Corporate Interests

Chaos in Print

I had an interesting discussion with one of my instructors the other day. It was one of those difficult classes and, during the break, she pulled me aside. She said to me, “You know, Mark, I’m starting to get the impression that you’re, well, not anti-establishment, but anti-corporate. And seeing as to how every radio station is owned by a corporation, I’m starting to fear that you’re limiting yourself in your job prospects.” Naturally, I’m wondering how I’ve been projecting the anti-corporate image. I mean, I’m not like Mr. Anderson, who has the big bold list on the front page of his website: “These are the companies I boycott!” I’m of a much milder vein of anti-corporatism. I think she got the impression from the fact that, as we were filling out a course evaluation last semester, I said this about one of her classes:

“Really, though, you should look into dropping this one particular lesson. It’s fairly obvious that it’s just a recycled corporate workshop, and I really, really, really hate corporate workshops. I was subjected to far too many in my last job.”

Quick recount of AEON and their corporate workshops. Firstly, when you arrive in Japan, they throw you through their training, which is really just a week-long corporate workshop. Then, there was the workshop on how to give interviews. They sent me to that one twice, and both times the trainers said, “You’ve got this down cold, Mark. Why did they send you today?” And, when there was a workshop that I felt I could benefit from, like how to sell self-study materials, it was felt that it would be much more beneficial to send the guy leaving in a month to that one. But no matter the case, I was always spending a day in roomful of suits dedicated to erasing my individuality and turning me into another drone. Sorry, but I will not be assimilated. Resistance is not futile.

Needless to say, my experiences made me rather hostile towards the word “workshop.” Or any form of re-education dedicated to teaching me about self-esteem, being a team player, and giving my all for the corporation. What they’re trying to do is erode the love between individuals and foster nothing but a love between you and your almighty corporation.

War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength, and Big Business is Watching You. Yes, it always comes back to 1984 with me.

And I’m starting to see it again with the Nugget; NAIT’s school paper. I’ve been writing for them since September and this is one column I’m definitely not submitting for publication.

Quick recap of the situation. The Nugget had an editor-in-chief who gave us pretty much free reign. Using this free reign, there was a features writer who went a little too far. He wrote three highly controversial articles. The first one ripped apart women. The second one ripped apart Christians. And the third one ripped apart an asthmatic boy who died at the finish line of the Terry Fox Run. The campus was pissed. The issue was pulled off shelves, and when the dust settled, The Nugget was looking for a new editor-in-chief and a new features writer.

Well, we have our new editor now. I had my first meeting with him back on Friday. Firstly, I was a little apprehensive when the entire Students’ Association Council wanted to be present at this meeting. And they brought along their communications director. They insisted we have the meeting in the campus bar. Now, I’ve grown up in a small town, and I know that one of the main problems of small town politics is when more business is done in the bar than the town council chambers. So, we’re sitting there in the bar. The new editor starts outlining the direction he wants the paper to go in. I sit there and think, “Where have I heard these before? Oh, yeah. These were the president’s election promises as to how he’d overhaul the paper.”

The editor continued. He wanted to push up our weekly deadlines from Monday evenings to Sunday evenings. This way, he’d have a chance to edit the articles and the Students’ Association would have a chance to edit the articles. OK, so now the Students’ Association i.e. the government, wants to edit and approve every article I submit. Moving up to yellow alert.

And now, the communications director chimed in. “And, we’d like to bring in some of your favourite writers to host workshops, to help you be better writers.” Workshops. Red alert. Raise shields. I just defiantly said, “I’ve got an industry-professional reporter teaching me how to write news down in RTA. I think that’s enough.” And they all nodded.

The pendulum has swung all the way in the other direction. Before, we had too much freedom as a newspaper. Now, the Students’ Association has stepped in and imposed too much control. They’ve installed a puppet editor and I’m expected to write nothing but happy, positive stories about the Students’ Association. It’s that evil school administration I’m supposed to write bad stories about.

Yeah, the editor really wants me to be an “in-your-face” reporter. He’s already got a grand scheme for me to do a story on…student parking problems. Yeah, parking at NAIT has been a problem since hippies were driving their love bugs to class. It’s become a real non-issue, like potholes and snow removal. But still, the new editor is all gung-ho for me to shove a microphone in the face of the school president and say, “How come you’ve done nothing to fix the parking situation?” “You should be forcing these issues!” said new editor guy. Sorry, but in my journalism classes, we’ve been taught not to ask questions like that. It’s a serious breech of journalistic neutrality. I’m a reporter, not a crusader.

But of course, I can’t dare do that to the Students’ Association, because they pay my bills.

So, once again, an outside force is trying to mould me into a servant of their interests. And I will resist. I will resist with every last breath in my body. I will report the news as it happens. I will not be an activist/crusader. I will not turn the school administration into some kind of Cold War enemy that the Students’ Association can rally the students around. I’ve only got two months left. Get the company off my back and let me do my job in peace.

I’m sure my instructor’s observation also came when we had a field trip to one of Edmonton’s radio stations. The entire staff of the radio station grilled us students, and we grilled them. We were all required to ask one question. I asked, “How can you possibly be creative in this environment when you’ve constantly got a corporation telling you what you should be?” I’m sorry, but I had to ask the question. I need to know how much individuality will survive in the industry. They keep hammering on us how radio is a life; you give yourself over completely and totally to the job. That may be the case. But I will never ever turn my life completely and wholly over to a corporation.

And at this stage in the game, the job and the corporation are one and the same.

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