Sunday, February 17, 2008

Rather and Race

CBC Newsworld today interviewed Dan Rather, who is back doing news coverage these days on HDNet. The interview was about the state of news coverage in the United States, especially coverage of the presidential primaries and the "race to the bottom" trend in celebrity journalism.

News is a public trust for Rather with a corresponding responsibility for ensuring news is primarily about providing accurate information. Therefore, the "race to the bottom" type of e-tainment coverage of Britney Spears and other celebrities is just one symptom of a disheartening trend, assuming what you care about is the quality of information. Another is the way corporate power seems to have captured the most important media. Centralization of resources and control of media is hardly ever a good thing.

In regards to the US primaries, Rather was blunt about how important race is to the forthcoming election. Racism is still endemic throughout North America, even though politicians like Obama don't talk about it overtly.

He didn't talk about gender, but that's implied as well.

Although Rather mentioned the Internet as the most important technological factor affecting coverage of the presidential primaries, there wasn't much discussion of whether the rise of blogs and other Internet-based forms of expression indicate another example of a "race to the bottom" or a positive trend towards decentralization, an example of giving the people an independent voice. Depending on the voice and depending on the content, you could argue both cases.

So, whether it's race and Barack Obama, the race to discover what's happening with Britney Spears, or the race to find your voice on the Internet, Rather still has something useful to say, especially if the listener assumes responsibility to become even better informed after having heard what Rather has to say.

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