Make sure you mark this day in history, as the price of a barrel of oil is worth about 4 heads of cauliflower. That is what my wife tells me anyways (and don’t get her started on the price of asparagus!). Also, mark this day as it is the end of traditional journalism in Edmonton as we know it. Today the Edmonton Sun and Edmonton Journal merge into one corporate entity. Both of these events, although very different, go to show that times are changing, and our future looks to continue to be ever changing.
Some would say I am an alarmist–some would like to bury their heads in the sand and say that “everything will be okay” and “we shouldn’t worry because the government has it under control”. As the layoffs across this city and province occur at a torrent rate it is hard to console employees who now find themselves out of work. Many of these citizens I have personally met, they are not the temporary or transitory workers from out of province but long time employees that have worked for many institutions for decades. What is occurring today is a fundamental structure change, not just in our economy, but in the fabric of Alberta’s culture.
Alberta has always prided itself on its self-reliant compassionate individualism, something very different from our eastern politicians who most often tend to be big government advocates. There once was a place in Canada called Alberta, where standing on your own two feet and making it work was a badge of honor and that government was not all things to all people pulling us all into a culture of dependency. What is happening today is that people and companies are being stripped to their core, and they are falling behind. It is not just about taxes – but everything is going up at an alarming rate – food, shelter, utility franchise fees, not to mention ever increasing red tape and piles of government process to deal with these issues. All these things taken separately, some politicians argue, when looked at in isolation are small. Yet to the tax payer it does not matter about any single bill; it is the total bill that matters.
Against the background of this cultural fabric shift we are now seeing consolidation in one of the institutions we need most. One of these of course is our own fifth estate – the media. There was a time in our nation’s past when we used to worry about the concentration of media ownership. Rightfully argued at the time it was better for society to have diversified opinions through diversified media ownership than through one “big company.” Our traditional press has deteriorated not just because of the Internet but also due to corporate management philosophy placing profits ahead of social responsibility when in reality they should be side by side. How can our media be truly independent if they are all owned by one or two companies? And we are not just talking about newspapers, but radio, TV stations, cable stations which are being owned and operated by fewer and fewer people. This comes at a time when we need better information and better conversations to arrive at better solutions given where we are now situated today.
I will leave you with a simple thought: If biologists and environmentalists have taught me anything it is this, biodiversity is critical to maintaining our planet. So answer me this, does diversity of opinion matter? If so, does that diversity suffer under the concentration of ownership by whoever is delivering the message? I personally think it does….but what do you think?