Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Peeve Du Jour: Media Agency

Yesterday, I ended up doing a fair bit of Canadian media despite a pretty busy schedule of interviewing Brazilian politicians.  I enjoy that stuff, but a recurring theme drove me a bit bonkers. 

The main issue that led to the media calling me was the story of the US potentially increasing its commitment to Afghanistan and the possibility that Canada might be asked to contribute. In multiple conversations, the media folks said essentially the same thing: why haven't we been talking about Afghanistan since the Canadian troops left in 2011/14?

And I want to scream: because you guys have not been covering it!!!  If there is not a national conversation about something, it might just be due to the media not covering an issue.  The media's coverage of Afghanistan was always episodic, driven (at least as far as I can tell by when I got contacted by the media--some content analysis would get at this) by events in Ottawa.  If the politicians were debating Afghanistan, then it got more coverage.  So, as attention slipped away in Ottawa, so did the media. 

But it does not have to be that way.  The media, dare I say, has agency.  Perhaps reporters are constrained by their editors, but editors can choose to follow an old story to see where it goes.  Their choices are not strictly determined by some outside force--they can choose what to cover or not.   So, if they think there should be a continued conversation about the place where Canada spent billions of dollars and lost more than 160 lives, then they could do so. 

I am not surprised that my comments on this didn't make it into the stories.  Agency can work that way too.

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