The columnists at Canada’s daily newspapers, those august voices who have graduated through the ranks of reporting to become our Serious Voices and Respected Elders, are just that — old.
Specifically, they are mostly old and overwhelmingly male.
Of 266 regional columnists at Canada’s 76 daily papers, J-Source found in a recent survey that just 27 per cent are female, and the median age is between 50 and 59. The stats are the same for the 73 national columnists J-Source looked at.
These numbers are dramatically different from Canada’s actual population, which is just over 50 per cent female and has a median age of 40.6.
The oldest columnist in Canada is the National Post’s Robert Fulford, who will turn 82 in February. Fulford writes on art and politics, spends a lot of time thinking about Obama’s shortcomings — he’s too partisan and overuses clichés — and seems to think staunch conservative Barbara Amiel is a socialist.
Should Fulford have a column? Sure, fine. He probably represents a (conservative, older) segment of the population, especially one that would be upset to hear about Amiel’s defection to the socialist cause.
But there are millions of Canadians who could not care less that Amiel fought to keep a ketchup plant open in spite of the demands of free market economics. The loss of those jobs might matter, or readers might be interested in a scathing critique of the death of the Canadian ketchup industry, but conservative infighting is really not that interesting to very many people.
The problem is that those people uninterested in partisan bickering, many of them young and female, have few — if any — voices speaking to them. While the columnists we have might be great (some of them are, others not so much), they’re all strikingly similar to each other, and not to regular Canadians.
The age and gender differences between columnists and the national population have any number of ramifications, few of which are positive.
Often, issues don’t even occur to people who aren’t forced to contend with them. White people are often astoundingly blind to the role race plays in everyday life, many men remain blissfully unaware of their advantages over women, and so on. If men, most of them undoubtedly white, are writing the editorials of our country how can we expect to see thorough, thoughtful analysis that understands the concerns of women and people of colour?
[J-Source] [image via Tom Magliery/Flickr]