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Is it just me?

WEB EDITORIAL

Is it just me?
Maybe I just expect too much from others.
Or maybe I’m just too hard-hearted when it comes to the mainstream media, with all of their distorting of facts and pontificating at the altar of sensational and meaningless headlines.


August 20, 2008
By Ralph Pearce

Maybe I just expect too much from others.
   Or maybe I’m just too hard-hearted when it comes to the mainstream media, with all of their distorting of facts and pontificating at the altar of sensational and meaningless headlines.

   You tell me…..please!

   Once again, a mainstream media daily has published a story about bio-gas plants and how they could solve much of the power crisis in Canada.  On the surface, it’s not a bad piece -aside from the constant use of the word ‘poop’ (talk about the ‘dumbing down’ of society!). Yet the reporter treats this process as though it’s revolutionary, all the while commenting that these generating systems have been in existence in Europe for years.

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    In some countries, they’ve been around for decades!

    It’s good to see that people in the city are finally catching on to news from the country -even if it’s five years late.  But there’s a sense of poetic justice seeing editors and reporters stumble and trip over themselves in an attempt to grasp the complexities of bio gas, manure management, sewage sludge and GPS technology. All of these issues -and so many more -have been known to farmers and those of us in the Farm Press for years, if not decades.  But in the clamour for more information about food safety and cheap imports, our comrades in the urban centres have uncovered a well-spring of information and news stories they can exploit, oversimplify and misinterpret.

   Let me say right here that I dislike many in the mainstream media, not just because of their arrogance, but because I don’t have a clear answer to one simple question: If the Globes and Heralds and CTVs and CBCs can muddle and misguide on issues pertaining to agriculture, what are they doing to education, health care, provincial and federal politics, religion, world issues and banking?  I know enough about agriculture that I can see through the veil of sensationalism and failed attempts to be witty and glib. Unfortunately, I also know that people who don’t know anything about agriculture are getting inaccurate and misleading information.  And that’s where my tolerance for ‘the media’ hits its limit.
 
Cases in point
    Some years ago -I don’t remember if it was five or six –I finally broke down and tuned in CBC Morningside.  I’d heard from friends that it was a good source of information, for a variety of issues. Unfortunately, I happened to tune in on a day when the host was discussing the merits of a ‘revolutionary’ new two storey livestock barn.  She went as far as to opine that it’d be nice if such forward thinking people could be found here in Canada.

   I picked up the phone, called CBC-Toronto, and politely informed them that such designs were being tested in Ontario at the time.  I also mentioned that an agricultural college not far from London, Ontario had been working on composting manure with various materials since 1998, with the potential of generating heat and electricity. “And what college is that?” asked the producer.  “Ridgetown College,” I replied.  “And where’s that?” he asked.  “Ridgetown, Ontario,” was my answer.  “And where’s that?!” he asked, impatiently.

   Somewhere obviously outside the centre of the universe, was what I wanted to say.  But I bit my tongue and gave him the name and number of the researcher involved in the project.  At the same time, my respect for the CBC took a huge hit, and it wasn’t long after that (with its misrepresentation of the Walkerton Crisis) that it plunged permanently into the abyss.

   Another story I heard about -but did not see for myself –suggested wonderful things could be achieved by attaching a GPS monitor to a tractor or a combine. The story was said to have come from one of Canada’s more venerable dailies, and it might not have been so remarkable had it not been 2005 when the story was reportedly published.

   They were only 10 years late with the story, I thought, as I fought back tears of laughter.

   Like I said, perhaps I’m expecting too much or being too hard on others -it’s just that readers, listeners, viewers –and now browsers –of mainstream media content deserve better, especially in the aforementioned era of ‘dumbing down’ the masses. If I know the difference between right and wrong in agriculture, then it’s not asking too much for others to grasp even the basics of the industry. In an ideal world, we’d be able to get farm-related stories -as complex and detailed as a feature  on Tiger Woods’ knee surgery or Tom Cruise’s latest couch-crunching episode -into the papers and on newscasts in Toronto, Vancouver or Calgary.

   But as we all know, this is not an ideal world.
   More so is the pity.