In case anyone missed Friday’s “Politics” broaaadcast on Newsworld, Toronto Star columnist Susan Delacourt provided a rare moment of insight into the media’s attitudes (or at least her own). Her comment starts at about 49:30:
Delacourt: This is where, I’ve been thinking about this for the last couple of days, their media strategy – I know it sounds like we’re fixed on this – but remember, that we here in the media, one of the things that we’re supposed to be is independent as well.
And for the last two years, this government has sort of shown, sort of, the back of the hand to that whole idea of independence, or sort of distance, and I think this is where it catches up with them.
The media is gonna tell this story from the experience they know which is – we don’t know what it’s like to get someone on your doorstep firing you at ten o’clock at night – but we certainly know what it feels like to be trifled with and to be played around with and bullied.
And I think that’s where, if these guys had had a little more of a farsighted media strategy, that maybe this story would be being told a different way. But I’ve been very surprised watching the way this story has been reported. And how else would we report it? It’s what we know here.
While it’s indisputable that the Harper government has imposed a strict discipline on government communications and spokespersons (an understandable policy for a conservative government), this can hardly be described as giving reporters the “back of the hand.” What it has given the back of its hand to is the old style of media relations under the Liberals.
Under that style, Hill reporters were not treated with independence or distance; they were treated as pets to be cultivated and – if deemed sympathetic – rewarded with leaks from inside government, weekly caucus meetings, and not-so-underground leadership campaigns. (Sounds like trifling and playing to me.)
Delacourt’s comments suggest that reporters have decided to take a stand on their independence – by sabotaging it (“How dare Harper treat us like we’re biased, we’ll show him – by being biased!”). Which seems rather like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.