Last month I asked for thoughts on The Globe’s election coverage. Surprisingly, just two subjects were the focus of readers’ critiques.
Several complained about excerpts of Jody Wilson-Raybould’s book, “Indian” in the Cabinet, Speaking Truth to Power, a memoir of her time as Canada’s first Indigenous minister of justice and attorney-general. In the book, she recounts how pressure was exerted on her to defer the fraud and bribery prosecution of engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., a charge that was damning for the Prime Minister’s Office. Mr. Trudeau denied that claim. It was a major topic in the 2019 election after her resignation from cabinet and after Mr. Trudeau removed her from caucus.
I understand some of you felt that it was too much to publish three articles, including book excerpts, during an election campaign, but in my view they were three distinct issues: one on the news, one on the Liberals’ record and the third on our society.
The book’s publication had been moved up from mid-October to mid-September by the publisher HarperCollins, and The Globe and Mail tries to give coverage to books as soon as possible after their release. Also, this was not a normal book that could just be dealt with in a review, although one reader suggested that. It was political news, and the newspaper is in the business of reviewing each party’s record in the lead-up to the election.
In the first excerpt, Ms. Wilson-Raybould described meetings with Justin Trudeau where she said she felt “he wanted me to lie,” a statement Mr. Trudeau denied on the campaign trail.
The second article was adapted from the book and was on Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s opinion that the Liberals have not kept their promises on Indigenous reconciliation. This too was an important subject during the campaign and deserved to be heard.
The third, an excerpt published last Saturday, was on her experience inside cabinet and her view that Canada has a long way to go. “In addressing racism and the legacy of colonization, and in tackling overrepresentation of Black, Indigenous and other marginalized people in the justice system, I was told time and again to slow down,” she wrote.
In my reading, this last piece was about Canada, not any particular party. It was important advocacy about challenging and pushing an entrenched system.
Each of these three articles was important and timely and not just because we were in the midst of an election campaign.
As to the argument by some that it was unfair to the Liberals and Mr. Trudeau, I disagree. Political parties want to promote their message and the media must challenge all parties on their ideas (are they viable, needed and what’s the cost) as well as their record of past performance and statements.
In the case of the party in power, it will always be subject to greater scrutiny on its record and that’s not a partisan issue.
While COVID-19 cases and vaccines continue to be the top concern of readers, there was some overlap of this topic with complaints about both the coverage of the People’s Party of Canada and the reckless demonstrations against vaccine mandates in front of hospitals.
In this case, the cause and decision to protest outside hospitals were ignorant and selfish in my view, and yet there was some news value as vaccine mandates were an important election issue.
Giving the protesters too much attention would give them the prominence they wanted and I agreed with readers who urged minimal attention. The Globe’s coverage did stay on that side.
A few thought news reports should ignore the People’s Party of Canada while others claimed the PPC was being ignored. The coverage has been wall to wall on the policies and statements of the three major parties, but intermittent on the three (to an English-speaking audience) minor parties. Globe reporters were not on the trail with those three, but we covered news and the parties’ (including the PPC’s) main planks in a comprehensive look at the platforms.
Some coverage was necessary. Even though the PPC failed to win even a single seat, it did win the votes of 800,000 Canadians. You cannot ignore the rise of angry populism.
In the end, it’s not the job of the media to repeat the talking points of the parties, it’s to challenge, question and continue to report on the tough issues of the day, even when some leaders and partisans don’t like being challenged.
Case in point, PPC leader Maxime Bernier’s tweet calling some reporters idiots, giving out their e-mail information and urging his followers to “play dirty.” That was a shameful instance of faulting journalists, who asked Mr. Bernier about endorsements from white nationalist parties, for doing their job. Twitter required him to remove the tweet.
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