Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Passive Media

Let me get this straight, a P.E.I Liberal candidate reconsiders his run in the next election, and the person who knows the inner workings of his decision is a uber partisan Conservative hack in Ottawa. How that translates to a credible news piece escapes me:
Morrissey backed out due to Green Shift, Tories charge

Sparrow said from Ottawa.

“Morrissey is clearly feeling the heat on the carbon tax and doesn’t want to campaign on raising the price of gas, home heating fuel and groceries.’’

But Morrissey said his decision had more to do with the uncertainty over the timing of the next election than Liberal Leader Stephane Dion’s green shift plan.

Ryan Sparrow can spin all he wants, that's his job, but I expect more from the media than simply acting as conduit for unsubstantiated propaganda. Was there anything that Morrissey said that would support such a charge? Any Liberal sources close to the campaign that heard of unhappiness over the Green Shift? Anything at all, apart from the nonsense of a man a time zone away? That opinion deserves to be in the title of your piece?

It would appear that complete fabrication is newsworthy, people can just throw out wild theories, and the reporter simply parrotsthe charge, no verification, no journalistic "eye", nope, thanks Ryan Sparrow, we'll be sure to pass this on to our readers.


knb said...

It seems to be getting worse, not better doesn't it?

Further along in the article they quote this guy, from New Brunswick, telling us that the Lib MP's are having a tough time selling the Green Shift. No evidence provided of course.

I feel as if I go on about the media too much but it really is difficult to ignore.

Steve V said...

What's really pathetic, and this paper knows it, the riding is a slam dunk for the Liberals, regardless of any policy. That fact alone makes Sparrow's crap even less noteworthy. I just can't believe that someone in the PMO fires off an email and a paper is so enraptured that they just run with what he tells them. It's amazing.

cls said...

Harvey Oberfeld, a retired reporter, said recently in his blog (Keeping it real) that news organizations frequently hire cheap and inexperienced reporters who would do better focusing on fires or traffic accidents. He says some of them don't have the background knowledge to grasp the significance of what they're reporting. Also, they tend to cosy up to those they're reporting on. Perhaps these insights explain some of the clearly lazy, almost unethical reporting that's out there. Muckrackers they are not!
My husband is a prof who says that journalism students are often frustrating to teach because they get hung up on 'the story' and not reality. They are judged on the quality of their story and not the quality of their evidence.

Steve V said...


Interesting observations. One of the Conservatives strategies is to talk directly to local media to get their message out. There is a certain arrogance behind this approach, because it assumes that local media isn't as sophisticated as national types, more easily manipulated to get out their talking points. I think this serves as one example of why the strategy has merit.

Rieff's riffs said...

I don't think the media has an anti-Liberal bias and you're all being too sensitive.

Mr. Morrissey is yet ANOTHER Liberal MP who's decided to move on to another career rather than fight the next election. I think that indicates a trend of sorts. Outremont, Westmount, Vancouver-Quadra, Guelph, the northern Saskatchewan seat, three Toronto seats and now this P.E.I. seat. It hardly indicates momentum.

And National Newswatch was reporting yesterday that Harper went to the St. Boniface riding in Winnipeg to do a photo-op with the local conservative candidate. That riding has been a Liberal fiefdom since the days of Diefenbacker. A momentum shift?

Steve V said...


Wow, what silliness. You mean, it's weird that MP's who have held the seat FOREVER decide to retire? And, let me get this straight, Harper visiting a Liberal held riding is an indication of momentum?

cls said...


I just remembered the moment my husband said he gave up on journalism students taking his classes. You might appreciate the absurdity of it all. He had warned his students they needed to be careful about the source material they used. One wasn't and received a lower grade. When she protested my husband patiently explained where the research had fallen down. To which she responded, "But it's my objective reality!"

knb said...

Good grief riff. He campaigned for 8 months and was elected in Nov/07 and has been waiting for a general election ever since.

