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The Missing News

The Missing News: Filters and Blind Spots in Canada's Press

Robert A. Hackett
Richard Gruneau
Donald Gutstein
Timothy A. Gibson
News Watch Canada
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    The Missing News
    Book Description:

    The Missing Newsexplores the role of newspapers in North America's complex media environment as vehicles for democratic communication.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0302-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[ii])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [iii]-[iv])
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 1-4)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. 5-6)
    Peter Desbarats

    The type of story that Canadian news media would be almost certain to miss would be something like this: the inauguration and survival of an organization devoted to drawing attention to stories that Canadian news media would be almost certain to miss. That explains why many Canadians still haven’t heard of Project Censored Canada or, as it is now called, NewsWatch Canada, although it has been surveying Canadian news media since 1993. I hope this book will alert more Canadians to the existence of NewsWatch Canada and to persuade them of its importance.

    The reasons why news media tend to...

  5. Preface
    (pp. 7-10)
    Bill Doskoch
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 11-16)

    On August 27, 1980, the Southam and Thomson Newspaper chains simultaneously closed two major city dailies and consolidated their holdings in several others. Competition within the newspaper industry seemed to be disappearing overnight. Jolted into action, Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal government soon created a Royal Commission on Newspapers, chaired by Tom Kent. Later, federal competition policy watchdogs charged Thomson and Southam with collusion.

    Ultimately, however, the chains won the day. The legal challenge failed, and the policy follow-up to the Kent Commission was virtually nil. Kent’s proposals to restrict ownership concentration and to protect editorial independence in papers owned by big...

  7. Chapter One Is Canada’s Press “Censored?”
    (pp. 17-46)

    News is one thing in Canada that seems to be in abundant supply. We have two English-language national TV networks, two all-news cable channels, the Internet, 105 daily newspapers, and literally hundreds of community papers and special-interest magazines. You’d think, with this wealth of news media competing for our attention, that it would be pretty hard for significant stories to be overlooked, significant opinions to be ignored, or important or controversial ideas to be suppressed.

    If the sheer number and diversity of news media are taken as a measure, Canadians seem closer to a truly free marketplace for public information...

  8. Chapter Two Paying the Piper
    (pp. 47-76)

    When you ask people who work in news media about the factors that most influence the selection of news, they often point to the power of the audience. Audiences have power, the argument runs, because their purchasing and viewing habits ultimately determine the kind of news content the media offer. No commercial news organization could survive without attracting viewers, listeners, and readers, and this supposedly makes consumers the “sovereign” elements in the media system.

    At one level, this observation is a truism. There is no doubt that any commercial media system has to be attentive to the interests, desires—and,...

  9. Chapter Three Journalists’ Views of the Media
    (pp. 77-98)

    In recent years Canadians have witnessed one media feeding frenzy after another. The O.J. Simpson trial, the trials of Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, the death of Princess Diana, and the Bill Clinton\Monica Lewinsky scandal are notable examples. At some point, usually well into the coverage, journalistic commentaries about the media's handling of events have emerged as mini-stories in their own right.

    Anxious self-examination about the practice of journalism is an almost predictable component of any story that develops a seemingly unstoppable momentum. At such times, viewers and readers of news media may get a passing and partial glimpse of...

  10. Chapter Four The Views of Interest Groups
    (pp. 99-122)

    People involved with various interest groups and advocacy organizations are typically the most vocal critics of news media. This tension shouldn’t be surprising. Interest groups often resent having to continually beg and cajole journalists for publicity and favourable coverage. As Lawrence Wallack, an American media professor and public health advocate, has argued, advocacy groups depend on the media to promote their agenda to the public, but at the same time are often deeply dissatisfied with how they are portrayed in the news.¹

    Anyone who has been interviewed by the media can relate to the advocate’s typical complaint: “I gave a...

  11. Chapter Five Searching for Canada’s Under-Reported Stories
    (pp. 123-164)

    Project Censored Canada—the precursor to News Watch—was formed initially to identify and publicize significant under-reported stories in Canadian news media. Our first task was to come up with a consistent set of criteria for defining “significant under-reported” stories. Borrowing from the work of Carl Jensen and Project Censored in the U.S., we adopted a seven- point selection system:

    1. The story must be one that deserves to be known by a large proportion of Canadians, but

    2. Rreceived minimal coverage in the major news media. While the story might not be “censored” in the traditional sense of the...

  12. Chapter Six Patterns of Omission
    (pp. 165-192)

    Our lists of underreported stories from 1993 to 1995 covered a lot of ground, ranging from the cod fisheries in Newfoundland to forestry giveaways in British Columbia, from the untold costs of NAFTA to the costs and dangers of military pollution, and from the struggles of Canadian garment workers to Brian Mulroney’s quest to give the wealthy one last tax break before riding off into his own political sunset. Taken together, the lists of undercovered stories cut a wide swath through the contemporary political and social landscape, and during the last five years they helped to attract much-needed public attention...

  13. Chapter Seven Blind Spots on Labour, Corporate Power and Social Inequality
    (pp. 193-218)

    One of the most serious blind spots in the Canadian news agenda is the lack of attention given to the consequences of social inequality and unfettered corporate power in Canada. In this chapter we explore this blind spot by focusing on the media’s apparent unwillingness or inability to adequately cover issues in four broad areas:

    Exploitation and resistance in the world of work

    Poverty and class inequality

    The neo-liberal agenda: Absent alternatives and hidden consequences

    The power and biases of media corporations themselves

    In the media system the voice of corporate Canada speaks loudly and often, but other voices—the...

  14. Chapter Eight Beyond the Blind Spots
    (pp. 219-234)

    Students of media inevitably confront an apparent paradox. On the one hand, criticism of the media and its negative effects abound. Highbrow culture critics complain about the degeneration of “serious news” into “infotainment;” political conservatives complain about an alleged liberal bias among journalists, and left-leaning critics see the media as little more than a vast propaganda machine expressing dominant economic and political interests.

    On the other hand, in the midst of all this suspicion and media bashing, a significant number of people—some say a majority—regularly trust the mainstream television news stations and newspapers to convey the information and...

  15. Index
    (pp. 235-258)