You may have noticed the quality of journalistic reporting dropping off over the last few hundred years. The need to get the facts out faster, even if those facts bear little resemblance to anything factual, has made the presentation of news on air and in print increasingly inaccurate and overly simplified. If a story can be thrown at the nearest satellite dish live as it happens, even if there’s no context or explanation to be had with it, then media producers are beholden to run with it. Wait an hour and it will be old news, and who wants old news? Unless I see the word “live” in one corner of my television screen and the words “breaking news” in another, why should I care? Anything other than a raw feed may have been considered, edited or, God forbid, fact checked. And that simply won’t do. Unless there’s that adrenalin rush of “Holy shit, this is happening right now and I’m powerless to stop it,” my attention might wander. Worse, I may shift my focus away from the TV during the commercial break.
Canadian journalism has been something of an exception to this trend, avoiding the sensationalism of the British media and the steady dumbing-down of their American counterparts. This hasn’t been due to a higher standard in news reporting up here, but rather the malaise of dullness. Sensationalism is easy to avoid when nothing particularly sensational ever happens. Likewise the need to appeal to the lowest common denominator is safely eradicated when the news is so boring, there’s no hope of luring the lowest common denominator and his disposable consumer dollar.
But with the pending prison release of Karla Homolka, Canada’s public interest has stirred and the media circus is pitching the big top. Just like their opposite numbers in England and the States, Canadian muckrakers are pulling out all the stops to get a jump on the story. What that story will be, however, is unclear. We’ve known for twelve years when Karla is getting out. It’s been no secret. The story, it seems, lies in what utterly mundane day-to-day bullshit she might get up to once she’s free.
My own jokes here aside, I (and most reasonable people) don’t really think Karla is going to embark on another whirlwind murder spree, chain sawing hapless victims and having sex with their body parts. That little hobby has had its day, and with armchair criminologists the world over keeping their eye on her, I expect she’ll want to keep her head down and slip into the most uninteresting and blandly normal life she can possibly manage for the rest of her days. You know, like O.J. Nevertheless, newspapers, magazines and news networks will be on the job, dutifully reporting what she had for breakfast the day of her release, and the size, shape and consistency of the resulting bowel movement. And then they might want to report some trivial facts as well.
So desperate are they for any facts about Karla, correct or patently false, that the Canadian media has resorted to a tactic so low, so vile, so unconscionable, it’s actually put them on an equal footing with those talentless, fear-mongering, shit-slinging, infotaining hacks at CNN. They’ve gone looking for blog sources.
True, these past few years, amateur blog sites have had a better record of cracking pivotal news stories than any of the major papers or networks. They’ve shown up the big boys so many times, CNN now spends long stretches of air time having two women (known internationally as “the hot blog chicks”) reading the latest news to hit the blog scene. Of course they save anything real juicy for their regular news coverage so they can pretend they found the story themselves, but we know where they got it. They ain’t foolin’ nobody.
It’s become such a standard practice, lazy journalists will go hunting for leads on any old blog, not just the serious ones. Witness what happened here only last week. After running my completely facetious entry welcoming Karla to my neighbourhood of N.D.G.(her planned place of residence come July), I was contacted by a Toronto Star reporter who wanted to know if I could point her at Karla’s future address. Like I pal around with serial killers. I invite you to reread that entry and tell me, in all honesty, if there’s any moment in it in which I don’t completely sound like I’m talking out my ass. You all knew I was kidding, right? Now where, I ask you, was this journalist’s bullshit detector?
As a responsible citizen of both reality and cyberspace, I politely informed the reporter in question that I had no additional facts that could help assist her in stalking any ex-cons who may or may not have paid their debt to society. But the question remains, if the supposedly legitimate media will come sniffing around a website like this for a lead, hint, or factoid, what other rocks are they looking under and which other completely unreliable blog geeks are they quoting? It may only be a matter of time before we see Stile weighing in on the issue of North Korean nuclear armament on Crossfire. Given CNN’s penchant for pursuing new all-time lows, this may happen as early as next week.