The Vancouver Courier ran an article on the need for a new school in the university area. In the article the author presents the issue of need for news schools on campus. After introducing the issue around the need for a new high school and the motion passed by the parents’ advisory council at the high school, the Van Courier author then turns to a commentary from the media rep from Queen Eliz Annex. The discursive effect of this is to use the words of the QEA parent to question the validity of the U Hill PAC decision.
Kaye also questions whether the University Hill PAC represents a majority of parents. “Some of them may have gotten involved with the PAC precisely because they had strong views on the need for more schools, so there may be a minority of parents that feel that their child’s been forced to eat lunch on the floor for so long that they don’t care how many other children have to suffer to remedy that situation,” she said.”
The narrative structure of the article models ‘balance’ while in effect promoting a particular perspective (this is not atypical in the media world -it’s standard practice in fact).
The piece starts as a story about parent concern regarding the facilities at U Hill. The issue of conflict -parent versus parent- is introduced early on, and then picks up with the quote of the QEA parent.
The QEA quote, about midway thought the piece, acts to shift the issue from the need for an improved learning facility to the authenticity of the parents at U Hill. The quote does this in two ways. First by suggesting that the U Hill PAC is comprised of parents who are solely focused on getting a new school. Second that these parents do not represent the majority of the U Hill parents. Conclusions? Anything from the U Hill parents will be biased, non-representational, and should be discounted.
To suggest that the U Hill PAC thinks a new school is appropriate is reasonable. To suggest, however, that the U Hill Parents are only focused on a new school is misplaced and inaccurate -of course the Courier author is careful to avoid making such a claim themselves. They use the words of the QEA parent to make this point. Doing this allows the Courier author to avoid the necessity to check the facts while also allowing them to build the narrative toward an embedded critique of the U Hill Parents; that is, they are a group who are single focused on the needs of their own children and who “don’t care how many other children have to suffer;” as quoted in the Courier article.
All stories have a slant. To ask for pure objectivity is to misunderstand the role that language and writing play in our society. One should assume a semblance of accuracy -and the Courier author has done that though effective quotation of key people in the story. One might wish for a different slant -perhaps one that focussed on the situation at U Hill without itself engaging in pitting one parent’s voice against another’s. That would have been unique. Though I doubt it would have been as ‘engaging’ a ‘news’ story.
I would like to think that honesty and openness are the way to go and that the end goal never justifies the tactics one uses to win. I realize that is a naïve view point -but it is one that I would think lawyers and athletes and academies and most other people would appreciate. Apparently not. If there has been one take home lesson for me in all of this it is that the capacity to believe that ones personal interests trump all others extends across many sectors of society; even those whom one might feel would be more open to ideas of justice and fair-play. My critique is not for the journalist -they are doing their job. My critique is for those who entrap themselves within their particular vantage point and in the process become incapable of seeing other perspectives with empathy or.
In my professional work I teach students about issues related to First Nations and communities. Many of these young people come with fixed viewpoints and perspectives that are very often locked in place. They fear examining their understandings, to explore where they hold misconceptions, and where their own vested interests interrupt their capacity for empathy. I see my role in those places as working through the fear and worry so that at the very least these students can examine in an intellectually safe place their very often misplaced assumptions. My role in that place-at least as I see it- is not to convince or compel, it is to provide a place to hold out divergent viewpoints, to take a risk to examining perspective that may be flawed. In that process my hope is that at the very least the students leave with a better understanding of their own perspective, if they can transform through the process, so much the better. I have seen some amazing work produced by these students. One hopes that something similar will at the very lest emerge on the other side of the VSB’s plan.