'Newsrooms', the total number of reporters available to a news medium, are generally far too small, and getting smaller. The result is that it's not possible to have enough reporters with enough training to understand most of the stories they have to cover. And any digging or research with a small staff is pretty much out of the queston. Profits come first.
The only field of reporting exempt from this decline is sports. A sports reporter who doesn't know anything ,much about sports is dead meat. But business, education politics, religion - heck - anybody can cover those, even if they don't know a prime minister from a prime rib. There was a good example of that in a report in yesterday's (Saturday's) TamdT. It was a story taken from another paper, so it wasn't the fault of TandT reporters - though a good editor should have raised doubts about it. The story is this.
At McMaster University, the President appointed a Dean (boss man) for the School of Business Administration. He was a man with relatively little formal education for a university job of any sort, and no work experience in a university at all. He had been most of his working life a senior, business executive.
Some faculty members (profs) objected to such an appointment, and made life hard for him. Eventually, he resigned. The university president was furious and effectively ended the careers of several of the "troublemakers."
Sounds straightforward? Maybe. But it probably isn't. I have no inside information on this. But I know how universities work. And this story has a smell about it. The tipoff is that the president hired this dean in the first place.
Why on earth would he choose a dean with few academic credentials, and no university experience whatever? Perhaps that's been done before; but in my long years in universities, I've never heard of it.
I mean, it's nice the guy has business experience. But would you hire him to conduct a choir brcause of that? To fix your air conditioner? To teach ballet?
And no newspaper would ever hire him,simply because of business experience, to be a sports reporter.
For all his business experience, he has neither skills nor experience in either research or teaching - the two main functions of a university. So why hire him?
Most likely, the chairman of the Board of Governors told the president to hire the guy. A university board of governors is usually dominated by heavy hitters from the business world. Universities also increasingly rely on them for donations just to survive. So when a chairman of the board tells a university president to hire somebody, the president jumps to his little feet and scampers off to do his master's bidding.
Why would businessmen on the board want such a seemingly unqualified person? That's simple, too.
Big business doesn't want educated people out of the university The want trained ones, like seals. That is especially true of business school grads.They want grads who have been trained to believe in the mythic ideology of big business - that big business creates wealth, that it must be free of government, that free trade spreads democracy, that it is sinful to tax the rich.
They want graduates who think (or don't think) like Norbert Cunninghan thinks (or doesn't think.)
Some years ago, I was astonished when I chaired a session for business executives in grad programmes at a major Canadian university. Lots of big names were there to speak to them; and what astonished me was the pile of-----propaganda ------that was shoveled over them. It was all even sillier than Marxism - and far more destructive.
The university teachers (usually) aren't trained to propagandize. They're trained to do research, and to find the truth - or as close as possible to it. They're trained to teach as close as they can to the truth, not to train fanatics for the myths of big business. (The story did mention, in one part of a line, that the dean had been pushing extreme right wing views. Any editor should have piced up on that. Of course, an Irving press editor becomes an editor for having the same views as that dean.)
Of course, the professors objected to the new dean. What probably compelled them to do that was a sense of academic responsibility and integrity.
No university president can allow his or her professors to be honest. That's why the president was so hard on them.
I began teaching in the days when crackpot Marxists were fairly common in universities. But most of them faded a good thirty years ago. The crackpots now are the big business ideologues. They have far more money and far more influence than the old Marxists ever did. And they have a wimpy generation of university presidents to use as toys.