Media management: welcome to the future
Liberal MP Glen Pearson has a very nicely written blog post this morning in which he gently suggests that the media may be getting tired of the message-control tactics of the Harper government.
if a government is determined to keep its own dealings in hiding from the Parliamentary process itself, and opposition parties remain powerless to crack open the door of accountability, then only the media can alert the country to the danger to which we are descending. Put simply: if the media can’t get access and accountability, then democracy no longer has efficient oversight. The culture of secrecy and deceit is a threat to the media’s own estate and to the welfare of any open society. We require good journalism now for our very survival and it’s my sense the fourth estate is coming to grips with that reality.
A glance at National Newswatch today would show that some columns bear out Pearson's forecast. Carol Goar, in my own paper, for instance, or Barbara Yaffe. Other columnists, however, seem to have shrugged and moved on to subjects that make Conservatives less uncomfortable.
I hate to sound pessimistic, but for a while now, I've been more or less convinced that any future government, whether it's Liberal or New Democrat or Green or whatever, will simply not be able to resist the type of media-handling, even media-bullying tactics that the Conservatives have employed. Why? Because they work. By and large, reporters in Ottawa have simply stopped complaining about what would have been outrageous a few years ago (no access to ministers, vital information kept secret, vetting of questions at press conferences, etc.) It's just like the negative ads. They're working too, as Nik Nanos reported this week.
So someday, when the Conservatives are replaced (sorry, partisans, democracy does tend to replace governments from time to time, unless martial-law is part of the plan too), we'll be stuck with the kind of media-management that we grew to accept over the last five years. I've heard senior Liberals talk in grudging admiration of how Harper has whipped the media into line. So down the road, when it's imitated, almost inevitably, we won't have anyone but ourselves to blame.