Wednesday, June 18, 2008

And Now The News

Happy happy, joy joy, the best American newscast out there, Keith Olbermann's Countdown, is now available as a commercial-free video podcast. Alongside the PBS Newshour, this is as good as passionate American journalism gets. If you're missing Tim Russert because he was someone who clearly loved what he was doing (which was educating the public), you'll be a fan of Keith quicker than you can say "Barry Bonds is on steroids."

Keith isn't afraid to tell you what he thinks, but that's quite a bit different than him telling you what to think. A distinction some propaganda networks could stand to learn.

But if you prefer straight-up newscasters who don't inject opinions into their news, here's another option: The CBC and the BBC. Both produce nightly newscasts that are outstandingly well-balanced and objective, and although they are both produced outside the United States they of course reflect much of what's really important coming out of the US (and discard most of the really unimportant stuff, which more US newscasts could really stand to do). The BBC newscast is available to most Americans with cable television: at the present time the CBC's outstanding show The National is only available in the US to satellite and internet viewers. Curse you Al Gore!

I encourage all my US friends to try this simple experiment: there's a one-minute "news summary" video on the CBC's web page (linked above). Take a moment and watch one right now. Try to watch one every day or two for a week or two. As you watch, bear in mind that this is a country that is a major player on the world stage. Now compare what stories or covered (and what stories aren't covered) compared to your preferred US news network. I think you'll notice a positive difference.

For those who would really like to take the plunge, I recommend The National. It's a fabulous hour-long national newscast (remember when most national newscasts were an hour long?), featuring both Canada's top stories and political analysis (and sometimes -- if you're really lucky -- social commentary from the World's Ugliest Man, Rex Murphy).

US residents who watch these "foreign" broadcasts benefit in two important ways: first, they are better informed not just on US stories but on international news thanks to the superior reporting (and lack of "infotainment"), and secondly you are reminded at what a huge impact the US has on every part of the world. It's good to remember, as you head into that voting booth in a few months, that you're voting not just for yourself, but for the billions of people who cannot vote in the US election and yet will be profoundly impacted by what the new president and congress do -- or don't do.

One last “news” note: for those following the ongoing saga of the disembodied feet washing ashore in various British Columbia locales, we're up to five ... and this one is a left foot (all the others have been right feet). The mystery continues!


Anonymous said...

The CBC? Well balanced????

You're obviously not from around here, my friend...

The CBC is slanted so far left it thinks Michael Moore is a right-wing loony...

chas_m said...

Well, to be fair I'm coming at it from the perspective of the US, where the news is slanted so far the other way they think Bill O'Reilly is a credible journalist.

So it certainly looks "more" balanced to me. :)

I'm still learning what "right" and "left," "Liberal" and "Conservative" really mean here, and so far it's quite fundamentally different than what those terms mean in the states, which really muddies any attempt to compare. The most conservative Canadians I have met so far would still be regarded as liberals in the US.

Lynne said...

I grew up in Canada, and the CBC has always seemed pretty mainstream to me. For Canadian values of mainstream. Maybe a little left of that - it's arguable - but not to extremes; they certainly try for balanced reporting. And...the occasional person I've seen online claiming that the CBC is very slanted...generally seems possessed of some fairly strong right-wing biases of their own (you can tell by the odes to Republicaniana! or at least odes to the Tories.) And if that's where they're coming from, I'm sure the CBC does look slanted. But I don't think most Canadians would agree that it is. It all depends on your starting point.

(I should perhaps disclose my biases - I've been known to vote Tory, though I mostly vote Liberal or NDP; and next election I'll probably make my decision mostly based on climate change issues. Which doubtless makes me a flaming lefty in some eyes, but from the polls, it looks like a lot of voters are leaning in the same direction I am; whether or not it's a deciding factor in the election, it'll at least be a major topic.)

/drive-by posting :)

Anonymous said...

Although it was not my major, I did attend political science classes at the local university.

After 45 years of life, it continues to absolutely amazes me how people use the simple paradigm of left-right politics. So childish. So extreme.

I am one of those strange U.S. citizens who watch news from other English-speaking nations. I am also from Louisiana where a dialect of French is spoken so don't go there.