The Canadian Connection
April 16, 2011 Leave a comment
“Coming up, the Canadian connection.” This aggravating little phrase is one I’ve heard pop up all too often on Canadian newscasts of late. I don’t know how long this has been going on, but I’ve noticed it a great deal in the past few months. No matter what the news story–whether the unrest in Tunisia, the revolution in Egypt, the quake and tsunami in Japan, or the war we’re not waging in Libya–over and over the Canadian connection was mentioned. Whether it was the Canadians fleeing Egypt on a plane that the Canadian government wasn’t going to pay for or the fact the top dog of NATO’s mission in Libya is Canadian Lt-Gen Charles Bouchard, it seems we need to know that for every international story there’s a tie-in that’s specific to our home and native land. Watching news of these unprecedented events around the world, I’ve wondered: why we do need a Canadian connection at all?
Answer A: Insecurity. This was my first thought. There is this national insecurity we have as Canadians that often has us falling all over ourselves to try to prove that we’re as cool as our cousins to the south, and so when I hear Peter Mansbridge announce that he’s going to tell us about the Canadian connection after the break, I cringe. I cringe at what that would sound like to people in other countries. I’m reminded of times during Oscar season when some gaffer who was Canadian would be mentioned on the news because he had something to do with Black Swan. I’m making that one up, but you get my drift; the connections are generally so incidental as to be unworthy of mentioning at all. But there it was in a freaking national news cast. When this happens I just silently rejoice that no one outside of Canada is watching The National.
Answer B: Da Money. As you may or may not know the news has become harder and harder to monetize as readership online has caught on like wildfire. One of the strategies thought to stem this tide is going local. Yahoo and MSN news are not going to report on something that is only relevant to me in Bloor West Village, so that particular, tiny market is all ready to be served. In the same way, I wonder if news makers feel that they have to pander to their Canadian viewers by making them believe that even the most obviously foreign story somehow has a uniquely Canadian connection to it, no matter how lame the connection. But honestly this doesn’t really ring true to me. Because an entire country is not a “local market.” What’s relevant to me on the local level is not what’s relevant to my parents on their local level thousands of miles away in another province. And so, with great sadness I come to my final conclusion.
Answer C: North American (or at least, Canadian) Self-Absorption. We shouldn’t need to hear about the Canadian connection in order to keep us interested in the plight of fellow human beings stuck in awful situations on the other side of the world. But I think we do. Just because I personally find it offensive that media makers think I need this, it doesn’t mean my fellow citizens do. While it’s important that the few Canadians living in Egypt get out of the country safely, it’s not the main story. The main story is about an entire nation rising up to demand rights and freedoms that we take for granted on an everyday basis. While I’m sure this is a very important time in Lt-Gen. Charles Bouchard’s life, that’s not the story. The story is a tyrant who has never needed to have the people on side because of massive oil wealth whose despotic reign may finally be coming to an end. While I’m glad that Canadians ponied up and gave money to not-for-profits sending funds to Japan, that’s not the story. The story is over 10,000 people killed and many more suffering in some of the most awful disasters that could hit one nation in such a short period of time.
I say, let some blogger like me cover the Canadian connection. When our national news outlets go for the connection, it seems petty and sad and immature. I’d like to think that we’re bigger than that, smarter than that, and more fundamentally caring of other human beings than that. I’d like to think we can hear a story about people suffering on the other side of the globe and not need to have the other 1/2 of the newscast spent talking about how it will affect our gas prices in order to keep us engaged. But I may be giving us too much credit.