The Subtle Power of Media Abuse?

The media is powerful – you know it – I know it – we all know it.

We know their power is established in doing their work with honesty, integrity, and the highest degree of professionalism.  They’ve fought for the right to hold that esteemed position; and as a result, we (the viewers/readers/listeners) have come to expect the media to live up to their responsibilities that come with being a part of the industry.

Because of the acknowledged MAJOR role media plays in our lives, our societies have developed “checks and balances” consisting of agreements, guidelines, and laws that ensure the media honours the privilege of their position in society.  It gives us, the public peace of mind in believing “Big Brother” is being watched.

Sadly, it appears that over time, the public has come to unrealistically trust and believe the media’s commitment to “the truth”.  Sadder still, recent events in the last few months have had me wonder whether the public has been duped into this false belief.

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Below, I list 4 examples of recent Media releases in the Toronto Canada market (within the last 3 months) that are at the very least, in very bad taste.  When you group the incidents together according to what they do (according to the ELM Test of Integrity), it appears to me to be almost heinous in the powerful abuses they exercise in their actions.

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1 – TSN:  The Sports Network – a national cable sports channel

What happened:

There was a between-period segment where a number of commentators discuss issues and games based on their hockey expertise.  The bit was about supportive relationship between a budding young hockey star and the coach of an NHL team. It was an inspiring and positive report.

After the segment, the hockey panel went on to remark on inappropriate relationships with young athletes.  Because of what the NHL coach said, the panel made an inference of child abuse by an NHL coach by joking and commenting on the coach’s remarks that he had a good relationship with the young hockey star.

They further joked about it and laughed to give the impression that it was acceptable to laugh about child abuse.

Can you see the possible media abuse when I apply the “ELM Test”?

Ethical: They crossed the line when they brought in the issue of inappropriate relationships with young athletes when it wasn’t necessary.

Legal: They may have caused a legal issue by using the NHL coach as the butt of their jokes about having inappropriate relationships with young athletes.

Moral: They minimized the seriousness of the issue of inappropriate relationships with young athletes by making jokes about the issue.

As a victim and survivor of a sports coach abuse when I was a boy, I was very upset with the segment and how it was twisted.  I wrote an email to them (mid-May), but I did not receive a response. I then wrote to another news outlet – they did not respond either.

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2 – CP24: CityPulse24 – Toronto local 24-hr all-news channel

What happened?

A “breaking-news” story came on the TV about two missing women. As is the standard protocol with news releases by the Toronto Police Service, they included information that could help identify the person that is missing.

The second woman broadcast included a description that seemed a bit odd.  Along with the usual information (height, weight, hair, etc), it included that the person was Persian. I wondered how someone would know how to identify a Persian, and if there was still a country named Persia.

After I did some research, I found out the name of Persia is no longer in use.  I also found out something else that actually scares me:

There was no Toronto Police media report about the missing person.

Actually, the media release didn’t happen until a few days later.

I wrote an email to CP24 asking where they got the reference to Persian, how it was part of the description, and it could be considered racist. They thanked me for my writing to them.

Can you see the possible media abuse when I apply the “ELM Test”?

Ethical: They crossed the line by adding something to the description that was never included in the first place. They manipulated hard news from the police.

Legal: How did they get the information from the Toronto Police Service? The official release wasn’t listed until a few days after the news first broke.

Moral: Was morally wrong to believe they can get away with misinformation.  There was no police report (yet the inference was so), and they intentionally made up information.

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3 – CTV: CTV News Toronto of national media network

What happened?

There was a new news host on the program this particular evening. He was doing quite well until he got flustered.  When that happened, it only got worse.

After the break, the host introduced the weather person; and unfortunately got her name wrong.  After an embarrassing chatter to recover, the host then went on to compliment her on her beauty and the connection to her work.

The weather person handled it very well, and they moved on.

Can you see the possible media abuse when I apply the “ELM Test”?

Ethical: Is it unethical to use something in poor taste (in this day and age) such as referring to a (co-worker and) woman’s beauty to recover.  What the heck was on his mind – and how did the weather person feel?

I didn’t find any other questions regarding this incident.  I was wondering how they would apologize or even if they felt there was something for which to apologize to the viewers.

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4 – Toronto Sun: local daily tabloid newspaper

What happened?

I was reading the local newspaper and came across a photograph that didn’t look right. After further research, I noticed the “photograph” (as it was credited) appeared to be manipulated by creating an image from several others.

What caught my interest in this particular issue is that I was under the understanding that publicly published images has certain royalties, required credits, and correct information of the image.  This image was listed as a photograph when it actually was not.

So, if they are willing to take liberties with something as minor as this; how many other instances has there been in the past?  Do they often pass of images as photographs (and thereby deceiving the reading public)?

Can you see the possible media abuse when I apply the “ELM Test”?

Ethical: It appears the image has bee manipulated and has falsely given the reader the impression the image was taken as a complete shot in one take.

Legal: Given the issues with royalties and credits, I have to wonder if the image was created from just his shots or did he use public domain issues?  How can the photographer claim any credit for something that isn’t an actual photograph?

Moral: I don’t know if there is a moral dilemma with this issue other than the photographer’s own feelings.  Knowing that he did not create a photograph and only created an “image”, how does he come to terms with himself with the appearance of a fraud he is perpetrating?

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In all of these incidents (as subtle as they are),

the players are all professionals;

they know the media rules and guidelines;

and yet, it appears they still chose to put their integrity

in jeopardy by not responding when questioned.

