Yesterday’s interview with Chair of Halton Police Services Board and Oakville councillor Jeff Knoll goes to the heart of why we started The 905er Podcast.
Traditionally there have been few avenues by which more than a handful of public figures and ‘news-makers’ in the 905 region, especially Halton, could be heard direct by the people they serve. Maybe an occasional minute or so on CHCH, or a brief quote in a local paper, but that’s been about it for towns and cities where millions of people live.
And even as I’m writing this it has been announced that Bell Media are laying off hundreds of editorial and production staff engaged in local television and radio news media across Canada, further eroding the already weak news coverage in the GTHA. Exact numbers are unknown, but 220 news production and editorial staff are being laid off in Toronto alone. This while Bell’s revenue has risen by 3.5% on the back of profits from Crave and the Movie Network.
But perhaps humble podcasts (cough) have the potential to at least begin to reverse the death throes of Canadian news.
In yesterday’s 905er Podcast interview, Jeff Knoll answered questions for twenty-five minutes about the controversy surrounding Chief Steve Tanner’s trip to Florida. You can hear those answers direct – not edited down to soundbites or to a sentence in a news story – and make your own judgement on whether those answers address your concerns.
In fairness, the local press in the 905 has long given space to MPs, MPPs and Mayors to speak to the public. But those regular op-eds have been almost completely controlled by the politicians themselves. They (or the central party) decide what they want to address. And those articles are written by the politician’s legislative staff and vetted if not written in full by central party communications staff. Those communications staffers’ greatest gifts tend to be churning out prose that – to quote my childhood next-door-neighbour – “can put a glass eyeball to sleep”. They want to paint the most positive picture of the politician, party or government concerned and stay far away from difficult questions.[*See sidebar]
Likewise Cable access channels like MyTV Halton provide space for politicians to, in essence, ‘have their own show’, where they don’t have to answer anything they don’t want to. Even CHCH allows public figures to have their own regular slots where opinions are stated un-challenged.
We’re not claiming to be the best interviewers in the world yet – we’re learning on the job, and the job is being done in scarce free hours between the things that actually pays the mortgage, while, in Joel’s case, also handling all the demands of a young family during a pandemic.
But at least the people who make decisions about our lives now have a forum on which they can answer questions that they have not set themselves; that we are asking based on our – no doubt imperfect – best judgement regarding what the public would want to ask in our place. It’s then down to you: to listen, to interpret, and judge for yourself whether the answers you hear are good enough. And, sure, Joel and I will generally give our opinions too. But that pales in comparison to the objective of contributing to the tools available for you to make your own informed decisions.
Tangent of the Day
* Don’t misunderstand me – those staffers are, in my experience, universally intelligent, charming, funny, passionate and dedicated people, working long hours for little pay. Political parties attract some of the smartest young minds in Canada every year, work them to the bone until they can’t take it any more, and then release them into the wild to receive their reward with far better salaries in the private sector. But they’re paid to paint a rosy picture and keep their MPs or MPPs out of trouble, and ‘out of trouble’ almost always means ‘saying nothing interesting’.
That has to be a good thing, right? Maybe even enough to justify a Patreon donation?