Dr. Dawg

Election 2011: white feather journalism

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The Toronto Star yanks a story about heavy-handed Harper news management. Fern Hill asks the right questions.

(The original story may be found here. It has been replaced with a silly one at the Star, but comments on the original story are still up over there as of this writing. Bizarre.)

When the Star story appeared, the national editor of Maclean’s Magazine, Andrew Coyne, tweeted—or, rather, shrieked—that the story itself was wrongheaded, that Harper’s campaign behaviour vis-à-vis the media wasn’t news. Here are his rapid-fire tweets, in paragraph form for your delectation:

Really, Toronto Star? Your front page, above the fold, screaming six-column banner headline is … “Harper limits questions to five”?? I have seen the press gallery lose perspective before, but this is just mind-blowing. It is worth reporting, in passing, that Harper is taking very few questions. But to make that THE news story of the day, never mind the anger we saw on twitter y’day, is to mistake the reporter’s need for usable clips for the public interest. Harper’s under no oblig’n to answer any questions. If he doesn’t, that will be noted, and people can judge for themselves what that might mean, and mark him down accordingly if they choose. But reporters have no business doing so.

Coyne is now trying to walk that back a bit after I tweeted:

@acoyne Oh stop being so damned sanctimonious. Harper’s news management is a real story, except for an obvious CPC supporter.

@DrDawg I didn’t tell anyone to ignore it. I said reporters should report it. Read what I wrote, not what you furiously assumed.

Well, in the cold light of day I have re-read Coyne’s tweets, and they read the same as they did last night. “It is worth reporting, in passing” = “Move along, nothing to see here.”

Harper tried the corporate media’s patience on the “coalition” thing, and they started turning it back on him. It was hard to ignore what he said in 2004, and, after a modicum of digging, in 1997. But they appear to have reverted to type: wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beasties.

When one of the few newspapers that didn’t endorse Harper in 2008 bravely runs away after the national editor of Canada’s premier newsmagazine primly shushes it and tells it to behave, we just know what the coverage is going to be like from here on in. Time to consider a White Feather Award for the two of them. And I suspect they won’t be the only ones deserving of it at campaign’s end.

UPDATE: Well, whaddya know—signs of courage and integrity from a most unlikely source:

What’s with this four-questions-only edict, five if you count one for the “local” media? We bet you weren’t too happy when that clip aired on TV — where, with a scowl, you snapped at a highly-respected national reporter who dared ask you why such restrictions are imposed.

To be blunt, you came across looking like an arrogant micro-manager with the warmth of a robot and with absolutely no regard whatsoever for the media, either personally or professionally.

[Via Fern Hill]

UPPERDATE: Another story—Harper shrugging off Conservative patronage—goes down the Canadian Press memory-hole. But CTV is, so far, weathering the storm.

[H/t Sixth Estate, via Orwell’s Bastard]

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on April 2, 2011 9:33 AM.

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