Last week, I got a request to help an Ottawa-based charitable organization by being one of several ‘celebrity ambassadors’ for an event they’ll have in the spring. The event is a 10K run. The organizers asked me to raise awareness about the event through my Twitter account, Facebook page, and this blog. There was no “ask” to mention the event in any newspaper copy or on my television program. The event’s sponsors include a national sporting goods retailer and a sporting goods manufacturer. Event Ambassadors are offered the chance to get a new pair of running shoes, a new pair shorts and socks, and a shirt from this manufacturer. There was no request to endorse either the retailer or the manufacturer.
This Sunday, we will mark the first ever International Day To End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, an initiative of the UN General Assembly. This is a good idea. But I would say that. I’m a journalist. Who once had thugs hired by Egypt’s secret police put a machete to my chest and the chest of my TVA cameraman. It all turned out Ok for the two of us but for way, way, way too many journalists around the world, bad things happen.
If you are reading this blog and you scroll down the column on the right side, you will see a section titled “Disclosure and Fine Print”. I believe it is important for journalists to be upfront with their readers and viewers about potential blind spots or potential conflicts of interest. In my experience — working in the newsrooms of Global National, Postmedia, CTV National News, The Globe and Mail, National Post, the Hamilton Spectator and, now, Sun Media — those who report the news are not setting out to seek an angle that will benefit them or their pals.
So even though there’s never been (so far as I know) some scandal where a Canadian journalist was abusing his or her position to feather his or her nest, I’ve had this “disclosure” statement at my blog for years now.
Earlier today, the 300 or so members of Canada’s Parliamentary Press Gallery received the following notice in their e-mail inboxes:
CANADIAN COPYRIGHT LAWS
October 9, 2014
The Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery is troubled by reports the government is considering an exception to Canadian copyright laws that would give parties free reign in using news content for political advertisements.
Journalists report facts and balance them with context to ensure their stories are fair. Political ads, particularly during election campaigns, are by nature one-sided. Giving political parties the ability to selectively use news stories runs counter to the neutrality we strive to provide to Canadians every day.
The proposal is not yet formal. We await further details.
Laura Payton President, Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery
This ad — which the Conservative Party of Canada aired on TV during the 2006 election in a successful attempt to unseat Liberal prime minister Paul Martin — still makes me laugh. Beep Beep! See? You’re smiling, aren’t you?
After all, I’m a sophisticated Media Elite and the production values alone on this ad are enough to make one roll one’s eyes, followed by a condescending chuckle. And don’t get me started on the candidate’s hair! Why it looks like it was done in a hair salon in Wadena! (Media Elites will all get that joke; I’m so sorry you won’t).
And, I must say, as a Media Elite, I laughed at a lot of things Paul Wells had to say about today’s throne speech. Not only, in my estimation, was he right in his assessment of today’s Speech from the Throne, he was witty and right. That’s not easy to do, folks. And since I’ve got over feeling jealous that I didn’t write what he did, I’m now happy to quote from this piece: “In April, 2006, after the Harper Conservatives first formed a government, they made a great show of delivering one of the shortest Throne Speeches in modern times: 2,445 words, the equivalent of a mere three Jeffrey Simpson columns.” (Again: Apologies for including a joke intended largely only for Media Elites who still read Simpson.) That’s just the second sentence of Paul’s piece but I’m sure a sly grin had already spread across Paul’s face at that point as he warmed up to his topic. And, of course, I realize I shouldn’t giggle. Simpson and I once got paycheques from the same paymaster. The Media Elite world is a small one. But still. Continue reading For Media Elites Only: Are we sure we're right to laugh at that Throne Speech?
Sun Media and Sun News Network did not boycott the PM’s speech. While I, along with other reporters, was denied entry to the caucus room where Harper spoke, TV camera operators and one pool reporter were permitted by the PMO to attend and film his speech. Some news organizations found those conditions unacceptable and decided that if all reporters could not attend (as has been the usual practice) then no camera operators from CBC, CTV, Global and other networks would attend, neither would a pool reporter, and they would simply not cover his morning speech.
I firmly believe that every news organization should always do what it believes is best for its viewers and readers but, as we decided our viewers and readers were best served by trying to cover the PM’s speech, our camera operator recorded the speech (and we broadcast it) even though I could not be in the room to watch it. And so, in the end, one camera — ours — and no reporter, not even a pool reporter, saw the speech.
One other reason I preferred to avoid participating in a boycott was because I believed the PMO was looking to pick a fight with the Parliamentary Press Gallery to help with fundraising and to rally the Conservative base. In my view, it’s probably not a helpful thing for a group of journalists to be any party’s fundraising foil. Make no mistake: The PMO picked this fight. But I, for one, would rather find other ways to fight for more access and transparency than provide a politician with an excuse to mobilize a political party’s base.
At a press conference Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave on Friday in northern Quebec, a journalist who is an accredited member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery but who works for the Chinese state-owned China’s People Daily, shoved a member of Harper’s communications staff. He was upset that he was being denied a chance to ask the PM a question. The RCMP were forced to intervene.
As a result of this incident, my social networks have filled up with people talking about how things work between the press and the PMO. And a lot of people — including some who ought to know better — have allowed a lot of myths to fester. So let’s set the record straight starting with this canard advanced on Twitter by former Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish:
There are no ‘surpise’ questions at any Harper pressers. There’s a draw for reporters to get postions. All questions are submitted in adv.
Lori Welbourne writes a column for the Vancouver Province. To get to the bottom of the debate about banning women from running around topless, Welbourne takes off her top in the video above while interviewing Kelowna’s mayor. Her post at The Province explains more.