Christie Blatchford will bring her bombast to the Jack Webster Awards Dinner
National Post columnist Christie Blatchford certainly has her detractors.
Some NDP supporters will never forget her denunciation of Jack Layton's final letter to Canadians before he died of cancer in 2011.
At the time, Blatchford claimed that Layton's note—which suggested that love was better than anger—was "vainglorious" and full of "sophistry".
Then there are those who have a problem with Blatchford's writings on the war in Afghanistan.
Noah Richler's thought-provoking book, What We Talk About When We Talk About War, provided a detailed look at how Blatchford promoted Canada's combat mission by, among other things, sexualizing soldiers.
He pointed out that early 20th-century writers employed a similar technique to promote sending young men off to be slaughtered in European trenches during the First World War.
More recently, author Warren Kinsella disparaged Blatchford's column on the bullying of Rehtaeh Parsons as "hateful garbage".
Blatchford has also come under fire for her rants on aboriginal issues, most notably after she trashed Chief Teresa Spence.
In this country, disliking Blatchford's columns binds progressive thinkers across Canada.
So it might seem surprising that she has been invited to give a keynote address at the 27th annual Jack Webster Awards Dinner in Vancouver on October 30.
These are the most prestigious journalism awards in B.C., bringing together people from print, radio, and television, as well as impressionable college and university students.
Some might wonder why the organizers would want to pollute young B.C. minds by exposing them to a polemicist like Blatchford.
Here's your answer: it's because she is the modern face of journalism in Canada.
Blatchford and her lesser rivals in the column-writing game (i.e. Margaret Wente, Rex Murphy, Brian Lilley, Gordon Clark, and Jon Ferry) specialize in pushing people's buttons with idiotic rants aimed at specific targets, often the weak and vulnerable.
These columnists' articles are usually not nuanced in any way. Rather, they employ the sledgehammer approach to writing because they know that this generates page views on the Internet.
And that's what the media world is increasingly about.
It's especially true on the print side, but over time, it will also be the case on television and radio stations. That's because their parent corporations recognize that advertising is migrating rapidly to the web.
Call it the Ezra Levantization of the news business.
Blatchford gets page views when she calls Layton a "canny, relentless, thoroughly ambitious fellow" immediately after his death. Many of those eyeballs belong to people who hate the column and furiously type their responses in the comment section.
Similarly, Wente generates click-throughs with broadsides against Muslims or environmentalists, as does Murphy when he provides a platform to climate-change deniers.
Their opponents do them a favour by passing these columns around on social media, increasing readership exponentially.
The Toronto Star's Rosie DiManno recently went whole-hog against marijuana legalization, which is guaranteed to fire up an online debate among Marc Emery's legions of fans.
The most offensive Province newspaper columnists prefer attacking cyclists.
This type of pandering fills comments streams and cheers up newspaper sales and marketing teams, which are feeling under siege these days.
Some columnists employ more responsible means. Jeffrey Simpson, Vaughn Palmer, and Douglas Saunders are three examples. I'm not a huge fan of Andrew Coyne, but he doesn't stoop to the level of Blatchford and her imitators.
But let's not kid ourselves. The stars of journalism today are those who understand that page views are paramount. And those who attract the most clicks will be lionized by their publishers.
So don't be offended when Blatchford speaks at the Websters next month.
Instead, take it as a sign that the organizers of the dinner have deep insights into what journalism has become in the 21st century.
If they're really on top of their game, they'll keep a few barf bags at each of the tables.
This would be wise, just in case some of the diners have a visceral reaction to what Blatchford has to say.