Friday, March 30, 2007

Old media cling desperately to their fading power

But barring political staffers from scrums won't preserve their gatekeeper status

From CTV (h/t National Newswatch):

While political operatives often eavesdrop on news scrums, the head of the press gallery said it's unprecedented and improper for them to gather political ammunition there.

"(Politicians) who talk to us should know that what they're saying will be used by media people," said Richard Brennan, gallery president and a reporter for the Toronto Star.

"They should know that it is not going to be used against them in an attack ad."

Brennan’s concern for politicians is touching, especially coming from one of the most aggressive reporters in the history of parliamentary reporting. But his argument is (1) not true, (2) specious, and (3) futile.

For 15-plus years Brennan covered Queen’s Park. In recent years, political staffers there have regularly recorded other parties’ scrums and news events, including in the halls of the Legislature. (A notable exception was the latter years of Dalton McGuinty’s time as opposition leader, when he barred opposition staffers from all his news events). So he knows very well that this is not “unprecedented.”

As for using scrum material in political ads, parties are already free to use scrum quotes in their own communications, or a network’s video or audio (if they get permission).

Then there’s the amusing contrast between a press gallery that, on one hand, resisted the PMO’s attempt to conduct orderly news conferences, yet, on the other hand, is apparently trying to impose its own order on post-Question Period scrums.

Brennan’s rationale is a fig leaf for the notion that only accredited media (usually accredited by each other) should be allowed to decide which remarks made by a politician constitute “news.” Sorry, that ship has sailed (and I believe the ship’s name was “Macaca”).

Perhaps the newly-elected press gallery president is of a mind that he is going to single-handedly reverse the new order that the PMO has brought to media relations, or the changes wrought by the Internet. History is not on his side.

Speaking of the old media’s privileges, another is the tradition of political reporters expecting party leaders and other officials to deliver funny speeches or perform dubious “comedy” routines at their annual piss-ups. The most recent example is the awkward rap performance of Karl Rove at the Washington correspondents’ dinner. I agree with Peggy Noonan, who wrote in one of her books that the trend toward the public expecting politicians to be comedians is a regrettable one.

Backseat Blogger has also posted on this.

1 comment:

PGP said...

Perhaps Brennan should move to Fwance!!