By Alvin Ma
“It is one of the most disgusting, brutal parts of NHL hockey…it seems absurd, so why doesn’t it change?”
By now, many people have seen or heard of the head injury that George Parros of the Montreal Canadians sustained in a fight on the opening night of the National Hockey League season. And as expected, a gigantic debate surrounding the role of fighting in hockey ensued. Rather than using this blog entry as a platform to the reasons behind my own complicated normative viewpoint of fighting, I would rather focus on the above representation of fighting in the lens of “objectivity” and media advocacy, a theme in my Health Communication class. As seen in the clip which opens the Global National broadcast with the quotation above, Global TV news anchor Dawna Friesen uses strong and arguably subjective words to frame the issue. I do not know if Friesen read from a teleprompter or if the Global TV camera operator was complicit in zooming in on her face to spotlight her stance, but she stood by and justified her coverage in a later article despite criticism from viewers that she was “biased” and not adequately “objective.”
However, perhaps credited to our post-modern thinking, objectivity is only an imaginary concept. In reading material for my Health Communication class, objectivity is described by Branston and Stafford (2006) as “an idealist aim for journalists to report events without being involved with them” which attempts to, as stated by Hackett and Gruneau (2000), quote “different sides of a controversial story” as “codes of fairness.” This one-sided portrayal nevertheless reminds me of an article that former Global National anchor Kevin Newman wrote, where he references the acclaimed Walter Cronkite in the era of racial segregation in the United States and argues that journalists must sometimes “put aside their notions of neutrality” and transparently address their own biases in reporting when they feel that there is only one right position on a controversial issue.
Although this internalized form of media advocacy values the desired trait of honesty, having opinionated activists from within the mass media act as open-minded journalists likely damages the credibility of the outlet, as seen in some unfavourable comments towards Friesen. While audiences seem to value at least the illusion of objectivity, I recommend that they turn to themselves and think critically about the messages they hear and I recommend that they also realize that objectivity is relative to constructed competing sides. Audiences should nonetheless keep an open mind and take part in the media advocacy process by examining the perspective of NHL enforcer-turned-media-advocate Jim Thomson, whom Friesen references. Audiences can then elect to join Thomson’s campaign against fighting or, on the other hand, call for an attenuation of fighting as a health risk compared to what they perceive as more pressing issues.
Branston, G. & Stafford R. (2006). The Media Student’s Book, 4th edition. London: Routledge.
Hackett, R., & Gruneau, R. (2000). The Missing News: Filters and Blind Spots in Canada’s Press. Toronto. Garamond.