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The Media is Both your Friend and Enemy

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Is the media evil or misguided? If life imitates art or vice versa, can the same be said of the media? Is the media covering events as they unfold and reporting it, or is it trying to impose a vision of events upon readers? What is the media anyway? We talk about it as though it’s one giant monolithic and homogenous organism with one master at the top determining the agenda.

These are big thoughts and questions for a layman such as myself. While I’ve had my flirtations with media (including radio and print), my experience is limited to the point where I can only go with my instincts and personal judgement.

Let’s start with sports. The colourful athlete who speaks his mind a-la Brett Hull or Charles Barkley is a dying breed. The media laments this everyday. It’s not uncommon to hear a radio host say, “I like so and so because he gives us something to talk about,” and then subsequently rip that person to shreds. No wonder some athletes simply zip up their mouths.

What comes first? The cantankerous athlete or the aggressive reporter? It’s the classic chicken before the egg thing. I can see why sometimes coaches or athletes snap. They are constantly bombarded with stupid questions. Think about how you would react if you had some wannabe sticking a mic in your face asking in four different ways how you felt after a 41-0 loss.

That’s not to say there aren’t any ogres in sports – there are. What I’m questioning is the media’s ability to be an impartial judge while attempting to convey this to the rest of us. Too often journalists are either too tight with their subjects or too confrontational. Either extreme only skews the reality. Heaven knows there are too many sports writers or radio hosts who should be anything but.

I digress.

I am not anti-media. Being anti-media is a little like being anti-religion in that we focus on the negative rather than the positive. Does that mean there isn’t any room to reform or improve? Most certainly not. However, constructive criticism never hurt anyone. Whether or not the media listens is another matter.

This aside, here in Montreal I have witnessed with my own two eyes on a couple of occasions how the media works. To say it has permanently marked me is an understatement. It was so bad I remember saying to myself that I would never want to be part of a society of dishonest jackals.

In both cases I was an eyewitness to certain non-sports related events. Twice the media deliberately misrepresented the events. In case you are wondering, no I was not interviewed, despite people pointing me out to the reporters and/or policemen. Nice way to gather facts, eh?

If they can’t get local stories straight, how do they deal with major events of our times? No wonder I am suspicious about how the media covers the war in Iraq. Alas, like anything else in life, there are some good apples and some bad ones. There are some great trustworthy reporters and then there are, well, the losers.

Let’s personalize this. I’m part of a start up company called Find Private Clinics. We’re an online directory for private health clinics and professionals in Canada. We recognized that Canadians were looking for private clinics in huge numbers and we moved to fill in the demand. We also observed that private health care professionals would be interested in additional exposure regarding their practices.

We act, in the end, as an intermediary connecting Canadians to reputable health care professionals. You can think of us as the Yellow Pages for the 21st century. You can’t get more democratic and entrepreneurial than this. Canadians are sending a clear message: they want quality care in a timely fashion. That’s a reasonable request.

We are proud of and pleased with our work and are slowly getting recognized for this. The Montreal Gazette briefly mentioned us in their technology section. Another major newspaper, the Globe and Mail, mentioned us, but connivingly missed the point of our purpose.

This got us thinking about how to deal with the media in the future. Moving forward and as we grow, it will be interesting to see how the media depict us. You may think it presumptuous of me to think the media would cover us, but remember we are servicing private clinics in a country that reveres public health.

In this light, would they view us as ruthless capitalists out to capitalize on the destruction of Canadian public health or as businessmen helping Canadians and doctors find one another in a straightforward non-stressful manner? The thing the media may miss (and I may be wrong) is that we are imitating life. We are helping Canadians find their way through a new medical and health care landscape – and this will piss many people off. Ah, the media – such an integral (and sometimes positive) force in modern society.

In the words of Norm Peterson, when he mused about women on Cheers: “Can’t live with ‘em, pass the beer nuts.”

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About Alessandro Nicolo