Advocacy journalism

Now I finally understand. For years I have wondered why the Times & Transcript almost never writes a negative ‘economic’ story and when the topic is remotely negative, they always put a good spin on it. You can reread my previous blogs to assess my frustration with this issue.

T&T editor Al Hogan stated this weekend in Focus 2005 that this is called ‘advocacy journalism’. He lumps his fanatical editorial obsessions (consider toll highways, cath lab, etc.) into this category of advocacy journalism and I’ll let you be the judge of that. I will only focus on the economic aspects.

Now I know that the Times & Transcript’s unwillingness to tackle the economic problems facing New Brunswick in a direct and meaningful way is ‘advocacy journalism’. The average T&T reader will never hear that New Brunswick has had a net out-migration of people for the past 13 straight years and 18 of the last 20. The reader will never view in the pages of the T&T that immigration in the early 1970s was two to three times greater than today – even though we are in a real population crisis. The reader will never read in the pages of the T&T that economic growth (GDP growth) in New Brunswick has underperformed the national average for 17 of the last 20 years.

Why? I think now I know. Al and the gang over at the T&T think they need to project a ‘positive’ image. Consider the number of times they have used the words ‘boom’ or ‘booming’ associated with Moncton in the past few years. They think this is ‘advocacy’.

I think it’s crazy. The newspaper with the most readership in the province has taken an ostrich approach when it comes to the economy. Projecting a positive attitude is a key part of economic development – I agree with this wholeheartedly. But when the T&T and other newspapers don’t challenge the government on economic issues – they get backburnered as they are right now in New Brunswick.

Consider my statistics above. Out-migration of people 18 of the last 20 years. This should be an in-your-face appeal for action. But no, on the pages of the T&T, we get more ‘boom’ articles.

Wouldn’t it be something to get a cath lab-toll highway focus on economic development? How about 20 straight days of front page articles on the economic crisis facing this province? Wouldn’t that be ‘advocacy journalism’?

New Brunwick’s economy is stagnating. Governments are reducing their expenditures on economic development here while increasing them elsewhere (consider the recent announcements of $250 million for aerospace in Montreal and the billion for automobile manufacturing in Ontario). Well, on the bright side, we did get $100 million for EI top ups.

Advocacy journalism. If the T&T wanted to be real advocates, they would get serious about our economic challenges. They would realize that the current retail and construction boom in Moncton is a lag effect from strong growth in the late 1900s. They would realize that Moncton’s economic future is tied to the province’s future and if the latter is in crisis – it will have consequences for Moncton. They would realize that less and less effort is being put on attracting new business to New Brunswick.

They would ‘advocate’ for fixing this. They would advocate for 75% of all new funding going to fixing our economic problems and not our health care problems. Even journalists should understand that the strength of the economy drives the government’s ability to provide social programs.

Advocacy journalism. I guess my blog fits nicely into this category.