Values & Beliefs: The “ELM Test” of Integrity

Our integrity is all we’ve got.  It’s “our word”, a handshake”, a promise”, “showing up”, and many other acts we perform in our daily lives.

Because of this, our personal integrity is what we are measured against – and the most revealing of who we are being in that relationship.

We see it in the stories ordrama of our lives.  The Grey in our black and white world.

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IntegrityWhenever I consider the actions of myself/others, I have this tendency to measure (judge) the motivations behind those decisions/actions.

Of course, I’m not talking about decisions to do everyday sort of things; rather, I’m talking about decisions/actions that make a relative difference in my life – especially when it comes to business with others.  I’ll explain further as we go along.

So, what is this “ELM Test” and how is it used, you ask?

ELM is an acronym for:

  • Ethical

  • Legal

  • Moral

Ethical:  working in accordance with fulfilling the principles of right or wrong (especially within a profession).

Legal:  a statutory obligation to exercising the principles of right or wrong.

Moral:  an individual conscious decision as a human being to live the principles of right or wrong.

***

The process when I use this is not only for my own behaviours, but also that of others in my ‘official’ or business relationships.

Personal relationships do not usually need the Test because they don’t involve legal or ethical questions, only the question of morality.  Of course, I wouldn’t want to chill with a Ponzi schemer or a wife-beater – that crosses the line for me.

The way in which I use this test is by questioning the motivation or logic behind my (our) decisions before I decide to take action.  By doing so, it keeps my integrity in check and lets me gauge my sincerity behind my actions.  (I am always learning about myself, too!  Ackkkkkkkk!)

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If I profess to love people,
I better be ‘walking the walk
instead of just ‘talking the talk, right?

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Now let me digress just a little (my little humanistic caveat).  I am by no means implying that I am this walking edifice of righteous indignation – not like I was 15 years ago when I was the top of my capitalist game.  Heck NO!  I am human too.

Like you, my dear reader, I make mistakes – and some of them intentionally.  That’s what we do sometimes.  Sometimes out of fear, sometimes out of ignorance, and sometimes out of spite.

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Yup, we are always stretching the boundaries
of our moral compass – right?

And stuff will happen.  But …

***

When I enter a relationship, I feel I have an obligation to follow the ELM Test in order to ensure the best outcomes can be reached.  In other words – to get what I want.  There are many benefits:

  • it maintains a measure of respect and dignity for each other,

  • it allows us to know the boundaries of acceptable decisions/actions, and

  • it fertilizes the trust that is required for each other to be effective in the decisions/actions.

***

Here’s an example of how I recently employed the ELM Test:

I was recently looking for a job, and I wanted to work in a community organization doing outreach and providing support services like resume writing.  I found several opportunities (at least for summer work) that piqued my interest, so I applied.  Most replied and I went on a few interviews.

Keeping in mind that interviews are a good place and time to find out more about the agency as well.  I always want to ensure the agency is a good fit for me as well.  I always come prepared with questions for the interviewer as well as have word prompts to help me remember to make and note specific observations within the agency as it operates day-to-day.

I didn’t get a job.

I guess I could have been a little easier on my judgment of the agencies; yet, I wanted to work somewhere that was actually making some kind of difference.

After employing the ELM Test when deciding on these job opportunities, this is what I saw and determined from one of most obvious failures:

This agency’s main focus is to offer daily meals and snacks to feed the hungry, have a space to drop-in, and have access to free computers and telephone. The typical user is homeless, poor, hungry, speaks another language, men, recently landed, and between 30 and 50 years old.  The programs they offer are creative writing, painting, resume writing, how to find work, and how to write a cover letter to name a few.

FAIL ELM TEST
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They failed their Ethical obligation to know the needs of the services users and offer them the programs and services they need.

To walk into the agency – and even to the untrained eye, it is obvious the service users are not in a position of using the above-mentioned services offered.  Besides language barriers, literacy is an issue.  Many are homeless and less-skilled.  Most were older men.

They failed their Legal obligation to use public funding to provide services according to the requirements from official needs assessments.

To hire staff to fill an agency need for funding does not give us value for the money we invest in human potential.  I witnessed a lot of casual conversations between staff (not with service users – they watch TV – in Spanish).

When the time came to offer the services, an announcement is made, a sheet of paper is checked, and the facilitator then goes back to the conversation at the front desk.

They failed their Moral obligation to reach into the lives of their service users and find out what they need and want to develop themselves as “productive citizens”.

Again, even to the untrained eye, it is obvious they are employed by the agency just to have a job.

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Granted, government funding makes it impossible to find qualified staff because of funding restrictions; but at least those that do work at the agency must have some sense of compassion, integrity, or desire to help others genuinely in need The staff were just floating around looking busy, but really – they were not accomplishing much more than feeding the neighbourhood.

Given this is their main intention, they would be a better agency that address the main issues that confront the services so they indeed do make a difference – as intended!

Needless to say, I ran away from that agency.

***

I couldn’t honestly work for someone who is just playing the game of life.  I don’t want to just fill a hole – I want to make a difference in my little corner of the world.  From the results of their decisions and the actions the staff were taking, my observations compelled me to make a critical decision from this question:

Do I take the job and try to make changes from the inside,
or do I walk away and pick an issue where
I can invest my time and resources into something
that will actually achieve a difference?

I had to keep my personal goals in the social struggle in perspective – and I had to invest in my emotional balance, so I chose to walk away.

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Updated from 2009