How long could you put your life on hold?

knb said...

cls "But it's my objective reality!"

Hilarious and frightening all at once.

Rieff's riffs said...

knb and steve,

It is a fact that since the election in 2006, most of the departing MP's, by far, have been Liberals. In fact 10 of the 14 seats where the MP has left are Liberal seats. The circumstances vary, but most have weighed their career options and preferred other prospects.

By way of comparaison, no Conservatives have gone on to presumably greener pastures.

The only other party to lose MP's are the Bloc, who lost the other 4,one in a fatal car accident. It is well-known that the Bloc's support is trending down considerably since 2006.

In my earlier comment I forgot to mention Joe Fontana's London seat.

The Harper visit to St. Boniface proves little, being anecdotal, but a busy Prime Minister wouldn't be wasting his time there if the Tories didn't smell blood.

Steve V said...

"By way of comparaison, no Conservatives have gone on to presumably greener pastures."

There are Conservatives incumbents retiring, what about Myron Thompson?

Besides, the Liberals had many more incumbents than the other parties, as a function of their long reign, it's just a natural cyclical occurence. To try and extrapolate that as some indication of anything other than the ordinary speaks to your own bias, rather than anything of interest.

And, to knb's point, some of these candidates have been sitting around for months and months, putting their lives on hold, at a financial price. Hardly a story, if they back out, and certainly no indication of anything, especially in a riding where he was virtually guaranteed a win.

You don't have a point, but keep trying to make it. Knock yourself out.

Rieff's riffs said...

Slightly OT, but picking up on my point about possible trends, there's a new Angus Reid poll out, (BCL has it linked on his blog):

Cons 35%
Libs 30%
NDP 17%
Greens 8%

Cons up 2, Libs even and the NDP down 2 and Greens up 1. Nothing momentus but if the uptick was for the Libs I suspect we'd be hearing about how the Green Shift was catching fire. As it is I agree with BCL that it hasn't helped

Steve V said...


I did a post on that poll a couple days ago. To my mind, the only noticeable shift is in Dion's leadership numbers. Still nothing to get excited about, but certainly a good trend.

Rieff's riffs said...

Oops you did - I didn't realize that's old news. Sorry.

Möbius said...

the riding is a slam dunk for the Liberals, regardless of any policy.

Sounds a bit arrogant, no?

If they brought in an official puppy-killing policy, they wouldn't vote for someone else?

ottlib said...

I really do not see much wrong with this article.

They clearly state that it is a claim by the Conservatives as opposed to an actual fact and they have a quote from the man himself as to why he stepped down.

It is partisan BS and I am certain most non-partisan PEIers would recognise it as such. As well, he is a local boy and his word probably carries more weight than somebody from Conservative Party Headquarters in Ottawa that many Islanders have probably never heard of before.

Mike said...

Sparrow is a Conservative. By definition that makes him a partisan hack and a liar. You would think the "liberal media" would know that...

Steve V said...

"Sounds a bit arrogant, no?"

Or realistic.


Why bother then? The parties send out stuff on just about everything, it is up to the media to determine if it merits publication. In this instance, it certainly isn't worthy of a title.

knb said...

ottlib, what is the point of having journalists if all they do is print e-mails?

I do not expect everyone to be an investigative reporter, but when a statement is made I expect a reality check on the back of it.

Not partisan, not in favour of the opposing view, just a factual commentary.

This kind of reporting is nothing more than passing on messages, to my way of thinking.

That's taking the term conduit to a sewage pipe level, imho.

Indeed, perhaps it can be read for what it is, but we're not seeing any evidence of that.

Steve V said...

ottlib is our ryan sparrow ;)

Anonymous said...


Interesting isn't it that over the last week all the good active Liberal blogs I enjoy reading like this one, Garths, Knb's have been suddenly infiltrated by new people openly conservative but all argueing nonsensical, irrelevent points, disrupting any real discussions.

