Canada’s courtier press

Canada’s most boring election campaign in living memory is about to come to an end. The public was tuned out, and the contest was even more devoid of policy differences than usual. Elizabeth May’s participation in the debates was good to see. With that exception, however, the entire campaign seemed devoid of purpose and significance, a fact only driven home by the excitement of the Obama campaign south of the border.

one of the most disappointing things about the campaign was the way the media covered it. Before Michael Ignatieff went into politics, he gave a speech to a press freedom organization in Toronto (the name of which I forget), at which he pointed out the unsatisfying nature of so much campaign journalism. The press follows the politicians around in a little bubble, reporting in microscopic detail on all the day to day campaign events, while ignoring everything that goes on outside the bubble. When Ignatieff made this remark to a convention hall full of journalists and political types, they burst into applause. Yet the coverage of the campaign now ending was all bubble, all the time. The endless attention given to so many polls that barely differed, yet were treated as omens of great foreboding, was an especially numbing element.

Against this backdrop, I was interested to read Chris Selly’s roundup of newspaper endorsements:

Endorsing Stephen Harper and/or the Conservatives:

Brampton Guardian (thanks Sean)

Calgary Herald

Edmonton Journal

Fredericton Daily Gleaner (”with many reservations”)

The Globe and Mail

Kitchener-Waterloo Record (thanks Jenn & Olaf)

Montreal Gazette

National Post (majority)

Ottawa Citizen

Ottawa Sun

Prince George Citizen (majority)

Sudbury Star (minority)

Sun Media (Calgary, Toronto, and Winnipeg)

Vancouver Province (majority)

Vancouver Sun (majority)

Windsor Star

Winnipeg Free Press

Endorsing Stéphane Dion and/or the Liberals:

Toronto Star

Given how complacent the newspaper coverage was, I suppose it should come as no surprise that so many papers lined up behind the status quo. The rote predictability of the Star‘s endorsement will shock no one, but it is good to see at least one paper break from the pack. Someday, it may not be crazy to imagine a single Canadian newspaper endorsing the NDP, Greens, Libertarians, or in some other way breaking from the endless grey conformity that now defines so much Canadian campaign journalism. 



5 thoughts on “Canada’s courtier press

  1. Good post. I think Le Devoir endorsed the Bloc, and they might have gotten support from some of the other Quecbec papers. But in English Canada, thanks to the incredible media concentration in our country, the Conservatives had a near lockout of endorsements. So much for the liberal media.

  2. Indeed, did The Globe and Mail manage to go through one election campaign without covering its front page in Liberal Party advertising, as they did in the last two elections? What a travesty for journalism. When they’re back to covering their front page in Liberal advertising at least once a week, then we’ll be closer to fair and balanced. (Especially if they do like they did last time and put, say, 10 Liberal ads on the front without comment, while politely withholding the one ad the Liberals no longer want people see. Where did anyone ever get the idea that there was a “Liberal media” with stuff like that going on?) Also, Selley’s list looks a little funny to me. I’m sure the folks at the Prince George Citizen are honest and hardworking, etc., but isn’t including them a little random? (How many small-town papers were left out? Regardless, the impact of the Prince George Citizen’s endorsement versus The Globe and Mail covering its front page in Liberal Party advertising – while hiding ads the Liberals have since decided they don’t want people to see, mind you – just isn’t comparable.)

  3. Seven of the above papers are owned by Canwest. How could it be that they would support a the neo-con lite Harper and the conservatives?

    59% voter turnout? Brilliant! Winston Churchill said something to the effect that the best argument against democracy was a five minute conversation with a voter (or perhaps a non-voter).

    Canadians had better become engaged pronto both about politics and the not-so-hidden agendas of media outlet owners like Canwest’s Asper family.

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