Coyne on political journalism

By  •  Politics

Excerpts from a scathing piece by Andrew Coyne in Maclean’s on the performance of political journalism in Canada:

“…in one respect every election is the same: the press coverage. It’s always an embarrassment, and always in exactly the same way. Politicians learn from their mistakes, sometimes. We just go on repeating ours.

The media “… are hurting democracy. We aren’t just missing an opportunity to help the public make sense of things at a critical time. We’re making things worse. We’re actually getting in the way.”

Coyne especially dislikes horserace reporting:

Readers, he says, want to know about political candidates: “Who are these people, and what are they going to do to us? Tell us about the candidates who are running for office, their values and character. And tell us what they would do with the power they seek from us, their policies and platforms. If you need to add a little colour to make it entertaining, fine, but don’t let that obscure the main point.

“What, instead, do we tell them? We tell them who’s ahead, over and over and over. And, of course, who’s behind.”

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Blame TV news

By  •  Politics

Sez Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight on the subject of television journalism (his blog in the alternative newspaper is a rant about the resignation of a NDP candidate in British Columbia):

“Dumb, celebrity-obsessed, issue-avoiding television news programs played a role in turning over control of the White House to George Bush and Dick Cheney. This led directly to the debacle in Iraq and the financial meltdown plaguing global markets this past week.

“In Canada, our dumb, pot-smoking-obsessed, issue-avoiding television news programs are probably elevating the risk of a Conservative majority government. Time will tell if Harper can replicate the financial and foreign-affairs records of the Bush administration.”

Jeez Charlie. Why don’t you tell us what you really think?
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Election 2008: Can pigs fly?

Two prominent Newfoundland journalists have crossed the line to run as candidates – and “it’s not pretty,”
observes Greg Locke in this J-Source post.
But when the Sydney Morning Herald threw out the question to readers – Should Ex-journos
Become Pollies?
– the response was milder than you might expect. The
question brings to mind the case of former MP and ex-journo Dick Proctor, who
flipped into ‘journalism mode,’ scribbling notes at the sound of a juicy high-level
conversation on an airplane. Jon Filson raises the question: What would a working
journalist have done
with the notes?    

Then there’s the reverse play: when politicos become
journos. Eric Green of the Washington-watching website argues politicians may bring
their spin with them, but they also bring an inside track on issues that the
rest of us can only dream about. In Blurry
Line Separates Politics, Journalism
, Green points to the example of the
late Tim Russert, an ex-politico who established a solid journalistic reputation.
But this only works when allegiances are shed, the article cautions. In other
words, blurry or not, the line matters – and once you’ve crossed, it’s not so
easy to go back.

(Gagglescape image) 


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Defence officials muzzled?

By  •  Politics

Has the defence department muzzled its employees?

Reported Canadian Press: “The Defence Department has ordered staff to limit media interviews during the federal election campaign in a move critics charge is nothing more than an attempt to contain potentially damaging coverage of the Afghan mission.” CP quoted Carleton University journalism professor Chris Waddell criticizing the order: “Whether there’s an election on or not, these people are public servants and accountability shouldn’t be suspended in the course of an election campaign nor should information be suspended.”

But the CP story also quoted a statement from an un-named spokeswoman in the department’s media office that officials “continue to communicate with media and the public and grant select interviews.”

Clear as mud.
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Canada’s information less free, says report

By  •  Politics

Federal delays in responding to public requests are at a “crisis level”
and Canada lags behind many other countries on openness scale, says a recent report on freedom of information access laws worldwide.
Continue Reading Canada’s information less free, says report

Looking for election numbers? You’ve found the right place

Elections produce a lot of numbers. A guide to some of the online resources available to help you get on top of the numbers game.

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It’s the economy — are we stupid?

By  •  Politics

How prepared are journalists to analyze and report on economic issues?
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Election north of 49 mostly ignored by foreign media

By  •  Politics

Canwest News Service reporter Archie McLean looked for coverage of our federal election in the foreign press and didn’t find much. News media that have reported or commented on the Canadian campaign include The Guardian (columnist despises the Harper government), The Wall St. Journal (editorial writer loves the Harper government) and The New York Times (amazed Canadian politics gets dirty). 
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Poll Dancing

Back in 2005, researchers at the universities of  British Columbia and Saskatchewan found that the press was sloppy in its poll reporting during the ’04 federal campaign. The study concluded with a “hope” that future poll reporting would be more compliant with the Elections Act.

Now, a group of Laurier University researchers, critiquing the Globe and Mail’s ‘key constituency’ poll information, state: “Unfortunately this innovative approach seems to be making claims that cannot be substantiated by the data.” 

Are we coming down with  Poll-mania? A review of the Committee of Concerned Journalists’ How Poll Sampling Works may offer a cure.

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Young voters not impressed by Web 2.0 election coverage, U.S. study suggests

By  •  Politics

Bored WomanAs Canadian news organizations bid to outdo each other in displaying Web 2.0 savvy in their online election coverage, a U.S. study of young voters suggests they should beware of going overboard. Younger voters, it reports, may actually be turned off.
Continue Reading Young voters not impressed by Web 2.0 election coverage, U.S. study suggests