Welcome to the archive: On The Hill

The content you will find here is an archive of the 4,000+ posts to the blog known for most its life as “David Akin’s On the Hill.” This blog is no longer active.

The blog contains content that supplements the journalism David Akin did that appeared in newspapers and on television from 2003 until 2015. From 2003 until 2006, Akin was a technology and business reporter and so content archived here from that period is largely about tech or business issues.

In 2006, Akin became a political reporter based on Parliament Hill in Canada’s capital and the content archived here from that period until this blog ceased publication in 2015 is mostly about federal and provincial politics.

You are going to find a lot of broken links and missing media (photos, sound, video, etc) here. Some attempt is being made to clean that up.

You can get David Akin’s contact information, mailing address, social media accounts, and disclosure statement here.

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Marking the first International Day To End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists

Harper, Kerry and Baird
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper welcomes U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister John Baird to his office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, on October 28, 2014, as the Secretary visited to pay condolences following last week’s attacks and for a series of bilateral meetings. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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.

Now, I’ve got some issues with the way U.S. President Barack Obama tries to control the press, eavesdrop on the press, and otherwise work hard to interfere with the work of reporters in his capital. That said, I’m very happy to see this statement from his Secretary of State John Kerry. (Haven’t seen anything similar from any Canadian official) Continue reading Marking the first International Day To End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists

New Democrats complain about the media's Liberal obsession

Ever since I arrived on Parliament Hill in 2005, I’ve heard complaints from New Democrats that they can’t get any respect from the Parliamentary Press Gallery. I didn’t think much, at first, of their complaints. After all, they were the third fourth party and none of the press gallery colleagues I was getting to know seriously thought they’d ever be the government. Parliament Hill reporters paid attention to them in minority parliaments only when their votes mattered on a confidence motion. Continue reading New Democrats complain about the media's Liberal obsession

NDP buys front page of Halifax paper, much tut-tutting ensues

Halifax Metro Fake Front

This was the front page of the free commuter newspaper Halifax Metro today. Looking at it quickly, it might appear as if Metro‘s front page editors were making some editorial judgements about the winners and losers in the first debate of the Nova Scotia general election campaign, held yesterday evening at the CBC Halifax studios. The lead headline is “Dexter in tune with today’s families” while the sub-heads with Liberal leader Stephen McNeil reads “McNeil disappoints on jobs, health care” and with PC Leader Jamie Baillie, “Baillie dodges disastrous record.” Continue reading NDP buys front page of Halifax paper, much tut-tutting ensues

The Boys on the Bus: 1979 vs 2012

Campaign bus
What it looked like inside the Conservative campaign bus in the 2008 general election. Reporters are seated with Conservative “minders” around them. And watching over all of us, that’s Sen. Marjory LeBreton in the bottom right corner.

Washington Post reporter Jason Horowitz files a great piece of what it’s like to be one of the Boys on the Bus (to borrow the title of Timothy Crouse’s 1973 classic) covering the U.S. Presidential campaign.

Having covered a few Canadian general elections often on the buses or planes of different leaders, there was a lot in Horowitz’s piece that was familiar to me. But there were also some significant differences. For one thing, those poor American reporters never get a chance to put a question to the candidate. In the last Canadian general election, the challengers, Jack Layton and Michael Ignatieff, would answer pretty much any and all questions the travelling press could dredge up while the incumbent, Prime Minster Stephen Harper, would take questions every day but only a limited amount (usually 5 or so). While I (and many Canadians) don’t like the fact that the current PM takes only a limited number of questions every day from reporters, it’s absolutely god-awful in the U.S. where the incumbent, Obama, has not taken a spontaneous unscripted question from the press that travels with him for months. Romney’s not much better apparently. Continue reading The Boys on the Bus: 1979 vs 2012

Want to succeed in politics? Take a lot of questions from those pesky reporters!

