This just in: Layton likes his moustache

I’ve been tempted many times over the past few weeks to talk about election coverage. In my mind, there is no better opportunity for the media, as the Guardians of Democracy(TM), to step up to the plate and do a real public service.

Every day, there is a myriad of policy announcements and spending promises made by party leaders. On a more regional level, each and every candidate tries to position themselves as the best choice for the voters. It’s damn near impossible for one person to sort their way through the tsunami of information (it’s been more than a year, we can use that again, right?) and people turn to the media to help make sense of it all.

Which is why this story angers me. Now, to be fair, I feel sort of bad picking on the Globe here, because by and large, I think they do a pretty good job of campaign coverage – particularly on their website (the CBC also does fairly well). But since the Globe is the only paper that appears on my doorstep in the morning (full disclosure of bias alert), here we are.

This is the Globe’s lead “Liberal” story (their lead “Tory” story is here; to see how they placed the two, click here). Of all the things Martin said yesterday, the best nugget they mine is that he’s happy with his campaign.

Stop the presses.

Does the average voter really care how Martin feels about his campaign? Is it important information to have when deciding how to cast a vote? What about his education policy, can we get more information on that? How does he skirt jurisdiction issues with the provinces? What’s the justification for selecting only the first and fourth years of a degree program? Does this discriminate against three-year degree students? Why does Quebec have a separate arrangement?

There are a lot of “interesting” things that happen during a campaign. But few if any of them really matter in the grand scheme of things. What matters is policy. As the Tories and Liberals drift closer to each other ideologically, Canadians have to dig deeper into their policy announcements to find out what differences actually exist (ps. there are differences, and pretty significant ones, but they aren’t necessarily easy to spot).

The media are supposed to represent the average citizen’s interests. They are supposed to be our eyes, ears and filters and equip us with the tools we need to make decisions. Too often, they act as part of the system instead, giving interesting insider looks at the campaign but not delivering any real substance. The Globe article is not the only example of this, nor is it the best. But it’s something we all need to be aware of.

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