I guess that is what happens when you change the back room boys. It was much easier to ignore the frothing at the mouth BTs. in the past however.

Steve V said...

Another candidate has dropped out, for "personal and professional reasons", but I'm sure its really because of Dion. "Long nominated" might offer a clue, unless you're a Con of course, then it's a diversion.

Steve V said...


I don't think I have to give the "nonsensical" somewhere to set up shop, hence the culling :) Some, sure, but not permanent residence.

ottlib said...

The media reporting talking points as opposed to actually working for a story predates this government.

I remember when the media was falling over themselves for Chretien's first government they reported pretty well everything stated by that government verbatim and played down everything Joe Clark and Preston Manning ever said. Although they did like to play up the statements of Lucien Bouchard for awhile but they did eventually get bored with him.

The same with the Mulroney government and it was probably the same with Trudeau, although maybe not.

Eventually the media turns on all governments and it is at that point when they become "investigative" journalists again. Just look at the rather good journalistic work done by the media after the Sponsorship Scandal broke. It was at that point the media decided in their "we know what is best for the country" attitude that the Liberals really had to go so they actually went looking for stories that would bring that about.

So they talked up the Sponsorship Scandal, talked up the Conservative Party as a "moderate" alternative to the Liberals and ignored or twisted every piece of good news to come from that government.

Eventually the media will grow bored with this government and/or decide it has to go and the Conservatives will not be able to buy good coverage.

Incidentally, the above is not to excuse the media it is just an explanation. I agree they should be objective but as long as the driving force behind media outlets is profits that is not going to happen.

knb said...

Hmmm, ottlib. I think you just proved the point.

I'm sure I'm your age, but I haven't followed this as long or as closely as you have.

Shouldn't things change though? I know the trite addages about change, but I'm serious here.

Info flows in quickly. Shouldn't objective people, reporters, take the time to provide balance?

The stories that break and are run with, usually are disproven or objectively reported on the next day, but who reads page 6 with the facts?

This 'gotta be first' mentality drives so much of this drivel to the point that it makes me crazy and I think people are buying it.

ottlib said...

I am not disagreeing with you knb.

However, we have to be realistic. What we are seeing with the media today is not new and I am not expecting it to change any time soon.

I learned a long time ago that worrying about things I cannot change just raises my blood pressure for no good benefit.

Indeed, if things do change it will be for the worst. The big media conglomerates care more about profits and infotainment than they do about getting the facts. Getting the facts takes time and time is money. So, as our media becomes more corporatist we will see more of what we are seeing now.

Depressing is it not?

As well, one of the reasons we are seeing the kind of things that Steve points out in this post is because the Conservatives are the government and the government always garners more attention from the media than the Opposition. Combine that with the lazy, minimalist journalism of today and we get stories like this.

Eventually, the Liberals will take back government and then they will find themselves the beneficiaries of this kind of journalism.

Anonymous said...

This story has legs, yet another column and it's the lead story on National Newswatch. This Morrissey fellow should do a press conference to clear the air. He's been the candidate since November, 2007. That's not even a year. He knew with the minority government that there wouldn't be an election for quite a while. The candidate in Saskatchewan should also talk to the media. The truth is the best damage control

kody said...

Several recent polls in the US are showing overwhelming support for increased drilling over "green" concerns.

Others are showing that the "green" movement is becoming an indulgence of the privileged class - this as we enter troubled economic times and families are forced again to worry about the basics, what will happen in the next two years, not the next 100.

Dion bought the "green" stock at its peak, and its falling like Nortel at its height.

What is remarkable is that so many here have bought into Dion's greening,

that the notion of politicians finding it difficult to wage a campaign on increased fuel tax at a time of economic uncertainty and sky high fuel prices (which is a principle component of that uncertainty), is unfathomable/unbelievable.

Not only is the prospect of not wanting to advocate HIGHER fuel prices believable, it is virtually a certainty.