Friday, January 14, 2011

Kudos to Dean Blundell show, and compassion...

Recently 102.1 The Edge's Dean Blundell show had a controversial guest on air. Shirley Phelps, a religious extremist from the Westboro Baptist Church. She brought on the show under the condition that she DOES NOT go to the funerals of those recently killed in the Arizona shootings, including the funeral of a 9 year old victim. Her organization had planned on going to the funerals to protest them, and spread their anti-gay propaganda.

The agreement was made, and honored, in exchange for a chance to go on the air to explain her beliefs. Which she did, and was promptly mocked, insulted and toyed with, as Dean poked holes in everything she stood for.

Giving someone like that some airtime where they are ridiculed, instead of letting them harass the already grieving families, seems like a good trade to me. And I applaud Dean and his station for taking a moral stand, and trying to help out those who have already suffered so much.

However, not everyone shared that opinion. The show received a lot of flak from various people, who essentially complained that they were giving credence to someone who was essentially a religious terrorist. Even though the show in no way approved of or agreed with her beliefs, in fact, they proved quite the opposite. But that didn't stop the hate from pouring in, and comments from "professionals" who honestly, should know better.

The thing that stood out to me, was the comments of Alan Thompson, a columnist for the Toronto Star, and a teacher at Carleton University. He stated how "I don’t think, journalistically, is an ethical course of action". Now, being a journalism student myself at Sheridan college, I've gotten a decent understanding of the principles of journalism. And while I understand that journalists have to keep a certain detachment from what they report... I do have some issues with his comment.

First off, to call the Dean Blundell show "journalism", is laughable. They are radio shock-jocks, there for entertainment. Blundell himself has comments on how he is in no way a journalist. His show is held to a different standard, that of the CRTC. They have their own rules and regulations on what's acceptable, and what isn't. And Blundell got approval for the interview before proceeding.

Secondly, religious extremists like Phelps will get attention. One way or another. As journalists, it is our responsibility to seek the truth. And there's no better way to do that than to interview these people directly. To bring their beliefs into the open, and question them, and their validity. And that's exactly what Blundell did. He may not be a journalist, but he did a pretty good job covering that aspect of it.

And finally, having her on the show, instead of at the funeral, saved the family a lot of torment, which they truly don't need in their time of pain. And Dean Blundell, and his station management, deserves praise for helping the family in whatever way they could. A shame that more people don't take such an active stance.

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