…already determined, if you look at any of Canada’s major newspapers and TV newscasts more than a week before election day. The story of Conservative momentum and Liberal downfall is dominating the headlines, to the point where features about might-as-well-be-prime-minister Stephen Harper seem like preparation for the populace. “Hey, we already know the outcome of the race, so get used to your new government,” the nation’s editors and producers seem to be saying.
But at least one voice of reason is straining to be heard. Alan Bass, chair of journalism at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C., writes sagely on the media’s responsibilities during the last week of campaigning. Some key points:
– polling and pack journalism help create a narrative that can spin out of control as reporters seek storytelling opportunities.
– for news outlets to maintain a balance in coverage, the selection of photos must be responsible, ie., avoid choosing mostly photos of Stephen Harper that look “prime-ministerial” and photos of Paul Martin that look despondent or flustered.
– the RCMP investigation into the alleged income trust leak has drawn no conclusions nor resulted in any charges. Keep that in mind.
Somehow I’m not overly optimistic that the nation’s news creators will play fair. Polling will continue to fall on the front pages, unfortunately, and the “two-horse-race” narrative will crowd out the NDP, Bloc and Greens until blue and red are the only colours your TV will need.
Still, it would be nice if Bass’s memo to journalists resonates in a few newsrooms, at least.