Media on Media

Those of you who know me in real life know that one of my pet peeves is when the media talk about the media. But thankfully for my sense of dignity, this ain’t the real world.

As you know, the Voter Funded Media (formerly TurboDemocracy… I much prefer that title) contest is running in parallel to the AMS elections. I, like most, am surprised at number of media that are involved. By my observation, they fall into four general archetypes:

1) Involved people who know a lot and write in-depth
I’d put ourselves and the Knoll in this category, for instance. We both have significant understanding of the AMS and UBC, hold strong opinions, and write (relatively) frequently. We’re both insiders, trying to make our knowledge more accessible to those who aren’t. My primary criticism is that sometimes it’s very inaccessible. Much of our writing is geared to people who are already past square one – the high-information voter. (I note with amusement the Knoll’s slogan – “We’re like a slate that isn’t running”. It’s odd, because the Knoll is running a slate!)

2) Serious coverage from people who aren’t heavily involved
For this, look at Myrfield or the Thunderbird. Both collectives ought to be commended for trying to add some perspective and depth of coverage to the AMS elections. But it’s clear that they don’t know the issues much themselves. Which is fine, because they’re more journalist-y than analyst. Their appeal is more towards the mid/low-information voter, and a baseline understanding of the candidates, if not the issues.

3) Joke coverage from people contributing to the discourse
I’d throw Eat Cake and the Radical Beer Tribune into this category. And I really appreciate them. While there’s no serious issue-based coverage, they both engage with the candidates and the process, and in doing so contribute to the election. There’s a huge value-added, and they bring something that I can’t possibly hope to. Plus, look at the RBF photos. They’re downright amazing. (Image at right courtesy RBT.)

4) Supid entries trying to scam money
Let’s just call this the Duncan-Kearney media group. As far as I can tell, they’re just after beer money. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but a far more deserving entry will finish ninth to the “name recognition” crew. Come to think of it, there’s a profound arrogance required to say “I’m gonna win this based on how popular I am.” And Directors, AMS Councillors, ought to treat the AMS process with a little more respect. It was put far more eloquently by an anonymous commenter: “I do have a problem with AMS councillors misusing their reputations and this money for doing absolutely NO work whatsoever with the elections.”

I’ve also been asked to stop taking pot shots at the Ubyssey. Sorry guys, no dice. The Ubyssey is content to take pot shots at the AMS elections candidates with significant regularity, so I’m happy to return the favor. But a suggestion that AMS elections are full of tools (see: cover), and a “we don’t care” endorsement for the person responsible for making sure the Ubyssey’s offices still exist, tell me that they’re not trying to earn students’ confidence. But more importantly, guys, the 1980′s called, and they want their hackneyed sense of disaffected cynicism back. It’s often the last reserve of the uninformed. Maybe it’s the AMS’ fault for not issuing press releases like UBC Public Affairs – now that’s a guarantee of Ubyssey ink! (Full faith/credit: their news coverage has improved significantly over the course of the election.)

So, what’s the impact been of VFM? I’d suggest that it’s influenced the candidates more than it’s influenced voters. The occasional voter will be swayed/convinced by something they read here or in the Knoll (or the Ubyssey… see, that’s my attempt at humour), but, more importantly, it’s changed the candidates’ perspectives on the race. There’s actually been a discernible campaign of ideas in most races and, more importantly, these have evolved over the past two weeks. Now much of this hasn’t made its way to most of the voters, but I can’t help but feel it’s probably producing better candidates.

More importantly, it’s helped those who already want to be engaged. It can be very hard to get information about the AMS and UBC, and the issues. And for those who want to cast an informed vote, they had a bit more information this year. I guess that’s a victory, right?

What are your impressions on the VFM, and on the candidates? Is it making a difference? I know most candidates would probably argue that they’ve been a huge time drain… so I’d ask those candidates, was it worth it?


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