A few weeks ago, a new subscriber wrote with a fair point: “I’m curious as to why there is so little coverage of Canadian politics, especially given we have an election coming up, with so much coverage of the U.S.,” she said.
Was she right? I tallied the number of federal political stories from both countries from mid-July to the last week of August, and found that, at first, there were a few more Canadian stories than U.S. ones. But, by early August, U.S. stories dominated two to one. Then, the electioneering heated up and the Ethics Commissioner reported the SNC-Lavalin affair, and the balance tipped to two to one for Canadian stories.
So, why was there so much U.S. coverage? Two reasons are likely: In midsummer, politicians, schools, courts, shareholder meetings and so on take a break, and there are often more human-interest stories and broader society features.
And the second reason is the news-maker south of the border: Donald Trump was the focus of so much news, from the market-moving and important, to the quirky and norm-busting. That news included continuing debates over gun control after two shootings, the trade war with China over tariffs and buying Greenland from Denmark.
Even the Greenland suggestion, which seemed quirky, had serious overtones, as columnist John Ibbitson said. “Is this simply the latest example of this President’s fondness for maximizing chaos in order to keep all attention focused on him? Or is something darker and more dangerous happening within the West Wing?” he asked.
I suspect you will find a wide range of interest in all things Mr. Trump. From those who read every word and seem more interested in U.S. politics than Canadian, to those who are bored and numb to the abrupt changes and attacks against his various so-called enemies.
Almost every article has his name in the headline or first few paragraphs. Contrast that with Canadian stories, which focus more on the news than the person delivering it. Consider these two facing print headlines one day about federal politics: “Ottawa to fund legal aid for refugees in Ontario” and “Trump government overhauls species protections.”
Making him the focus is adding to the sense of overkill. And as important and historic as this presidency is, we have a federal election looming and much to discuss, and you will have views on how much and what should be covered there, too.
When The Globe and Mail covered the federal Ethics Commissioner’s report on the SNC-Lavalin issue, which found that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated ethics law, readers sent in both praise and criticism.
Several were happy with what they called comprehensive coverage and had questions they wanted pursued, while a few criticized what one called “pages of Trudeau bashing” and another to as a "tsunami of next-day coverage of the Ethics Commissioner’s report.” Another said she was “so bored with the SNC-Lavalin affair … and the attacks on Justin T.”
It’s usual practice for any media outlet to play up a story that flows out of its original reporting, but nonetheless, other major news organizations in Canada did pretty much the same volume of coverage of the report. It is a complicated issue that, in my view, required that “tsunami” of coverage the next day to help you come to an informed opinion.
I think it is wrong to describe the coverage as some did as “Trudeau bashing.” The news coverage was comprehensive and straight forward and the opinions expressed included both sides. There remain many reasonable questions to be asked, of what happened and why, but I do agree that the same level of questioning must be aimed at other political leaders on many issues.
I appreciate hearing from readers who want more or less coverage of issues, and I pass their feedback on to the newsroom. Decisions about coverage are made many times a day, and they involve reporters, editors and you the readers (usually by monitoring what is most read online).
You can always ask for more on a subject. Lately, as the election campaign gears up some of you are making a special plea for environment and climate change coverage.
You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with other requests, and hopefully this will crowd out some of the Trump coverage.