Common Sense Comes to Town!

Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have. (Descartes)

When Journalism Becomes the News

Posted on | August 3, 2011 | No Comments

Quebec’s cyberspace is raving today for journalist Patrick Lagacé, chronicler at La Presse  and host of the TV show Les Francs-Tireurs. The way in which the latter recklessly interviewed transportation minister Sam Hamad during a press conference broadcast on RDI has stirred up repressed feelings in many viewers. Judge for yourself: the excerpt is presented at the end of this article.

Lagacé’s intervention differs from those of his colleagues in its openly demanding tone: while other journalists tried in their own way to get a scoop out of the minister’s words, to embarrass him, Lagacé clearly asks for his resignation.

This is stepping out of the comfort zone of a certain type of journalism (especially those with a centrist editorial line) which carefully aims to present the news in an apparently (sometimes barely so) objective manner. To the contrary we are now faced with involved journalism – the journalist, given his privileged access to power, morphs into a representative, a speaker for the ordinary citizen – or at the very least his audience.

In Quebec this new approach was greeted with a collective clamour of approbation. For a day Patrick Lagacé reached on Twitter the status of this other World Wide Web icon, Chuck Norris. In Canada the keywords associated with Lagacé reached, according to Influence Communication, the 4th and 5th places of the most used keywords. But in other places, this kind of association between the press and the public at large can foster low-grade populism.

This is what we see for example with Fox News in the USA, where this very populism was cleverly played by the American right to paint a layer of credibility to some otherwise blatantly absurd arguments. For centrists and leftists, to reply with the same tactics may seem worthwhile. We can worry however about the long term consequences for the profession as a whole.

This does not question however the necessity of Lagacé’s intervention given the properly unacceptable behaviour of minister Hamad given the events in the Ville-Marie tunnel. On occasion such rough play is justified and even required. Yet as in all things, moderation is a virtue – all press conferences should not become wrestling matches from now on.

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  • Photographie par Patrick Meunier

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