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Motivation and the media - THE COMMENTARY

By Joseph Planta

VANCOUVER - Janet Steffenhagen is a reporter for The Vancouver Sun. Sheís a beater thatís been assigned to cover educational matters across this town and this province. She was invited to Tupper and to our History 12 class. The reasons for her visit are nearly forgotten, as she was invited by our teacher after a number of unflattering reports that castigated the social studies cirriculum in this school district. After extending an invitation to her, it was put forth to us that sheíd be asking us about motivation and things of that sort. We were then sent composing little pieces that somehow captured the essence of our motivation in clear black and white to guide the reporter and help our school gain some worthy publicity. (To this date, no article flattering or otherwise regarding Sir Charles Tupper Secondary has been published in The Vancouver Sun.)

Our principal, Ms. Jill Philipchuk, has gone to great lengths to protect Tupper from the media. On this occasion she was very supportive of Ms. Steffenhagenís visit to Tupper. Ms. Philipchukís apprehension at allowing the media to inhabit our school has been an interesting point for me to dwell upon. I have learned through my study of all things political and in the field of show business, that publicity, pro or con, is essentially good. Now, Iím sure Ms. Philipchuk has some good reasons on why the media isnít welcome to Tupper with open arms. Perhaps we could be taken advantage of by a free-wheeling politician or get misinterpreted? Media attention is important for a school, simply because sometimes it is important to put the damned thing through scrutiny. It is a public institution after all. My principalís balking at the media has fascinated me, because I think media can be useful, only if we know how to handle it. Judging from my principalís stance, I donít think we can. But in complete honesty, you just have to take a stick and poke it through the hornetís nest, just for the hell of it.

Back to Steffenhagen and motivation. She spent most of a Tuesday with my teacherís classes. Since History 12 fell on a Wednesday that particular week, she also returned. then She was very open, kind, nice and I think fair. She posed a number of questions that tweaked debate and answers from us. She asked about school and the impact it had on our daily life, you know, the stuff that makes excellent column fodder. She didnít appear to have some sort of agenda that she was pushing or that she had some sort of motive to alter our words and turn us or her into a bunch of scandal mongers. Take your pick.

I found her genial and quite interested in us. It gave a number of us in the class to express ourselves and get some issues on the table, if not resolved. I couldnít begin to tell you what motivates me. My writing and other thngs Iíve dabbled in were brought up to try to weasel an answer out of me regarding my motivation, but alas I canít figure it out either. I donít know if itís attention that I may or may not get, because Iím not a fan of that, even though itís gotten me my fair share in the last little while. An inquiring reporter asked me a couple days ago, what motivated me in taking an avid, (some say reckless) interest in politics. I told him that was me and thatís it. I canít explain it, and Iíd be offended if you asked me to try.

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