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Dec 15 / s

The Best of CBC Radio

Written by: Carly Steven

Quite enjoying getting into Canadian radio, or rather, CBC Radio 1.

There was an interesting piece this morning on Q with Jian Ghomeshi about the death of printed newspapers (December 15 about 53 minutes, 24 seconds in).  Tom Rachman talks about his novel The Imperfectionists, a fictionalised account of a failing English-language newspaper in Rome.  From The Globe and Mail review:

A former editor at the International Herald Tribune, Rachman takes on a valedictory air as he acutely and lovingly describes the types of people found at this vanishing workplace. Among them, there’s Lloyd Burko, the Paris-based freelance correspondent at the end of his career; Herman Cohen, the hyper-fastidious corrections editor; Kathleen Solson, the imperious and temperamental editor-in-chief.

Rachman leaves little doubt that he’s writing what he knows well. His novel is sprinkled with hard-won observations such as that “ ‘news’ is often a polite way of saying ‘editor’s whim’ ” and “[j]ournalism is a bunch of dorks pretending to be alpha males.” And yet even someone whose familiarity with newsrooms doesn’t extend beyond the work of Clark Kent and Peter Parker will recognize these characters.

Tom Rachman

Tom Rachman

Touching on the demise of Newsweek, Rachman and Ghomeshi discuss how people like the idea of it existing but they´re not actually buying it.  Rachman suggests there is still a role for the journalistic expertise required to produce these weekly publications; which is to sift through the mass of information we are glutted with from media outlets available online.

If traditional media is weakest in terms of handling breaking news, what newspapers can and are doing is to shift their focus onto analysis.  One problem with the new technological age that news publications are now struggling with is that people have become accustomed to consuming information on screens; they are no longer comfortable reading long articles which means, ironically, that the in-depth analysis traditional media are moving towards is also losing favour among readers.

I also really enjoyed The Sunday Edition.  On December 5th, Ira Basen explained how Google became all-powerful in an item entitled Engineering Search: The Story of the Algorithm that Changed the World.

It happens billions of times every day. Somebody somewhere types something into a search bar on their computer screen. Maybe they’re looking to book a trip, or buy a book, or find some information, or answer a question that’s been bothering them. In 2010, search is how we have come to navigate the worlds of commerce and information online. Increasingly, search determines what we know, what we buy, even what we think.

And of all those billions of searchers around the world, nearly three quarters of them will do their searching on Google. If search rules the web, then Google rules search. And that fact has given the company an enormous amount of economic clout. It has made the Google algorithm, the top-secret computer program that runs the search engine, the most important piece of intellectual property in the world. With so much at stake, it’s no wonder that the clamour for more public scrutiny and even regulatory control is getting louder every day.

The whole programme is 3 hours long and runs from 9am – 12pm.  The Google documentary lasts for one hour.  That´s like Radio 1 in the UK devoting 60 minutes of prime Sunday morning hangover air space to a show about Facebook.  It just wouldn´t happen.  Not even on Radio 4.

Tony Blair vs Christopher Hitchens

Tony Blair vs Christopher Hitchens

Every weekday evening at 9pm there is a show on called Ideas.  Tonight it is featuring a discussion between atheist Christopher Hitchens and former British PM Tony Blair on whether religion is a force for good in the world.  Obviously Blair is pro and Hitchens against.  The event was organised as part of twice yearly series The Munk Debates and has already been broadcast on Radio 4.  It took place on 26th November 2010 in Toronto.  According to CBC, touts were selling tickets outside the venue for up to $500.

Christopher Hitchens: If religious instruction were not allowed until the child had attained the age of reason, we would be living in a quite different world.

Tony Blair: Religious faith has a major part to play in shaping the values which guide the modern world, and can and should be a force for progress.

Hitchens argued that religion is divisive and causes conflicts or makes them worse.

Blair conceded that “horrific acts of evil” have been committed in the name of religion, but said people like Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, who opposed religion, had been evil, too. “I agree in a world without religion, that the religious fanatics may be gone, but I ask you: Would fanaticism be gone?”

Blair pointed to the Northern Ireland peace process as an example of different religions working for peace.

Hitchens replied that 400 years of religious warfare in Ireland entailed “people killing each other’s children depending on what kind of Christian they were.”

“To terrify children with the image of hell … to consider women an inferior creation. Is that good for the world?” Hitchens said.

From CBC News: Hitchens apparent winner in religion debate

You can see the whole thing on YouTube but Christopher Hitchens´ opening statement is here:

Debate Results

PRE-DEBATE
Pro: 25%  Con: 55%  Undecided: 20%

POST-DEBATE
PRO: 32%  CON: 68%

And here´s a wee Hitch highlight:

A question about the role faith played in Mr. Blair’s decision to invade Iraq drew a chorus of nervous, sitcom studio audience-like “oohs” from the crowd, but Mr. Blair replied unequivocally.

“It was not about religious faith,” he said. Decisions he made as prime minister were “based on policy and so they should be, and you may disagree with those decisions but they were made because I genuinely believed them to be right.”

An Ipsos Reid online poll released Friday said 52 per cent of 18,192 global respondents believe deeply held religious beliefs promote intolerance and division in the world.

On the other hand, 48 per cent of the respondents from 23 countries said religion provides the common values and ethical foundations that diverse societies need to thrive.

Of the 1,000 Canadians who took part, 36 per cent said religion was a positive influence while 64 per cent — almost two-thirds — said religious beliefs promote intolerance.

From The Globe and Mail: Preliminary poll results show Hitchens winner of religion debate with Tony Blair

The Globe and Mail ran its own poll Is religion a force for good in the world? A whopping 96% or respondents said No.

The New Statesman has the full Hitchens vs Blair transcript.