I'm Mad as Hell

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and I can't do a thing about it

Ottawa reporters and the “pack” mentality

Canada’s Natural Resources Minister has caused more than a few headaches for her Conservative colleagues in the past few days. First one of her briefing books was left at a CTV News bureau in Ottawa. Then, just when the trouble seemed to blow over, she gets caught on tape badmouthing a fellow cabinet minister and seemingly enjoying the “sexy” medical crisis caused by the Chalk River Reactor shut down.

These events are not what most people expect from their political leaders and they bring up important issues. Too bad for Canadians though, our Parliamentary media are not interested in the important issues. As usual our media are interested in the gossip and the political infighting.

Have any Ottawa reporters asked how Lisa Raitt will be able to work with Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq after doubting her ability to help solve the medical isotopes crisis?

Furthermore, have they questioned Ms. Raitt on how she let the problem, the lack of medical isotopes, devolve to crisis level if she considered it such a “sexy” issue? What has she and her government been doing since the last time Chalk River had to be shut down in 2007?

I haven’t seen or heard anyone of our Ottawa reporters ask these questions.

There are real issues that affect real people at play here. Put yourself in the place a cancer patient waiting for radiation  and wondering whether there will isotopes available for your therapy.

So far the only things noticed by the media in Ottawa is the fight over whether Lisa Raitt will keep her job and how this will affect Stephen Harper and his government.

Okay, so this is not a major scandal, or at least it shouldn’t be, but it does allow me an intro into one of my biggest pet peeves about Canadian media: our Ottawa bureaus are so caught up in the horse race, who is ahead in the polls, to run the country that they seldom cover what’s important in the stories that come out of Parliament.

For instance, I don’t care how the budget will affect the Conservatives’ election prospects, I want to know how it’s going to affect my budget and my life.

I don’t care what the Liberal leadership change means in the polls, I want to know what Michael Ignatieff intends to do with his leadership and what his plans are for the country if he should become Prime Minister. Forget that, that would take some work. It’s much easier to follow the polls and report on who is winning today or to cover the political back and forth in Question Period or the scrums on Parliament Hill.

The Ottawa bureaus of all the major media are a captive pack of jackals feeding off the meat the politicos leave out for them. The political parties are vying for your votes, therefore what they plant in the media is meant to either directly help their chances of winning the next election or to hurt the other parties’ chances of winning the next election. It’s not rocket science.

But the Ottawa reporters don’t seem to understand this.  Can it be because they only talk to two kinds of people: politicians and their aides and fellow Ottawa journalists? They don’t seem to notice what the rest of Canada cares about or wants to know. In fact they make Ottawa news very boring to the rest of us. I believe the fact that so few Canadians vote is at least partially due to the wrong-headed pack mentality that’s  exhibited by our Ottawa news people.

When I worked for Global News we did a study of what people wanted to watch in their newscasts and what turned them off. Ottawa news led the list of stories the public did not want to see or hear about. Is this because Ottawa news is inherently boring? I think not. It’s because our Ottawa correspondents make it uninteresting to the general public who are not political junkies who get excited when the latest copy of Hansard arrives in their mail.

I do have a suggestion that will never be followed, I so love a lost cause. Take all the reporters off Parliament Hill. Leave a few camera people and researchers to get quotes from the politicians on the hill. Cover the stories that come out of Ottawa all over Canada. If there’s a new energy bill, let the Calgary and Montreal reporters look at the implications. If there’s a new health bill, let a Vancouver or Toronto journalist look at what it means to the public. When a Minister screws up, as Lisa Raitt did in Halifax, let the Halifax reporter find out what the people of Halifax think the consequences to Ms. Raitt should be and let the health reporter dig into what the fight between the Health Minister and the Natural Resources Minister means to the possibility of getting radiation therapy any time soon in Canadian hospitals. These reporters will not be beholden to the politicians for their stories. They will not know what all the rest of the pack are going to cover and just follow suit. And, they will not be totally plugged into and mesmerized by the latest political polls.

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3 Responses

  1. Jeff Keene says:

    Howard,

    Though we appreciate your passion for the absurd and often comical machinations of Ottaweenies, I fear that the view from the U.S. is much more bleak, and your are evidently missing a very big story. You see our president is naïve enough to have resurrected the “healthcare” issue in the land of the free-to-be-a-slave-to-miserable-job-with-benefits. Therefore, we are now awash in I-have-a-friend-who-knows-a-Canadian reports of the tragic failure of the Canadian healthcare System (aka Socialism). Every day tens thousands of Canadians from Truro to Tofino are struck down in the streets by the medieval plague of National Healthcare, the bodies loaded on Zamboni (Invented in California by the way) drawn carts. Many of these poor souls likely on waiting lists, perhaps for cosmetic surgery, who just could not go on living with normal breasts. For every 10,000 Americans slipping into Canada for affordable pharmaceuticals, at least one or two wealthy Canadians flee to America for elective surgery. However, given the fact that most independent world health measures show that Canadians are actually healthier than their neighbors to the south, I suspect there is something even more insidious going on here. I think that Canadians, with their well-honed creativity and sense of humo(u)r, are actually contriving these ripping yarns of medical mayhem and feeding them to the U.S right-wing media because it is precisely their universal health system that allows Canadians feel superior over their doltish neighbors. We are all conspiracy theorist down here, but that doesn’t mean their not out to get US. And don’t get me started on how all your solvent banks are taking over our hallowed sports arenas…

    • hlbtoo says:

      You Americans! Always trying to either negate us or one-up us. It’s true we cannot outdo the lunatic fringe on your right. Stephen Harper is almost sensible in comparison. It’s also true that our banks and health system have fared better than yours, so you win the economic crisis war. We’ll just have to make do with our own mediocre stupidities and underwhelming failures while dreaming that one day we may reach the completely inane that U.S. government and politics attains.

    • To say nothing of your smaller banks themselves, if recent business section items in our newspapers can be believed. Whether that particular trend is for good or ill re: your pocketbooks…I wish I had a useful clue.

      Yes, we’ve noticed the push of “slander Canadian health care methods before it’s too late!” using some of our own homegrown “return to privatized health care, sinners!” evangelists. In its way, that’s been…entertaining.

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