FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Vancouver – The jury is still out on powerful new communications platforms like YouTube, but the demise of independent newspapers will definitely have a negative impact on public and political discourse, especially at the local level.
These are the views of the two winners of the 2008 Dalton Camp Award for excellence in original essay writing on the links between democratic values and the quality of media in Canada which will be presented this evening.
The winners are Matthieu Aikins, a freelance writer and photographer who is a graduate of Queen's University, and Fraser MacLean, a graduate of the Art Institute of Vancouver (Recording Arts) who is currently a student at the University College of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford.
Fraser MacLean of Langley, BC, observes the power of YouTube in the context of the United States Presidential election in his winning essay.
With tens of millions of users, some of whom are able to command huge audiences, "YouTube is arguably the truest example of democracy in action" and has "given the public a powerful new tool to assess political double-talk," according to MacLean.
MacLean notes, however, that at the same time, the medium makes it easy to deceive viewers about the source of video content and, in the experience of the US Presidential campaign, has proven to generate the largest audiences for trivial material.
MacLean’s essay concludes with this advice: Canadians "should be conscious of the rapid changes that are taking place, and recognize that YouTube represents a seismic shift in the information landscape, with potentially huge consequences for the political process. Like the "magic mirror" from fairy tales, YouTube’s capacity to show us anything we desire is just as powerful, and we need to recognize that power in order to avoid being mesmerized or manipulated by it."
The winning essay of Matthieu Aikins, of Halifax, Nova Scotia, concerns the impact of media concentration on local journalism. He discusses the shut down earlier this year of the Halifax Daily News.
As locally owned independent newspapers have declined, so too has support and news space for local reporting, especially of the investigative variety, according to Aikins.
He notes that only one publication in all of Nova Scotia – the alternative weekly The Coast – regularly publishes long-form investigative pieces.
"While politicians at the national or even provincial level may be as well-scrutinized as ever, what about their municipal counterparts? Who is still investing in investigative journalism at the local level...," ask Aikins.
"How many investigative stories have been squelched by the cutbacks and closures that have afflicted small media outlets across the country? And how many will go unreported in Halifax now that there is no Daily News to keep the Herald on its toes?"
The Dalton Camp Award is given annually to as many as two Canadian writers of original essays on the link between democratic values and the quality of media in Canada. Each Award consists of a cash prize of $5,000 as well as a bronze cast medal by Canadian sculptress Dora de Pédèry-Hunt. FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting announced the creation of The Dalton Camp Award in December 2002 to honour the memory of the late Dalton Camp, who passed away earlier that year.
The Dalton Camp Award Selection Committee is chaired by Jim Byrd; the other members are Knowlton Nash and Maggie Siggins.
FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting is an independent, Canada-wide, non- partisan voluntary organization supported by 100,000 Canadians whose mission is to defend and enhance the quality and quantity of Canadian programming in Canada's audio-visual system. FRIENDS is not affiliated with any broadcaster or political party.
Jim Thompson 613-447-9592
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