Biting the spoon that feeds

It would appear that the Parliamentary Press Gallery is a wee bit upset with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Anyone with a subscription to the Globe or Citizen (and I assume the other big papers too) has read about the ongoing tiff between the gallery and the PMO, but if you’ve missed it, the latest from CP can be found here, while the Globe’s print edition coverage is here (also cribbed from the CP wire). For a blogger’s (albeit a mainstream press blogger) take, read Antonia Zerbisas’ musings here and here.

All caught up?

Here’s the thing. I fully understand the press gallery’s beef. The public has a right to know what the leaders of the country are up to and Harper’s cold attitude towards the media doesn’t really serve anyone’s interests but his own.

That said, was the old system really worth fighting for?

Under previous regimes, cabinet ministers would time their exits from cabinet and caucus meetings to ensure that people with key speaking points would get the most press time. Reporters would crowd around, dig their elbows into each other’s ribs and shout to have their questions heard. Ministers would pick and choose the questions that best suit their message and the spin cycle would begin.

It was hardly condusive to nuanced, contextualized reportage. I’ve been in scrums, I’ve taken a Julie van Dusen elbow to the kidney – they are not the hotbeds of accountability and transparency that the media would want you to believe. Questions aren’t answered, they are met with carefully crafted messages and talking points. The sort of thing that can just as easily be obtained from a press release or email statement.
Rather than lamenting the lack of photo-ops and scrums, perhaps the press gallery should take this opportunity to rethink the whole damn process. There’s got to be a better way of reporting on federal politics, right? Come up with a better way and make a proposal. Get the public on side and demand actual accountability.
Harper is absolutely wrong to shut the public out of the process but I for one won’t celebrate the return of the old way of doing business, should it come.

1 comment

  1. The old Parliament Press Gallery routine is not worth fighting for, if those angry reporters are forced into actually reporting I will be happy. Maybe some research or investigative reporting? I won’t hold my breath.

    Missing out on important visits is less than desirable and Buckler’s reaction (posted on the Antonia Zerbisias’ blog) was shocking. Does anyone else think that a visit from the Haitian president is important? Buckler seems to be well on her way to her spot in the Harper Director of Communications graveyard.

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