Monday, December 05, 2005

Elections are the Christmas Grinch

It has been official for a week now - Canada is having another election. And yes, campaigning ill happen over the holidays.

Now for a journalist, I think having an election creates more news than we really need. The candidates go from one photo-op to another, one press conference after another, creating a whirl-wind frenzy, hyping the situation. We truly have narcissistic politicians - they just love the camera.

I watched a tongue-in-cheek report on CBC this Sunday morning on how difficult it is for reporters to actually ask the Prime Minister any questions. The report made me understand a few things I had noticed while at the PM's first press conference in Coteau-du-Lac last Wednesday to announce the astronaut Marc Garneau would run in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges area.

Our local newspaper was invited to attend, and we were told there was an entire bus of journalists coming (!), so we'd better get there early. My editor, the French journalist and I arrive at 7:30, half an hour early. Yet no reporters were there. Great, I thought, I can set up my camera at a good spot; no need to fight off the Radio-Canada cameraman for a spot!

Reporters arrived 10 minutes before the PM arrived. I thought, "that's kind late for all the media to arrive." But watching the report, I realized that the journalists onboard the PM's tour bus were tightly scheduled - the bus would arrive only a few minutes before the event and leave almost immediately after. The PM controlled where the press would go.

During the conference, journalists were not allowed to ask questions. The PM only took 4 questions from the crowd (pre-determined and pre-selected, no doubt about it). The PM left in a hurry and the journalists didn't even chase after him for questions. Tha is not what I had expected - I thought there would be a bigger fuss, jorunalists shouting questions, following every footstep of the PM. Not the case, I realized.

None of them stayed for the interview with Marc Garneau (he spoke to the local media for half an hour - thank you Mr. Garneau!). Again, they had to be on the tour bus before it left without them.

The reporter in the CBC piece tried to get a question in during a press conference. He had gone through the procedures, gave his question in advance to some PR person. During the press conference, that person decides what questions go and how long the PM stays. He coily make the PR person feel unconfortable, constantly staring at her, trying to convince her to take his question. He never got to ask his question.

This just goes to show that journalists might have more than enough coverage of the election campaign, but that networks have to be smarter in the way they find new angles to an election (only 10 months since the last one.)

I didn't really expect to have the chance to ask Paul Martin a question at that conference, but I was hoping at least one journalist would ask him a hard pressing question. No such luck - the PM knows how to play the media all too well.


Blogger Sikander said...

"...the PM knows how to play the media all too well."

I'm not sure if he does, but his press secretary (a Concordia journalism grad!) sure does.

She tells him where to stand and when it's enough. But to his credit, he did disobey her at least once at one of the scrums I found myself at, staying on to answer another question or two after she had authoritatively proclaimed an end to the scrum with a "thank you."

1:09 AM  

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