Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Now Is The Time

From the day he took power, Stephen Harper -- like Rob Ford -- has viewed the parliamentary press corps as maggots. Edward Greenspon writes in the Toronto Star:

When he came into office, Harper threw out long-held rules of government-press engagement. He sowed fear and showed favouritism. Access was severely restricted and doled out based on perceived friendliness of given journalists. Public servants were forbidden from providing background on serious policy matters. A system was introduced by which the PMO, rather than the gallery, decided who could ask questions at press conferences. The List, as it came to be known, was an early flashpoint. The PMO refused any compromise. A Fourth Estate short on self-respect quickly folded. In time, a number of Ottawa reporters were subjected to harassment and vilification and PMO minions exerted pressure on publishers to reign in recalcitrant reporters and editors.

But with the ascension of Justin Trudeau, the tide began to turn:

Ottawa reporters scoffed instead of quaked at the Conservative attack ad and derided the prime minister for stepping out of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral to put his personal stamp on the ad. The Twitterverse derisively jumped on his pronouncement not to “commit sociology.” These reactions are not the work of Liberal lickspittle-ism, as Senate majority leader Marjory LeBreton suggested last week, but the natural by-product of the gallery reclaiming its indispensable adversarial role.

And now it is absolutely essential that the press reclaim that role. As yesterday's Question Period illustrated, the Harper government has retreated into the bunker. They have no intention of providing any answers. They will certainly not call a public inquiry, as Paul Martin did. They know full well that it was public scrutiny which paved their path to power.

Greenspon singles out two reporters -- CTV's Bob Fife and Andrew Coyne -- for their exemplary work. But the entire Ottawa press corps must follow their lead. Greenspon warns:

It is pure folly to dismiss Stephen Harper. For sure, his loathing of the media predisposed him to underestimate the brewing Senate scandal as the frothing of gallery members envious that some in their ranks had been elevated to a higher calling. But as prime minister he has repeatedly proven to be most lethal when seemingly down and out. And he knows how to play out the clock.

Now is the time for all good journalists to come to the aid of the country.


Anonymous said...

It's about bloody time the journalists started speaking up for Canadians. That is their role in society. And if they won't do their jobs properly, then we will be forced to do it for them - we have the tools. So speak, or disappear.

Owen Gray said...

Corporate media concentration has made it easy to muzzle journalists, Anon -- just as Harper has muzzled scientists.

But there comes a time when defending the indefensible becomes impossible.

Lorne said...

The failure of so-called mainstream journalism is the key reasons, Owen, that I have come to favour alternative sources of information for both domestic and international insights.

Owen Gray said...

It's the corporate imperative which has corrupted North American journalism. Lorne.

The question is, can those who work in that stable serve democracy?

The Mound of Sound said...

I understand what Lorne is saying and I do the same. However that's not enough. The restoration of a high-functioning democracy in Canada will not be achieved until we restore to Canadians access to the widest possible range of information and opinion from across the political spectrum. Many voices, many outlooks, as many as practicably possible.

This means dissolving the corporate media cartel, breaking it up, forcing divestiture and facilitating the return of news outlets to private ownership.

When you have just three or four corporate media syndicates you have just three or four voices that wind up expressing remarkably similar views. Worse yet, they move out of the relatively unprofitable information business into the lucrative messaging business.

Journalistic independence hangs in the balance.

Owen Gray said...

The problem, Mound, is that -- at the moment -- there don't appear to be any trust busters on the scene.

Democracy only works when there are courageous leaders as well as citizens.

e.a.f. said...

It is interesting to see CTV's reporter doing his job. where has he been lo these many years. What suddenly prompted CTV to go with the story? Perhaps they saw the writing on the wall. Coyne on CBC has been vocal, but CBC has always been a tad more "out there" than CTV.

Its good they are finally doing their job. Had the media been doing their job instead of having a love fest with the conservatives, we might not be in the mess we are today.

The public has a role to play here also. Citizens need to hold their MPs accountable. Once the Senate scandal started people had an obligation to question their MPs.

We will see if this is simply a one off by the media or will they continue to pursue this. By having the RCMP deal with the Duffy affair, everyone may just go to sleep again.

Owen Gray said...

Until recently, most of Canada's papers have been cheerleaders for the Conservatives, e.a.f. Perhaps they are trying to reclaim their self respect.

We'll have to see if the R.C.M.P. can reclaim theirs.