An aging man in a green turtleneck loudly plunks at the keys on his dusty keyboard. He finishes writing and the corners of his mouth curl upward involuntarily as he reads it. For he is a “media critic” in Canada and he has just written an assortment of banal criticisms that now give way to the smug satisfaction accompanying his self-delusion. Somewhere is his missive he probably used the words lickspittle, bafflegab, chowder-head, popinjay, charlatan or even poppycock. He has called out easy targets on their “baloney”, made reference to all the hot air floating around Ottawa and bemoaned the state of journalism in a condescending fashion. Don’t get him started on blogging he’ll sneer to anyone who will listen.
That’s the archetype anyways, as I’m sure not all of them wear turtlenecks. But an examination of the purported critics of media in Canada finds the few who exist are more focused on over-officious examinations of journalistic practices than honesty about the media outlets that populate this country. The ones I’ve come across seem to believe that haughtiness is an essential tool of criticism just as a delusional self-made “real life superhero” believes a series of well-timed kicks in hockey pads and a handmade cape can prevent crime. What they both lack makes only one of them truly absurd; both have zero self awareness but only one of them needs it to do their job well. (It’s the media critic)
Enter Jesse Brown’s CANADALAND, a podcast offering honest discussion of Canadian media. For those of us who want to see our journalistic institutions taken to task without the stodginess of a grandfather talking about how things used to be — Jesse Brown is really our only hope. His strength is not that he is young while others are old, not that he is smart while others are dumb. His strength is that he has a level of self awareness that is necessary to cover the painfully insular world that is Canadian Journalism.
“Nothing in Broadcasting is directed at me,” Brown tells me. “That is what I want the show to be. You would never know how much conflict there is in the work force in general in Canada if you just read Canadian newspapers or watched the news.”
And that’s what the first video released by Brown, entitled “The Globe and Mail hates young people”, attempts to address. The response, he says, has been overwhelming and almost completely positive—except for those in powerful positions who don’t take too kindly young wHippersnappers (extremely non-silent H) criticizing them. Brown addressed the criticism of his…criticism on his website admitting that while some of it was fair, a lot of it was thin skinned whining and he reserves the right to “fuck up” as long as he “owns that shit”.
“Why is there no Canadian Daily Show, why is there no Canadian Gawker, why is there no Canadian On the Media, why is there no Canadian David Carr,” Brown asks Michael Enright in his first podcast before they quibble over media critics in Canada. What he’s really saying is: Where is our brutal honesty?
The answer to that question, as they go on to discuss, is that Canada is a small country and journalism is a small world, so biting the hand that feeds them is a very real fear for Canadians working in media. The tenuous nature of the business and the fact that media jobs are disappearing is also helping to turn our fifth estate into humourless sycophants.
But Brown will stick with it. He doesn’t want to define too narrowly what CANADALAND will be, learning from past projects that organically letting the show become what it will become is a better way to go about things. What he does know is that he will continue to push for honesty and candour on his podcast, filling the void of true media criticism in a country that desperately needs it.