Media and Millennials at the CBC

Last week I was invited to participate in a panel discussion at the CBC on millennials and their use of media, along with several other people who work in the Vancouver media, tech and culture scene. Being a bit of a cultural policy wonk I jumped at the chance to participate.

I was a bit surprised at the amount of overlap between everyone’s responses. I like to think that I am very unique in the way that I use media but apparently I am not.

We are all, collectively, dealing with a sense of overwhelm brought on by the sheer volume of incoming information that we have to deal with daily. Several of us reported that in some way or other we were trying to actively limit the amount of information that we consume on our devices, and while infinite choice seems like it would be a great thing, many of us mentioned that that choice can be paralyzing.

There was a general consensus around the room that CBC Radio is really good for a variety of reasons. There’s the practical aspect of not having to read or watch it. We can be hands-free and able to work on other tasks. There’s also the sense that it is curated and programmed so you don’t have to get stuck in the trap of trying to decide what to listen to. You turn it on and then it’s there, and you just know that the programming is going to be decent regardless of what it is.

And then there’s the fact that the quality of journalism on the radio is quite good. Radio programs on the CBC allow more time for individual topics so there’s the opportunity to include context and go more in-depth in a way that is rarely done on TV and on the website.

Long-form journalism is something that we all said that we crave, and we turn to places like the New York Times, CNN, The Guardian and other foreign publications to fulfill a need that is not being met domestically. Numerous rounds of cuts to the CBC as well as other mainstream daily and weekly news publications in Canada over the past several years has seriously gutted their abilities to serve the public with strong, investigative reporting. There are some small and independent publications that are trying to fill in the gap but they do not have the reach of the mainstream publications.

I’m not the only one who is concerned about this. Some other people on the panel wanted to see the CBC provide a stronger voice for Canada, in interpreting global events through a Canadian lens. There was a sense around the table that Canada is absent from the world stage, and needs to speak up more.

We also discussed the value of feeling connected to individuals at the organization. Many of us follow specific journalists and producers, and enjoy hearing about what they’re interested in and being able to see stories come together before they’re published. For me, following journalists on Twitter is my main point of access to news websites. The consensus around the table was that having them share their work in this way was a thing that we all enjoyed.

Since this discussion took place I’ve been thinking again about all of that labour. Perhaps it’s my cultural policy background or because so many of my colleagues right now are interested in the future of work. While I like being able to stalk journalists and know what they are working on, I’m conscious of the fact that sharing this information on social media is often unpaid labour above and beyond their regular work.

I’m concerned about scope creep in these sorts of jobs, where new tasks and duties begin to be required without consideration for the additional time they take and without any increase in pay. It may not seem like much, but speaking as someone who does social media as a full-time job, it is work, and you can’t clock out at the end of the day like you would with a lot of normal jobs. And especially for women, people of colour and LGBTQ2 people, it can potentially be hazardous, exposing them to a lot of harassment online that there isn’t really adequate protection from.

I know that we all said that we want to see more journalists share their work in this way, but rather than expecting it as an unpaid add-on that is required of journalists, I want to see it valued as work, that requires adequate compensation. In a time of draconian cuts to news room budgets, life is precarious and challenging enough for journalists as it is, without expecting unpaid extras from them.