More follow up on the future of democracy and the media. In the comments one reader – Karen – commented:
So….which of you brilliant Gen Y bloggers is going to sit at local park board meetings to find out how they are spending your tax money? Just wondering.
I don’t care whether newspapers live or die. It’s just a medium. (Yes, the singular of “media.”) It may well be it’s an outdated medium. It’s certainly a wasteful, expensive and environmentally harmful medium.
However, when newspapers die (so what? good riddance) the services that newspapers have traditionally supplied – such as serving as watchdogs for even the smallest municipalities, taxing bodies and so on – remain necessary to a functioning democracy. What happens when governments make decisions with no one watching?
And it’s tedious, people. Maybe some of you are experienced with this. Sitting through three-hour meeting of county commissioners, poring through stacks of facts and figures, following up to ask questions, finding alternate points of view – this is time consuming and not a whole lot of fun. When there are no reporters at these meetings, who will do this? Do you think it is no longer necessary? Will citizen journalists spend hours – unpaid – going line by line over the police board’s budget?
Well, according to Frances Bula, one of Vancouver’s finest journalist’s focused on local politics (she used to work at the Vancouver Sun, and now freelances for several publications, including the Globe and Mail) it is us who are covering this “small” stories. In a recent post entitled “When did civic politics get so interesting?” she states:
It’s hard to remember, but in those days, no one cared about city hall. It used to be me and a couple of Chinese-language-media reporters who would hang out in the pews at city council chambers on Tuesdays. When I went to the committee meetings on Thursday, I was usually the only reporter there. People coming to speak to council issues sometimes thought I was the recording secretary. And it was like that for quite a long time. Years and years, really, although Allen Garr started writing for the Courier after a while so then there was, thankfully, one more person.
This week in Vancouver, when city hall was stuffed like a turkey with news — the budget, cracking down on crummy SROs, whether to allow mixed martial arts events, police budgets being wrecked by gang investigations, Councillor Suzanne Anton grilling the mayor like he was a naughty boy about campaign financing — there were as many reporters and outlets covering the events as at any session of the provincial legislature…
…So, even though I now can’t get a seat at the media table these days if I come late to council, and it feels sometimes like everyone is falling over each other to get the latest little tidbit from the city, it’s okay — and even kind of fun — that it’s crowded.
But then this is what Shirly predicted would happen once the we understood the size of the cognitive surplus that is out there…
I am always amazed at the fact that we, Canadians, go on nurturing the feeling that we have a living, thriving civil society while we are so far from it. In fact, the belief that we do is at the basis of our societal inertia :-)