Defence officials muzzled?

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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

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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.
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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?

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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

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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.
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Greens and the election debate

By  •  Politics

The leaders of the NDP and Conservatives have backed down on their opposition to Elizabeth May being included in the leader’s debate. Was it common sense and an example of character? Was it mere petty politics, a response to a public outcry that May was excluded? Whatever — it’s about time.

Meanwhile, former CBC News chief Tony Burman has a piece in the Globe and Mail online calling the election debate process “a sham” and calling for  “Canadians – through the CRTC – to pull the plug on the networks and entrust this vital mission to an independent, non-partisan ‘commission’ similar to how it is done in the U.S.”

I think Burman is right. The refusal of the Tory and NDP leaders to debate May was essentially blackmail — the stand by Stephen Harper and Jack Layton that were May included they’d take their marbles and go home was juvenile at best. It was not only an embarrassing, craven way to play politics, it was a successful attempt to hold the media at ransom. If the political parties were not capable of rising above it, the media consortium that organizes the debates should have been. Independent decision making and clear rules are needed.

As things now stand Joe Clark is right: in a piece criticizing partisanship and arguing that the tone of Canadian politics has sunk, the ex-prime minister called for May to be included and slammed the system as “a club, whose members set their own rules.”
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Carleton launches election blog

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Carleton University’s School of Journalism has launched a new blog, called Campaign Perspectives 2008, about the federal election. Carleton’s faculty includes many of Canada’s senior political reporters, who have covered previous campaigns for news organizations such as CBC Television and The Globe and Mail, including Chris Waddell, Jeff Sallot, Paul Adams and Susan Harada.

Waddell, the associate director of the school, says faculty are providing analysis and commentary on media coverage of the campaign as well as the political dynamics of the campaign. He says over the next few weeks students in Carleton’s political reporting and public affairs reporting courses may also contribute to the blog.
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Greens and the election debate

By  •  Politics

The consortium of  broadcast networks that organize the debates among political leader announced they will  exclude Green party Leader Elizabeth May. The group said in a news release that other other party leaders would refuse to participate in the debates on Oct. 1 and Oct. 2 if May took part.

The Canadian Press story is here

Shame. As I said before, by setting strict rules for inclusion the media is overstepping its role, acting as a gatekeeper and shutting out ideas during a Canadian election. I expect this announcement will not be the end of it, however, because May has already said she would go to court over the issue.
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