Working in the media but not in ‘the media’

The demonization of mainstream journalism in the United States over the last four years is just the climax of a more general disgruntlement with “the media” — not just south of the border but all over the world.

“The media” is blamed for just about everything, whether it’s political correctness, invasion of privacy or our kids’ low self-esteem.

I’ve spent my entire career working at either small community newspapers or The Western Producer, and while I obviously work in the media, I have never really considered myself to part of “the media.”

When I hear complaints about that nebulous entity we call “the media,” I take comfort in the fact that it doesn’t really pertain to what I do. While “the media” wields its weighty influence and causes disruptions in society at large, I work in a more practical sphere, helping farmers understand the latest in agricultural research, recent market trends and new technological advancements.

I came to first understand this distinction in the summer of 1982 while working for my first newspaper.

I spent the summer between my third and last years of journalism school in Battleford, Sask., covering fiddling contests, parking meter debates and high school graduations.

In July my editor decided to spice things up a bit by getting me to cover the upcoming visit of Princess Anne in Saskatoon. It was both an exciting and intimidating assignment.

The reporters covering the day’s events had to show up early and receive a crash course on royal protocol. The key rule that I remember was not to get too close to her. I seem to remember being regularly shooed back by the provincial employee in charge of these things.

We spent the day on a bus driving around the city, occasionally being unloaded so that we could keep our distance, take photographs and otherwise soak in the ambience.

However, it was an encounter with one of the reporters on the bus that made it clear to me that what I was choosing to do for a living was far removed from the bigger world of “the media”.

This guy was from one of the racy English tabloids and I never saw him take notes or lift a camera. He just hung around and watched.

When I asked him why he had come all the way to Saskatoon, he said, “just in case she does something stupid.”

OK, then.

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