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According to Jürgen Habermas, the notion of the public sphere is predicated upon the idea of universal access.[1] Theoretically, this space is supposed to be unfettered by restrictive concepts like hierarchy and influence of policy. As editorial writers for the The Globe and Mail, Margaret Wente, Roy MacGregor and Jeffrey Simpson articulate argumentative perspectives on events in the news in order to bolster and even provoke debate amongst their readerships, consequently reinforcing Carey’s conception of journalism as social construction designed to affirm the values of the public sphere.


James W. Carey[edit]

James Carey(1935-2006) established the importance of defining a cultural perspective when analyzing communications. Carey's context of task of newspapers:

  1. Newspaper as conversation:

To carry on a conversation with the culture using the language of mythology and connectedness. Mythology as parallel with history at looking at the past, meaning-endowed narrative. Carey believes it is what a group believes about itself to be true. Carey sees that all myths eventually die, but the role of newspapers is to test whether myths still alive and authoritative. It is to re-enforce certain vital habits of community.

  1. Newspaper as ritual:

Newspaper does not primarily educate or inform with new knowledge. But itt primarily affirms the values and narratives of what its readers already believe. Carey's Ritual communication is directed toward the maintenance of society in time and the representation of shared beliefs, it is not pure information but a particular view of the world, a portrayal of contending forces in the world and invites our participation on the basis of us assuming certain roles. Carey asserts that newspaper affirm our values more than they inform us.

Carey's conception of journalism and social constructions[edit]

Carey's conception of journalism and social constructions are designed to affirm the values of the public sphere. James Carey believes that journalism is meant to (ideally) accomplish precisely that which Wikipedia has been designed for. The ideology of Wikipedia is based on the idea that average person can have a hand in the construction of culture that than those with whom we often associate a great deal of cultural authority (politicians, authors, authority figures, etc). Carey believes that it is a popular misconception that journalism is meant to inform the public, when, in fact, the public is meant to inform the news – meaning that journalism is meant to promote the public sphere by generating discussion through information dissemination. Carey believes that symbols, language, and those who create them are ‘reality-creating’ rather than ‘reality-reflecting’. [2] Margaret Wente, Roy McGregor and Jeffrey Simpson provoke debate through the presentation of provocative positions; Instead of simply reporting the news, they provide argumentative positions on issues in the news

Robert Hackett[edit]

Robert Hacket believs that newspapers are the guardian of orthodoxy, representing community’s dominant values. It is similar to Carey's model, how newspaper readers choose 'news' is primarily what shapes newspapers. Hackett's three spheres of public thought:

  1. The sphere of consensus
  2. The sphere of legitimacy controversy
  3. The sphere of deviance

Noam Chomsky[edit]

Noam Chomsky (1928), was a U.S linguist, philosopher, cognitive scentist, political activist, who saw newspapers and other mass media as merely businesses selling product to other businesses. Chomsky’s five filters that determine “news”

  1. Information friendly to corporate capitalism
  2. Information friendly to advisers
  3. A continuous stream of information from government and corporations
  4. Information unfriendly to those who challenge government and corporate elits
  5. Ideologies that exploit fear of the Other

Public Sphere[edit]

The Public Sphere is a non-locational center for public debate. Journalism performs a central function by ensuring that as many peoples as possible are aware of the issues at the hand. Without a system designed to disseminate information, it would be extremely easy to control the masses by simply keeping them in dark. Noam Chomsky and James Carey conflict in their views on what the news accomplishes. While Carey argues that journalism actually allows people to be aware of what the debates are and therefore participate in them, Chomsky suggests that the various media outlets are controlled by what he calls the “elite” and the majority of the underclass or the “bewildered herd” are simply following the orders that are hidden within the news.[3]

The Globe and Mail[edit]

Main article: The Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail, daily newspaper published in Toronto, the most influential journal in Canada. The Globe and Mail sees its role as “independent but not neutral.”[4]

Margaret Wente[edit]

The Globe and Mail writer Margaret Wente, is a one of Canada’s leading columnists. She provokes heated debate with her views on health care, education, and politics. Margaret Wente’s recent article entitled “Legalizing drug isn’t the answer”.[5], criticizes the idea of legalizing drugs and asserts that “drugs can’t possibly hurt society as much as prohibition does”. Wente points out a single expert Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at UCLA and suggests alternatives to minizie the impact of illegal drugs. This article provokes debates among the audience, and has been criticized for using a ‘her typical format’, finding a single “expert” to support her argument with disregarding other facts.

