Sunday, May 18, 2008

Two views of the north

A few weeks after I got to Inuvik, a British journalist named Oliver Burkeman dropped by our office. He was there writing about northern sovereignty, oil and gas, etc, etc...

His article was more negative than positive, in my view, portraying the north through the eyes of an outsider.

"It isn't hard, visiting the Canadian Arctic, to feel as though you have reached the back of beyond: a place at the edge of the map, empty except for the caribou and a few improbably hardy humans, who journey for miles to shop at Inuvik's solitary supermarket, which sells overpriced groceries shipped from "down south" - meaning the northern Canadian city of Edmonton - along with a small selection of snowmobiles."

Inuvik has three supermarkets, not one. It was the first of several errors in his article, "A very cold war indeed."

I duly reported them to the editor of the guardian, but I didn't receive a response.

Today I read an excellent article about another northern country, Iceland. It was called, No wonder Iceland and the happiest people on earth. (Also by a reporter from The Guardian.) I saw many similarities between what Iceland did during World War Two, and what is currently happening in the North as it embraces industry on its own terms. There is a similar view here of family, and of welcoming children. It's not, as reporters in the south might have you believe, a epidemic of unwanted teenage pregnancy.

Perhaps it is because my job is to seek out the good news, but I see such potential here. And when I read article's like Oliver Burkeman's, portraying the north as a backwoods and its people as pawns in the geopolitical game currently being played out, I can't help but get a bit mad.


Megan said...

The media only tell you what you already know. The Guardian's readers already know that Inuvik's a desolate wasteland with only a few weirdo residents who are being screwed over by...well, everyone. No point in writing anything else!

I didn't realise until I left journalism how often we all got things wrong. There are subtleties that never make it into the final product. The story is always "sort of correct". This one's no different.

I bet the story about Iceland has the same problems; you and I just can't see them.

Nicky said...

Hi Brodie, I was just wondering if you got my e-mail yet? If so, cool. If not let me know and I will resend it.

P.S. I hope didn't write anything that offended you in the e-mail. I wrote it late at night. I hope you and Nicole are doing well. Night.