Vive le Canada: a noble concept, a truly free press
Date: Wednesday, January 10 2007
Vive le Canada is one of the noblest concepts of a free press. Noble, because a free press is the basis of an enlightened society -- the healthy foundation upon which all else develops.
Vive not only has the courage to throw open its newsroom doors to anyone with a story they think the public should know about; Vive also places its trust in the good sense of the public to comment on those stories. More about that later.
With convergence ruling today's business world, big media swallows up the small independent news services, resulting in fewer options for people. So big media has grown fat, slick and powerful, using their power to get even stronger, fatter, and less caring about the common good.
Vive le Canada is the direct opposite.
CanWest Global is now an empire which can make or break its own favourite political candidates and its own favourite issues, either provincially or federally. If Big Media wants to discredit a government, it can begin a "fiasco" campaign. If it wants to strengthen a government, it begins a "best place" campaign.
Two examples: the Fast Ferries project and the BC Place project. Never mind that the popular vote in B.C. is usually a 49/51 split between the NDP and the Socred/BC Liberals. In Big media terms (and this could be any big media), one = good and one = bad. Simple. Easy to remember. Easy to promote.
The two examples here involve construction projects which were bright new innovations of their day ... about 25 years ago. There was 1) the campaign against the ships, dubbed the "Fast Ferries Fiasco". Simple. Easy to remember. Easy to promote. And then there was 2) B.C. Place, a stadium covering 10 acres of prime land in downtown Vancouver. The BC Place fabric roof was held up by hot air and was applauded as the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel. Simple. Easy to remember. Easy to promote. The formula worked well: Fast Ferries = NDP = bad! BC Place = Socred/BCLiberals = good!
Last week, when the roof on BC Place split open right on time (at the end of its 25-year guarantee) ... the BC Place = good campaign didn't miss a beat. Nothing to worry about, we were told. The flower show will be held as scheduled. We'll just order in a new panel, it will be here next Monday (it wasn't), and then it's business as usual. But then another rip in the weary fabric. Then another. Still, the beat goes on.
What I'm saying is that a big, big wealthy media can warp our sense of reality. And I want to pay tribute to Vive le Canada for being the direct opposite.
If we don't have a free and fair press, it's worse than having no news media at all. A corporate-model media warps our social conscience when we're asked to believe that if something doesn't pay a profit, it's bad. Something like comforting the homeless or healing the sick. It warps our democracy when we're asked to believe that one political group is good, while the other political group is bad.
Only once, to my knowledge, did Vive trip up on that point. I spoke against that, and I was attacked.
Vive le Canada, to its great credit, generally succeeds in providing a rare and wonderful gift toward the building of a caring democracy. We can thank the founder -- Susan Thompson -- and we can wish Vive well in a long, strong future.
If there's a flaw in the Vive format, it's in the Comments section, where Vive's great trust is sometimes abused. Where scatology, personal attacks and empty rhetoric intrude, the integrity of this news service is undermined by such loutish behaviour.
One lesser flaw: all comments are trivialized by the relentless repetition of witticisms.
Often it seems that Vive le Canada would be better off without any comments at all. But that would negate the marvelous openness of the site. So may I suggest that the Site Administrators use their authority to curb the worst of it?
Wikipedia, the encyclopedia, in many ways is similar to Vive le Canada. Wiki has behavioural guidelines for their volunteer-contributors who come from many different countries and cultures, with different views, perspectives, and backgrounds. Wiki says that treating others with respect is the key to effective collaboration. Here are a few of their suggestions:
Principles of Wikipedia etiquette:
Assume good faith. Wikipedia has worked remarkably well so far based on a policy of nearly complete freedom to edit. People come here to collaborate and write good articles.
Treat others as you would have them treat you - even if they are new. We were all new once...
Be polite, please!
Keep in mind that raw text is ambiguous and often seems ruder than the same words coming from a person standing in front of you. Irony isn't always obvious - text comes without facial expressions, vocal infliction or body language. Be careful of the words you choose - what you intended might not be what others perceive, and what you read might not be what the author intended.
Work toward agreement.
Argue facts, not personalities.
Don't ignore questions.
If another disagrees with your edit, provide good reasons why you think it's appropriate.
Concede a point, when you have no response to it; or admit when you disagree based on intuition or taste.
Although it's understandably difficult in a heated argument, if other editors are not as civil as you'd like them to be, make sure to be more civil than they, not less. That way at least you're not spiraling down to open conflict and name-calling by your own accord, you're actively doing something about it: taking a hit and refraining from hitting back - everybody appreciates that (or at least they should).
However, don't hesitate to let the other party know that you're not comfortable with their tone in a neutral way -- otherwise they might think you're too dense to understand their "subtlety", and you'll involuntarily encourage them (e.g. "I know you've been sarcastic above, but I don't think that's helping us resolve the issue. However, I don't think your argument stands because...").
Be prepared to apologize. In animated discussions, we often say things we later wish we hadn't. Say so.
Forgive and forget.
Recognize your own biases and keep them in check.
Give praise when due. Everybody likes to feel appreciated, especially in an environment that often requires compromise.
Help mediate disagreements between others.
If you're arguing, take a break. If you're mediating, recommend a break.
Take it slow. If you're angry, take time out instead of posting or editing. Come back in a day or a week. You might find that someone else has made the desired change or comment for you. If no one is mediating, and you think mediation is needed, enlist someone.
Walk away or find another Wikipedia article to distract yourself — there are 1,573,652 articles on Wikipedia! Take up a Wikiproject or WikiReader, or lend your much-needed services at pages needing attention and Cleanup. Or write a new article.
Remind yourself that these are people you're dealing with. They are individuals with feelings and probably have other people in the world who love them. Try to treat others with dignity.
Remember The Golden rule - "treat others as you want them to treat you."
So that's what I'm doing -- "writing a new article" -- and taking a break, working on other things, talking to others -- after being called a "c*nt" last week on Vive for enquiring what a single line of words meant.
Most of my life has been spent in, around, and with journalism. I care a lot about the honourable duties of a free press, and about good research, spelling, grammar, fairness, meaning, intent, and the issues. Only in recent years, has the lack of a free press become so worrisome. For all these reasons, I value Vive le Canada and wish you continued (perhaps even improved) success.
You're very much needed and appreciated.