environmental pro-fossil fuel] coverage simply disregards it.”
Though it’s a couple decades late, I believe that progressive movements are far more effective with the unprecedented informative and organizational abilities made widely available by social media.
In Canada, we have a near-monopoly corporate news-media (i.e. Postmedia’s ownership/control of all-except-one major print publications) who are formally allied with one of the planet’s greatest polluting solid forms of “energy” and the most polluting form of crude oil — bitumen crude oil, a.k.a. tarsands.
During one of its presentations, it was stated: “Postmedia and CAPP [Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers] will bring energy to the forefront of our national conversation. Together, we will engage executives, the business community and the Canadian public to underscore the ways in which the energy sector powers Canada.”
Also, a then-publisher of a Postmedia national newspaper said: “From its inception, the National Post has been one of the country’s leading voices on the importance of energy to Canada’s business competitiveness internationally and our economic well-being in general. We will work with CAPP [Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers] to amplify our energy mandate and to be a part of the solution to keep Canada competitive in the global marketplace. The National Post will undertake to leverage all means editorially, technically and creatively to further this critical conversation.”
Although the newspaper giant’s apparent bedding with the powerful industry is not news and was downplayed by Postmedia itself, it’s little known amongst the general population. More so, should the promotion of massive fossil fuel extraction, even Canada’s own, at all be a partisan position for a newspaper giant to take? And, at least in this case, whatever happened to journalism’s role of ‘afflicting the comfortable’ (which goes along with ‘comforting the afflicted’), especially one of this scale of environmental monstrosity?■
(Frank Sterle Jr.)