Saturday, February 23, 2008

Not the News You Wanted

I don't get much of my news from television anymore. Well, I never did, really. When I was an active sailor, news came by radio, not TV. Now that I'm no longer sleeping in a bunk the size and capacity of the average cheap coffin, I get my news from the internet, by RSS feeds mostly. Part of the trouble between me and TV is that I read at one hell of a clip and if you have to wait for some talking head to mispronounce the stories, you tend to get impatient. Besides, they give a sort of cartoon of news events. None of the background or important features are filled in. Example: tonight they were talking about the Turkish invasion of northern Iraq to attack the Kurdish rebels. Actually, they are the Kurdistan Workers Party, known as the PKK. There is a strong Kurdish population in Turkey and Northern Iraq, and they'd like their own homeland. To that end, they've been conducting guerilla operations in Turkey. The announcer kept repeating that the Turkish army was attacking the Kurdish Rebels. Oh yeah? What are they rebelling against? It's a natural question and it illustrates the shallowness of TV news stories and our inability to asked questions. On the internet I can look things up, read similar stories and read as fast or slowly as I want. I can see pictures and get coverage in depth of those things that interest me.

Imagine my surprise when Rick Mercer of the TV comedy show The Mercer Report informed me that the Prime Minister has abolished the office of the National Science Advisor and refused permission for Conservative Members of Parliament to attend the reception in honour of the Canadian scientists who won a piece of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 (shared with Al Gore). Right away I flashed up Google and CBC News and started searching. Couldn't find anything. Looked harder and found this article in Nature and then this one at CBC. From there I went to Bob McDonald's (Quirks and Quarks) commentary here. I'm not sure why good news commentary is found more often on The Mercer Report or The Daily Show than it is on CBC or CTV, but there it is. Thanks Rick. Television news seems to be committing public suicide.

Science is important to me and I felt a little sick when I first heard Mercer's Rant on the subject. Further investigation reveals that while the office of the National Science Advisor has been abolished, it is replaced with the Science, Technology and Innovation Council. Hmmm. I'm a little doubtful. What I'm not doubtful about is the vast gulf between me and the people who decide what runs on tonight's TV news. We don't even reside on the same planet, hence my choice of alternate sources for news.

I have been involved in a couple of events that did make the TV news. Generally, I'm a wide awake and paying attention kind of guy. I have found that the news folks habitually get the facts wrong. Wrong names, poor spelling, wrong towns, wrong directions, and fer Gawd's sake, don't ask them to do arithmetic. They frequently get ship's names wrong and military ranks are all over the place. HMCS stands for Her Majesty's Canadian Ship, so it makes no sense to talk about the HMCS Halifax or even worse, USS Halifax! These people are ignorant; willfully, proudly, arrogantly ignorant. They don't correct their mistakes and they don't retract.

In what could well be a Canadian election year, I wonder how it came to be decided that the Conservative Party's right wing anti science stance was not newsworthy?


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