While Dornan is careful to say that Asper’s endorsement “doesn't mean Mr. Asper is ordering his employees to be untrue to themselves,” he implies weakly that Asper’s appearance is bad optics:
But would it look odd if the publisher or editor of the Globe appeared for the cameras at a Tory campaign rally, clasping upraised arms with Mr. Harper? You bet.
A full and fair discussion of media owners participating in politics, however, would have mentioned that CTV (part of Bell Globemedia -- as in the Globe and Mail) president Ivan Fecan has helped organize Liberal fundraisers.
In 2003, Fecan was one of some 60 vice-chairs of a $700-a-plate fundraiser for the Liberal Party of Canada. The fundraiser was held in December, days before changes in election financing laws that took effect on January 1st. The changes banned corporate donations to political parties, though they are still allowed to candidates and riding associations. (The Conservative party is proposing in its election platform to ban all corporate and union donations, and limit individual donations to $1,000.)
In 2000, Fecan chaired the federal party’s annual Confederation dinner, and delivered a speech which former National Post gossip Gillian Cosgrove described as “a passionate personal testament about why he is a big Liberal.”
Another Liberal booster within the Bell Globemedia empire is Report on Business Television general manager Jack Fleischmann, again taking a leave of absence from ROBTV to run the Liberals’ election advertising during a campaign. Yet, according to e-mails of Liberal campaign members – revealed by Angry in the Great White North and published in the Globe on January 13 – Fleischmann was discussing campaign advertising with Liberal campaign organizers last August, when he was presumably still doing his full-time job at ROBTV. (He even used his ROBTV e-mail address.)
To give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps Dornan is unaware of or has forgotten about Fecan’s and Fleischmann’s involvement with the Liberals.
But that points to an interesting aspect of this: Asper’s high-profile endorsement occurred during an election campaign, and he appeared next to Conservative candidates at a public rally. Fecan and Fleischmann’s support, on the other hand, is behind the scenes. Which is more transparent to the media, voters and the public? I’d say Asper’s.
Generally, I do not believe media objectivity is endangered when owners or managers of media outlets take part in partisan politics, so long as they are not involved in day-to-day editorial decisions. Good journalists are not affected by the political views of the people who sign their paycheques.