We have enough cheerleaders
By Trevor J. Adams 27 December 2017 Share this story
If you’ve ever said “Why so negative?” to a journalist, congratulations: you’re part of an exclusive club that includes pretty much every business person and politician in the world. We hear it from them constantly.
“Why can’t you be more supportive?” “Why do you have to crap on everything we try to do?” “Why can’t you look on the bright side?” “You’re just a cynic!” “What about the good things we do?” “Negative attitudes like yours hold Halifax back.” “You put the ‘no’ in NOva Scotia.” (Get it? Tee hee. That woman should write TV shows.)
Those are all direct quotes from messages local business and political leaders have sent me over the last year or so. I don’t understand the attitude that media should cheerlead for local interests.
If you’ve accomplished enough to be a politician or business leader, you’ve been around long enough to understand how naive it is to expect media to just root, root, root for the home team. Surely with that education and experience, people would know that a questioning media is important to a healthy democracy. (A brief look at American politics offers ample confirmation).
But those politicians and business types still expect media cheerleaders.
What they fail to grasp is that their interests already have many cheerleaders. Every government, every large business, has huge well-paid public-relations teams. In staffing and budgets, those PR teams usually dwarf the media that covers them. And any message they can’t get news media to cover, they can blast out through increasingly savvy and targetted marketing campaigns.
But that’s not enough. They want the news media, whose very job is to be adversarial and question why things are the way they are, on their side too. They love “journalists” who come to their events and parrot their press releases and don’t ask hard questions.
They want positive coverage, happy stories about how Amazon is going to move to Halifax even though there was no chance of that happening (and scant evidence that it would be good for us if it did happen), about how we’re world-class innovators when more Nova Scotians live in poverty every day, about how we’re diverse and welcoming even though racism still simmers unnoticed by the majority.
There is good news out there and it gets the coverage it deserves. But Halifax and Nova Scotia won’t grow and become better, fairer, more welcoming places by ignoring our flaws and embracing our self-deceptions. The cheerleaders are numerous and doing their jobs effectively. And their job is promotion and rallying support, not necessarily sharing the truth. That’s why we need cynical, questioning, nosey, snarky journalists.
In 2018, I resolve to be more cynical and suspicious, because that’s how I can best serve my city. This year, Halifax Magazine will ask more questions and harder questions. We’ll continue to celebrate Halifax’s successes, but not at the expense of ignoring its injustices. Do you know a story we should be telling? A story we should take a harder look at? Email the editor at email@example.com.
• • • • • • • • • •
And in this issue, you’ll find an update on an injustice we’ve been covering for several years: the city’s honouring of its murderous founder, Edward Cornwallis. Ryan Van Horne provides some fascinating historical context for the debate, looking at Cornwallis’s history of terrorizing Scots before he exported his skills to Nova Scotia.
CORRECTION: In the story “Everything you need to know about local brew” (December 2017), we got the name of Granite Brewery owner Kevin Keefe wrong. See the corrected story here. Halifax Magazine regrets the error.
This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.
Trevor has been a magazine editor and journalist in Halifax since 1998. He's won multiple Atlantic Journalism Awards and was shortlisted for the Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence in 2014.
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