Why clicking on this story about Indigenous people matters: Neil Macdonald

Interesting points about how stories are selected or not, and the biases and influences at play:

Indifference, though, is something more pernicious, and much more difficult to deal with.

Because what’s the point of continuing to talk about something if even people of goodwill aren’t listening?

Insist too much on educating readers and viewers against their will, and they tune out, the way they reacted to overzealous, didactic coverage of the Meech Lake Accord in the late 1980s.

The fact is, editors at news organizations are alive to audience biases and apathy, and have baked them into their editorial choices for as long as journalism has existed.

The elders of our craft deliver speeches to rookies about “news judgment,” making it sound like acquired wisdom, something that develops only after years of experience and sober reflection on important issues.

But really, news judgment is a slipperier thing, freighted with ethnocentrism, tribalism, nativism and the assignment of value to life based on an understood, but undiscussed, hierarchy.

In choosing stories and laying out pages at newspapers decades ago, I quickly learned that one dead Canadian anywhere (even more so, a white Canadian), equalled two or three dead Americans, which in turn equalled 10 or 15 Brits or West Europeans, which in turn equalled 30 or 40 dead East Europeans, who were probably white and maybe even Christian, but came from unpronounceable places, and so forth.

At the very end of the list were Africans, or, say, Bangladeshis. They had to perish in very large numbers indeed to merit any notice.

…But Indigenous people, I’m afraid, haven’t rated very highly on that unspoken hierarchy. Canadians evidently do not consider Indigenous people proximate — and the less proximate the subject, the more indifferent the audience.

As the missing and murdered inquiry will no doubt conclude, police also prioritize cases they believe are of most interest to the public; in a way, they exercise news judgment of their own.

And it’s a safe bet that in turn, predators choose targets that are low priorities for law enforcement: to wit, Indigenous women, especially if they happen to be sex workers, are not only the most vulnerable among us, but the least protected.

So, indifference can also be lethal. And now we have those damned computer apps to remind us constantly of its stubborn, passive presence.

Source: Why clicking on this story about Indigenous people matters: Neil Macdonald – Politics – CBC News

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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