In her final regular political column for The Ottawa Citizen, Susan Riley tries to define her political worldview. In a testament to how complicated such worldviews really are – how many journalists see themselves as any sort of capital-letter partisan? – Riley’s classification spans at least six paragraphs and culminates in no clear consensus.
"I am not a partisan — and no journalist worth reading will be," she writes.
Riley, who began her journalism career in 1968 upon graduation from Carleton’s school of journalism, continues, naming names of politicians – from all parties – that she has written about positively, as well as those for whom she does not hold such high regard. Of those who are the “unprincipaled careerist” type, Riley says, “they not only set a terrible example for their elders, they contribute to cynicism and distaste for politics itself.”
She follows that with a note on trends not only in politics, but in journalism as well. “That said, the decline of standards need not be irreversible — governments tend to have 10-year lifespans — and neither is the decline of print media, or journalism.”
She transitions into a reflection on the journalism industry over the span of her career. She writes:
No one has yet figured out how to finance quality journalism when so much material is freely available online. Paywalls should help, but it will be challenging to close the floodgates.
Despite fashionable disdain for the mainstream media — see the repetitive and self-dramatizing coverage of Hurricane Sandy — it does pay journalists a living wage. Without that, journalism risks becoming the exclusive province of hobbyists, partisans and obsessives. Trust me, you’ll be nostalgic for the moronic bimbos of the mainstream.
Riley has been with the Citizen since 1984, in a number of roles, including editorial writer, Parliamentary reporter and local and national columnist, according to her profile on the Citizen’s website. Prior to that she had a stint at Maclean’s and spent time at a number of smaller papers including the Victoria Times, the Kingston Whig-Standard and the Ottawa Journal.
Read Riley’s final column in full here.