Opinion » Pique'n Yer Interest

Don't let the bastards grind you down

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This may come as a surprise to you, but being a reporter isn't all private jets and super models.

I know what you're thinking. "But Braden, clearly you're a man of exquisite taste and upstanding social wealth — not to mention unbearably handsome — the reporter life must be treating you well!"

First of all, you're too kind.

But no, for the most part, being a reporter is less about attending lavish parties and more about dealing with communications officials and nonsensical government documents.

I consider myself to be above average when it comes to reading comprehension.

I read a lot in my spare time, and it's always been something very enjoyable to me.

But there is little joy in reading government documents, because these types of documents are anti-reader.

They aren't for enjoyment, they're for business, and business is a very, very serious thing when your salary includes six figures.

Sometimes it's as if the people writing them don't want you to read them. They use overwrought corporate jargon to explain even the simplest things.

At times I'll find myself having to re-read the same section three times before I have a basic understanding of what's being said.

And remember — I read and write for a living. If your corporate doublespeak is giving me a headache, what's it doing to the person who has no obligation to read it?

If I'm that person, I gave up a long time ago.

Mission accomplished?

It's cynical to assume that this is a purposeful tactic employed by governments and corporations to discourage community engagement. But I'm in a cynical mood, so let's run with it.

If you really want your community to be engaged, shouldn't you try to communicate on a level that's understandable?

Yes, of course you should. But I suspect the sad truth is that governments don't really want you to be engaged. If you're engaged it just means more work for them. So here's this 300-page document with all the relevant information — trust us, it's in there — and if you don't find it, hey, we tried. It's your own fault for not understanding.

I don't know exactly when the paranoia around message control got so fervent.

But I do know that it's gone too far.

As journalists die off, real journalism dies with it. There is no time to swim through the corporate abyss when you're on deadline and have stories to file.

And if you do take the initiative to ask questions or dig deeper, you often run into the great wall of silence ironically referred to as "communications."

Communications as a profession is somewhat of a misnomer in some cases. If you're in communications, odds are your job is to communicate only on your employer's terms.

Sometimes, that means not communicating at all, or communicating in a way that is purposely vague or misleading.

I understand the logic. It's an effective strategy, and I mean no disrespect to people who work in the profession — I've dealt with a lot of communications people who are excellent at what they do.

My disdain is for a system that works so well it holds the potential to do more harm than good.

I've been working for the Pique for eight months now. In that time I have put in a lot of requests to the provincial government. In eight months I have yet to speak to someone who works outside of the communications branches.

More often than not I'll get a canned, emailed response — 10 minutes before deadline — that doesn't even come close to answering my questions.

What does this say about social responsibility? What about accountability and transparency?

I don't say this simply because I'm bitter — it's a fact I've been preaching for a long time: Without strong, stable journalism in our country and in our communities, we are ripe for the picking.

In some cases — looking at you, Harper — the damage has already been done, and we won't know to what extent until long after it's too late to fix it.

Part of me is afraid that it already is.

As annoying and infuriating as it gets sometimes, you learn to deal with it, because what else can you do?

When it gets to be too much, I daydream about disappearing into the backcountry and being reborn as Burton Dunphee, Lord of the Bears.

As Lord of the Bears, all my questions will be answered immediately after I ask them, using a straightforward and reliable system of grunts and growls.

There's no government in bear country. No secret agendas or hidden documents. Communication is simple to bears, because it's a simple concept by nature.

For now, my fresh start with the bears is a pipedream.

My real life is here in this human society, as a conduit of information left to decipher the nonsensical void using only the senses I'm given, and a faux-latin mantra repeated over and over in my head.

Illegitimi non carborundum — don't let the bastards grind you down.

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