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Cracks showing in the ethical walls of media, politics

BY JASON THOMPSON jason@northernlife.

The pillars supporting the integrity of the press and the politicians in this country are crumbling and are in desperate need of plaster to repair the spreading cracks, said former Canadian Senator Marie Poulin.

Former Canadian Senator Marie Poulin, a native of Sudbury, spoke about media, politics and ethics at Laurentian University Thursday night.
A native of Sudbury, Poulin spoke on the subject of media, politics and ethics before a small crowd of about 30 people at the University of Sudbury Thursday evening.

Throughout her speech, Poulin outlined that ethics is a big part of the way the media and politicians should operate. However, the way the media operates has changed dramatically in the past 20 years, she said. As a result, balance, objectivity, fairness are often cast aside.

Compared to 20 years ago, news today happens and is instantly reported on. With 24-hour news channels available from around the world and the ability of the Internet to publish content immediately, there's a rush for editors and reporters to produce piles of copy and get it out to the masses.

The result is published stories that are sometimes more rumours than news, thus diminishing credibility, Poulin said. She said this also started the trend of reporters interviewing reporters instead of experts on the given topic.

However, the rush to produce copy or to fill airtime isn't the only instance where ethical lines are blurred in the media. "Info-tainment" has replaced the talking heads of years past, she said, adding that according to a recent study on journalistic excellence, 43 percent of the content in news packages is entertainment, three times more that 20 years ago.

By mixing entertainment with information, the audience eventually equates stories of real human suffering or a deadly terrorist attack with the latest celebrity gossip when the two should be kept separate as it takes away from the impact and credibility of hard news stories.

Poulin said it?s like watching news-lite, which like light beer, just doesn't have the same effect.

Poulin also said nothing sells newspapers and increases ratings like scandal, which is why the media is so quick to jump on a politician who drops the ball. While the coverage may be excessive at times, it isn't necessarily a bad thing because politicians must be held accountable.

The reason, said Poulin, that the public doesn't hear about the good, honest, hardworking politicians is simple.

"Good news is no news."