Roy MacGregor[edit]

Roy MacGregor is a National Columnist at The Globe and Mail. MacGregor traveled and explored Canada extensively. MacGregor discusses the importance of the outdoors, and the landscape, to Canadians, and why “escape is as much a part of the Canadian psyche as the rivers and railroads.[6] He closely illustrates the lives of Canadians. Roy MacGregor’s column entitled “Splitting the summit is where it all went wrong”.[7] discusses the cost for G8/G20 summits, which provoked the debates among the audience.

Jeffrey Simpson[edit]

Jeffrey Simpson is a columnist at The Globe and Mail’s national affair, and has been at The Globe for almost thirty years. On Jeffrey Simpson’s recent article published on November 4th, 2011, entitled "There is no crime epidemic". [8] Simpson discusses the falling homicide rate in Canada in context of the Harper government’s “tough on crime” agenda. Simpson’s column has inevitably provoked debate among the audience, with almost seven hundred comments, discussing Harper’s government, the Conservatives, and so on.

Against the mainstream perspective[edit]

If these three authors write provocative journalism then it would stand to reason that journalism is actually as Carey describes it rather than an implicit system of control, as Chomsky sees it. Chomsky would argue that authors like Margaret Wente, Roy MacGregor and Jeffrey Simpson are actually featured in national newspapers in order to give the appearance of public debate. In other words, the editorials are often buried on a back page, while the headlines (supported by mainstream values) often dwarf or overshadow the sentiments put forth in these opinion columns. Chomsky would suggest that the editorial columns are there such that the paper has the appearance of neutrality unbiased reporting. In actual fact, the editorials have to be understated so as to ENSURE neutrality. Authors like Margaret Wente, Roy MacGregor and Jeffrey Simpson contradict Chomsky’s position somewhat because each writer often presents counter-hegemonic stories that are very often “against the mainstream perspective”. With their edgy stories, these three authors are designed to stir the pot or provoke the rabble such that the “bewildered herd,” in which Chomsky does not have much faith, is given information upon which they might act to initiate some kind of change. If these three authors write provocative journalism then it would stand to reason that journalism is actually as Carey describes it rather than an implicit system of control, as Chomsky sees it.

The work of Benedict Anderson, and his notion of the imagined communities. Anderson suggests that the newspaper is essential for “nation-building” as an endeavor.[9] If one subscribes to Carey’s perspective, journalism brings people into the public sphere, encourages public debate and it is this debate that strengthens the country through the formation of an imagined community. The notion of an imagined community is predicated on the idea that one feel connected to his or her nation through simultaneous participation in public debate.


  1. ^ Jurgen, Habermas (1991). The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into the Category of Bourgeois Society. MIT Press.  line feed character in |title= at position 64 (help)
  2. ^ Eve Stryker Munson, Catherine A. Warren. Jmes Carey: Critical Reader, ISBN 0816627037, 9780816627035
  3. ^ Noam, Chomsky (2002). The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda. Seven Stories Press. 
  4. ^ {{cite web|author=Encyclopædia Britannica.|url= Globe and Mail|accessdate=28 Nov. 2011.
  5. ^ Margaret Wente (2011-10-20). "Legalizing drug isn't the answer". Toronto: The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2011-11-25. 
  6. ^ Roy MacGregor. "The Globe and Mail". Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  7. ^ Roy MacGregor (2011-06-03). "Splitting the summit is where it all went wrong/". Toronto: The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2011-11-25. 
  8. ^ Jeffrey Simpson (2011-11-04). "There is no crime epidemic". Toronto: The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2011-11-27. 
  9. ^ Benedict, Anderson (2006). . Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Verso Books. 
  • "The Globe and Mail" in The Canadian Encyclopedia, Second Edition, Volume II (Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1988)
  • Anderson Benedict. "Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism" (Verso Books, 2006)
  • Jurgen Habermas . "The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into the Category of Bourgeois Society" (MIT Press, 1991)
  • Noam Chomsky. "Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda" (Seven Stories Press, 2002)

External Links[edit]