Editorial

Rowland Lorimer (Simon Fraser Univeristy)

How to start? Uppermost in my mind as we bring this issue together is the enormity of the responsibility of doing this four times a year. I am sure that we will get better at it but with all of us, except Jim Linton, being new to this, getting out the first issue has been a trial by fire. Next month we'll have a post mortem and get ourselves organized. We'll also try to get contributors organized a bit better so that we don't have to undo all sorts of fancy formatting, so that we have e-mail addresses, and perhaps even suggested reviewers in the initial submissions. It should smooth out very nicely.

The Canadian communications scholarly community owes a tremendous vote of thanks to Gertrude Robinson, Armande Saint-Jean, and Jean McNulty for the work they have put into the Journal over the last years. I can assure you it is a tremendous effort, not so much to gatekeep but to draw out of contributors their best material. They have done a tremendous job and I hope we will be able to do likewise. I thank them for the thoughtful guidance they have provided in this period of transition.

This current issue contains articles and commentary that, for the most part, were in the works when we received the Journal files from Gertrude Robinson and Armande Saint-Jean. We have taken over the editing of them and hope that we have managed to present them well.

I am just now getting a sense of things and will use this column to inform readers of some of the editorial directions I am considering. As a start, I would like to suggest that potential contributors consider four areas where, I think, research is needed. The first is in the area between literary (and film) scholarship and communications analysis of cultural industries. I'm thinking of Robert Darnton here and work being done in English departments on the production dynamics of literary texts. But, of course, the same scholarship is going on in film studies. I'd like to see a thematic issue in this area.

The second area I'd like us to examine bridges work in communications and that being done by librarians on the changing dynamics of information processing, availability, use, and so forth. Obviously, examinations of Canarie (we have one paper already), the Internet, Freenets, the role of libraries, the selling of information by governments, privacy issues, etc. would all be part of that exploration. So would an extension of Meyrowitz's No Sense of Place.

A third area is broadcasting policy. Responses to recent calls for applications for broadcasting licences suggest that the CTRC has, de facto, created a situation where such licenses are the sole preserve of the rich. What is the relation between current realities and the Broadcasting Act? Do we need an auction such as the one Britain carried out?

In a non-thematic vein, I'd also like to see the Journal capture some of the work that communication scholars are doing under contract for governments and industry. That information might well be presented in the Journal in an appropriate form as a means of keeping the research community informed.

The current issue contains a nicely broad spectrum of articles. Ron Sept and Audrey Habke start off with an examination of social conflict in the classroom pointing out that both group and inter-ethnic dynamics must be recognized in the management of the classroom. The point is simple and elegant, and their diagnostic model offers teachers and others a useful tool in creating productive group relations.

David Hutchison is one of those "foreign Canadianist" scholars that we are lucky to have working in the area thanks, in part, to the largesse of the Academic Relations section of External Affairs. His article provides an overview of developments in audio-visual policy and activities within the EC with some comparative notes to Canada. In my view the knowledge Canadians have of the EC will be most useful in this era of NAFTA. Unlike NAFTA the EC is a trading bloc created by nations that are more or less equal and there is no intent, as Hutchison notes, to create instant Europudding.

Paul Tiessen does a masterful job in filling in some elements of communications history that have not received attention. I think many of us in communications, perhaps because we came from the social sciences and don't know that much of Canadian communications history, fail to appreciate fully the emergence of communication studies out of literary criticism in the UK and the impact of that connection in Canada. It is particularly noteworthy how distant departments of English and communications studies are, at least in Western Canada, given this history. The article begs for a follow up: if the relations between literary studies and media studies were so close, and continue to be in the development of the field in the UK (and Australia), why are they now so distant in Canada?

Paul Taylor is a researcher who turns up interesting material through in-depth analyses of his subjects. An earlier piece on religious television shares this quality with his current article. The impression one gets from Taylor's current offering is that CanWest Global's lawyers' sleight of hand--in creating a system that is and is not a network--has placed Izzy Asper at a comparative advantage to his Canadian compatriots, allowing him to get off lightly in his CRTC-mediated obligations to Canadians and expand internationally at quite a quick rate.

Hildebrandt and Ma provide some valuable insights into press coverage of ethnic issues. They explore the limitations of a simple model in assessing press coverage through an examination of newspaper treatment of ethnic Chinese. They contribute to our understanding in that they examine the how ethnicity forms a part of a larger Canadian narrative.

Gilles Gauthier's commentary is a translation that provides an indication of the discourse on journalistic objectivity in both French Canada and North America. His defence of objectivity clarifies a lot of sloppy thinking on the subject. It opens the subject nicely. Stephen McDowell opens the subject of the support for telecommunications technology quite nicely as well. Against a backdrop of communications policy that is informed in part by cultural considerations, in a time of business pressure to cut back spending and, at the same time, to design support for technological development, which way is the government supposed to turn? The article made me think that it would be quite enlightening to see a thorough comparison of industrial support mechanisms of Western countries. My own experience in examining the UK, the US, France and Canada is that in the area of supporting industry, we are both naive and pikers at creating mechanisms that are effective and can work around international agreements on free trade.

Stuart McFadyen closes off with a summary of a report written for SSHRCC and the (former) DOC on the state of the literature on cultural development in an open economy. The question of how cultural development can be ensured in the context of GATT, NAFTA, international copyright law, and international competition in cultural industries is an important one. I can assure you that if the essays that were the basis of the report are not published in monograph form I will ensure they are published here.

Good reading.



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