Source : CBC News
Dorothy King: Well a Memorial University Student is the winner of the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting's third annual Dalton Camp Award. Danielle Devereaux is a Graduate Student in Women's studies at Memorial, she won the Award for her essay that explores the links between the media and democracy. The prize, no small bucks: five thousand dollars in cash and a bronze medal that she picked up at the Banff Television Festival last week. Danielle Devereaux dropped by the studio to speak with Radio Noon's Ingrid Fraser.
Ingrid: Danielle, congratulations!
Ingrid: Tell us a little bit about what you are exploring in this essay.
Danielle: The main idea was kind of the idea of democracy as dialogue and as the media being able to facilitate that dialogue as in, we can participate as well. It's not just the media. I mean a lot of times the media is set up just to talk to us but the idea was that the different ways that the media can present things to us can influence the things that we talk about and the things that we think about.
Ingrid: Now you used two specific examples, the death of Corporal Jamie Murphy and the death of Jesus Suarez del Solar Navarro of the U.S. military and the different ways that the Canadian and the American media treated these deaths and the bringing home of these young men. Just talk a little bit about that.
Danielle: I was thinking about this topic how the media influences Canadian democracy and then I heard on the radio that there were these protesters at a military base in Delaware who were military families, they were families who had people in the military. So they were protesting at this base in Delaware because the U.S. had this kind of ban on media coverage of bodies coming home in caskets and I thought that was a huge difference from how Corporal Jamie Murphy's homecoming was treated in the media. And then, I was kind of thinking about this idea, and the idea that wherever I went after Corporal Jamie Murphy had died, people were talking about it everywhere. I mean that was the topic of conversation, here was this young man, and how horrible it was that he died so young and how brave he was and the idea that well, should the Canadian army be in Afghanistan? Should we have peace keepers in Afghanistan? So people were talking about it and forming opinions about it, and they weren't all the same opinions, it wasn't like everyone agreed but it really did shape conversation. And then, this idea that the U.S. media couldn't even look at these young men and women who were coming home, they couldn't put their cameras on them, and I thought that also shapes conversations because if you don't see it you're not really probably going to talk about it. And I know that in the U.S. there are a lot of people who are opposed to U.S. presence in Iraq, but this ban was a very obvious attempt to stop that kind of discussion. This young man whose example I used in the essay, who had died in the U.S., his father was at this particular protest and he was quoted in one of he articles that I read, and his homecoming wasn't recorded in the U.S. media, because of the ban.
Ingrid: And so because then information wasn't out there, people couldn't have a conversation about it.
Ingrid: And so what does that say about the media and democracy?
Danielle: Well it says to me that. I mean I think the media can be used for democracy and it can be used not for democracy. I mean it's a tool and we choose to use it the way that we use it. So I guess it says that the role of the media there was being limited by this particular ban. One of the other examples that I used in the essay was this idea that six thousand five hundred people in Africa die of AIDS every day, and we don't hear that in the media. If every night we heard that, every single night, six thousand five hundred people died of AIDS in Africa, every single night. I mean, would we start to talk about it? I don't know. There are all sorts of different issues around that like is that close enough to home for us to think about it? But I do think things would change if we heard about it.
Ingrid: How did you develop this interest in a critical analysis of media?
Danielle: Kind of in a round about way actually. I did a grad course, reading and teaching pop culture with Ursula Kelly, which is an education grad course and I am in women's studies but because women's studies in inter-disciplinary you are encouraged to jump around a little bit. And I had kind of thought about those kinds of things before, in my undergraduate studies I had done a little bit, one course in philosophy that kind of touched on that, but it wasn't really something that I grabbed onto. But when I did this particular course with Ursula Kelly we watched a video called "Advertising & the End of the World" which is by the Media Education Foundation and I just thought that the video was great and that it really put into words things that I had been thinking about but couldn't articulate and it really touched a nerve with me. So then I looked up this foundation who made the video, the Media Education Foundation and found out they had an internship. So I applied for this internship and kind of through the jigs and the reels, got accepted to the internship, worked out a thing that I could do because it was an unpaid internship meant for students in the States really, who could work and then just come into the Media Education Foundation for two days a week which I couldn't do because I am not American and it couldn't work so I ended up just going up for five weeks and just staying full time. Anyways, I loved it. I just loved what they did, and the videos that they produced which are all about thinking critically about the media. And they use the media to do that, because they are videos. And so they use the media in a way that I haven't seen a whole lot of, it's not something that you see on popular TV very much. I have been writing study guides for them ever since and as a result of that internship, they gave me a bunch of videos as a thank-you and I continue to get videos because I am writing study guides so I need to watch the video to write the study guides. And then I started, in conjunction with the philosophy department and the women studies program putting up on campus what we call the media and culture screening and discussion series. And I think that was an inspiration for this idea behind the essay because at these screening series, we watch the video which is anywhere from a half hour to an hour and a half long. And even with the short ones we have two hours allotted for the whole series. And people just talk! They just talk and talk and talk, people like to talk about this kind of stuff and think critically about this kind of stuff! I feel like it helps to have a bunch of people in the room to talk about it. It's one thing to watch the video by yourself and think "Oh yeah, that's great" but then to bounce your ideas off other people. And it was such a clear example of the media facilitating dialogue and discussion and ideas and inspiration. I guess it seemed like a clear topic for the essay.
Ingrid: Well for years people have been exploring the role of the media in everyday life, from Marshal Mc Luhen to Chomsky, and how we can be so manipulated by media. After writing this essay and running this series and really thinking about it a lot. When we sit down to watch TV, the news or a sitcom or Fear Factor or whatever. What do you think we should be thinking about?
Danielle: I don't know if there is something we should be thinking but I just think that critical thinking is really, really important. And I think that critical thinking is not something that we are encouraged to do. I mean I don't think I was much of a critical thinker for most of my life until eventually I just kind of gradually did a few more courses, and a few more courses. But I think that's unnecessary, I don't think you need to go to University to be a critical thinker. I think the best critical thinkers are probably ten years old, because they are always asking questions. But you are not encouraged to keep doing that, you are not encouraged to keep challenging authority. I mean, I really think that we should be looking at the stuff that is behind the scenes, and who is deciding that this is going on and what programs am I not seeing and why? Is it because they are commercially unviable? Or why is that particular camera turned on that particular image and not on something else?
Ingrid: Ok, well, what's next for you now?
Danielle: I am going to finish up my Master's degree in the fall and hopefully apply to do a PhD in communications. The screening series will continue in the fall too so I am looking forward to that, that's always fun.
Ingrid: And I guess the five thousand dollars that you won through this Award will help with your studies?
Danielle: Yes, definitely. It was a really nice prize, five thousand dollars, a trip to Banff, a nice bronze medal and a laptop computer. Well I didn't win that, that's what I am going to buy with my five thousand dollars.
Ingrid: Well, fully loaded I expect. I want to thank you so much for coming today.
Danielle: Thank you Ingrid.
Ingrid: Danielle Devereaux, she is the lucky winner of the 2004 Dalton Camp Award that was sponsored by the lobby group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. Her Award winning essay can be viewed online at www.friends.ca/dca.
© CBC News
Click here to listen to the audio version of the interview
June 14, 2004 - Democracy as dialogue: How the media influence Canadian democracy by Danielle Devereaux
June 11, 2004 - Three Canadians win Dalton Camp Awards