A mea culpa and a plea for better electoral journalism

There has been no shortage of conclusions for all parties in this latest election, but little reflection from a key actor: our press.

It’s probably oddly anachronistic, but the fact that the press is the only profession or industry explicitly protected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms means something to this writer.

Freedom of the press is protected as a pillar of democracy because it is fundamental.

That means, in my outdated book, that the media have a kind of democratic obligations, especially during elections.

In that context, what follows is not a spiel, but a plea. And mea culpa.

I like to think of myself as a fairly well-informed Canadian, but the other day I realized that in all the electoral coverage I learned almost nothing about the Bloc Québécois, which, dear reader, elected the third largest number of deputies. in the last two elections, behind the Conservative Party of Canada.

Apart from Yves-François Blanchet, whom I may or may not recognize on the street, I do not know any other member of the Bloc, nor any of his portfolios. It’s humiliating to admit, but in a totally predictable minority government where all parties matter, I have no idea what the Bloc’s position is on most issues, or how its kind of Québec nationalism influences the effective governance of Canada.

And I didn’t learn anything from the news reports or the comments, either. There has been very little analysis of this question.

Tellingly, on the eve of the federal elections, several of Canada’s most prominent journalists and political commentators held a Twitter discussion on how to pronounce the surname of Blanchet, leader of the Bloc through two elections.

Nowhere were the consequences of our collective blind spot on Quebec more evident than in the English debate. Rather than delving deeply into the block’s priorities, the moderator Blanchet asked harshly. on provincial legislation enacted by a different party.

On the contrary, we know too much about Maxime Bernier, a man who finished fourth in his own riding and whose party did not choose a single candidate.

Opinion: Coming out of # elxn44, those of us in the media must be measured and judicious in editorial decisions about how to direct our limited resources to fairly report on issues that concern all Canadians, writes columnist @Garossino. #cdnpoli

Canadians received daily wall-to-wall coverage from Bernier and the People’s Party of Canada throughout the campaign because Bernier – or, more likely, his advisers – know exactly how to get it.

Justin Trudeau is the best black in the PPC target market. Nothing could be more satisfying to that demographic than hurling insults, abuse and worse at the prime minister every day, or watching others do the same.

Knowing that national network cameras would follow Trudeau’s every move, the PPC orchestrated screeching tantrums at every stop in the campaign.

After the first or two, these choreographed shows did not make news, but instead made television irresistible. The networks did not resist.

This strategy of getting millions of dollars in free election advertising, which can be shared on social media, was rarely critically examined or mentioned in coverage.

Where would PPC have ranked in the elections without this free media marketing? Probably half of the five percent They received. Or less. That is a problem for a democracy that Bernier openly mocks and seeks to destroy.

Bernier convinced the media to become his collaborator, and we all agreed. He’s still at it, directing targeted harassment towards individual journalists in a rather naked ploy to continue to provoke outrage from the “media elite” that attracts memberships and donations.

This creates a serious dilemma for journalism because what Bernier is doing is clearly newsworthy, but primarily in the context of how he is exploiting the imperatives of news coverage.

These are tough editorial decisions.

Coming out of this election, those of us in the media must be measured and judicious in editorial decisions about how to direct our limited resources to fairly report on issues that concern all Canadians.

It is no secret in the United States that democracy itself is at stake.

In our elections, the press is also a participant. Just as campaigns examine the rubble of what we have just been through, it is up to us to do the same.


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