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Friday, 29 July 2011

Journalism and fishing

Many readers will remember a product review, posted earlier this week, and will be astonished that that piece qualifies as journalism. You may think to yourself 'If that's journalism, then that particular profession is in deep trouble'. And indeed it is. And many practices and elements of journalism that have landed it in deep trouble are shared with fishing. And like fishing, or more accurately fishermen (I'm sorry I cannot use the CBC approved phrase 'fisher' as this is a small mammmal) most of the trouble that the profession is is is its own fault.

Take incredibly dubious work practices, for example. These are, as we all know, rife within journalism - recent scandals of phone tapping, email stealing and graft dont need repeating here. But what strikes me, is that when a British newspaper recently closed because of the dubious practices of some of its staff, there was sympathy (in other newspapers) expressed for the 'hundreds of other good journalists who have lost their job'. I am unsure how familiar readers are with English tabloid newspapers, but 'good journalism' is not something one expects to find therewithin: pictures of ladies breasts - yes, breathless gossip about a reality tv star - yes, blatant stereotyping and marginalisation of any groups considered 'out' by the target demographic - yes, but good journalism???? SO who was writing this crap? I presume it was not the 'good journalists'. I pictured the "News of the World" newsroom divided in half with a bunch of sleazy creeps on one side writing about boobs and stars, and a group of hard-bitten 'real' journos on the other, working on the next Watergate.

The answer I recieved from a friend was that in reality the guys who wrote about the titties and the celebrities actually were 'really good journalists' (he knew some of them). The sleazy creeps and the good journalists were one and the same people but, hey, you know, work is hard to find these days, so the good journalists were only pretending to be sleazy creeps while they were working at these tabloids until a proper job came along.

I dont know if anyone knows about over-fishing, or has lived in a fishing community. There are probably a few good fishermen, who dont over-fish, dont land their catches at different quays under the cover of darkness and who dont engage in really bad practices, and to them I apologise. But they are the minority. And, I am aware of the factory ships that many inshore fishermen say are responsible for the demise of fish stocks. But the simple fact is that inshore fisheries - local communities, local fishermen, the small independent operators have been as terrible at protecting the oceans as the big conglomerates. From net fishing tuna to the point of extinction in the Meditteranean to poisoning seals in the Scottish Highlands. From illegal codfishing in Nova Scotia and the Grand Banks to Alaskan communities that insist on whaling because its 'traditional'. From shark's fin soup to caviar, from dynamiting lagoons to drag netting, inshore fishermen have been, and continue to be just as bad as the big multi-national conglomerates.

Journalism and fishing are in deep trouble. Fishermen have attacked the oceans in search of profit but now continually point the finger at others (big business, the consumer, other fishermen) as wrong doers. Journalists have scoured the limits of ethical behaviour to unearth salacious details about the sex lifes of celebrities, and yet claim that this is 'news' .

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