Writing in the Washington Post today, columnist Dana Milbank argues that one of the reasons Obama delivered such a dismal performance in the debate this week is that he doesn’t get enough practice responding to challenging questions, practice he would have got if he spent more time taking questions from reporters:

Obama has set a modern record for refusal to be quizzed by the media, taking questions from reporters far less often than Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and even George W. Bush. Though his opponent in 2008 promised to take questions from lawmakers like the British prime minister does, Obama has shied from mixing it up with members of Congress, too. And, especially since Rahm Emanuel’s departure, Obama is surrounded by a large number of yes men who aren’t likely to get in his face.

This insularity led directly to the Denver debacle: Obama was out of practice and unprepared to be challenged

via Dana Milbank: President Obama doesn’t meet the press – The Washington Post.

And, as Milbank explains in that piece, even in one-on-one interviews, Obama largely controls the subject of those interviews.

And, as I’ve blogged in this space before, (See: “When it comes to press relations, do you like Obama or Harper?”) when he does do a White House press conference Obama almost always knows exactly what question is coming from what reporter because reporters must cough up their question to Obama’s aides if they want Obama to pick them at the press conference.

All of which should be a good lesson for you aspiring and current politicians out there: Your best debate prep is taking a lot of questions often from us pesky reporters!

English, French media differ in coverage of Trudeau's big day

Justin Trudeau announced his decision to run for the Liberal leadership in Montreal Tuesday evening. The media reaction to the news was, interestingly enough, quite different in English Canada than it was in French Canada. Remember: He’s running to be the leader of the third party in Parliament. With a little help from Storify, here’s the breakdown: Continue reading English, French media differ in coverage of Trudeau's big day

A cynical take on some recent NDP communications tactics

I’ve long maintained that, from a political operations and communications standpoint, the federal Conservatives and New Democrats are, in many ways, mirrors of each other. The parties stand, of course, for very different things but, to give one example, they both approach political marketing and messaging with similar discipline, objectives, and operational smarts matched only by their Conservative counterparts.

Latest case in point: Continue reading A cynical take on some recent NDP communications tactics

Media Ownership and Convergence in Canada: Alternate Take

Recently, the Library of Parliament published a paper titled “Media Ownership and Convergence in Canada”. It is, as I said on Twitter when I first read it, a shabby piece of scholarship that the Library ought to withdraw or revise.

Why? It is an inaccurate and wholly incomplete picture of media ownership and convergence in Canada. Policy makers, Members of Parliament, and every day Canadians who might rely on this paper to advocate for the change of any laws or regulations (or to decline to change any laws and regulations)  could very likely make some bad decisions. Continue reading Media Ownership and Convergence in Canada: Alternate Take

Politics, Twitter, and the MSM: What to make of it all?

Highly recommend an essay by Jean Burgess and Axel Bruns in a recent issue of Journalism Practice. It’s called “(Not) The Twitter Election: The dynamics of the #ausvotes conversation in relation to the Australian media ecology”. [Like most scholarly publishers, the publishers of this paper insist on locking this up behind a paywall so you’ll have to seek out your favourite library, I’m afraid]  Here’s the abstract:

This paper draws on a larger study of the uses of Australian user-created content and online social networks to examine the relationships between professional journalists and highly engaged Australian users of political media within the wider media ecology, with a particular focus on Twitter. It uses an analysis of topic-based conversation networks using the #ausvotes hashtag on Twitter around the 2010 federal election to explore the key themes and issues addressed by this Twitter community during the campaign, and finds that Twitter users were largely commenting on the performance of mainstream media and politicians rather than engaging in direct political discussion. The often critical attitude of Twitter users towards the political establishment mirrors the approach of news and political bloggers to political actors, nearly a decade earlier, but the increasing adoption of Twitter as a communication tool by politicians, journalists, and everyday users alike makes a repetition of the polarisation experienced at that time appear unlikely.

Some quick notes after reading the paper: Continue reading Politics, Twitter, and the MSM: What to make of it all?