Canadian Media Try to Outdo American with Secrecy Complaints

We've often noted here at NewsBusters how the press seems to consider itself entitled to some right to know things before others. The White House press corps seems yet to recover that it wasn't the first be alerted about Vice President Cheney's shooting accident, for instance.

But this attitude is not limited to just the American media. Canadian blogger Kate Werk notes a similar arrogance in the press of her country which is upset that recently elected Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper isn't immediately telling who he's picking for his new cabinet. This arrogant attitude began during the tenure of the last Conservative PM, Brian Mulroney:

When Brian Mulroney won his landslide majority in 1984, a talking head (whose identity I've forgotten) announced to the nation that in the face of such a one sided parliament, the media would assume the role of opposition .

That was a signal that something was about to go desperately wrong, and it did. The Canadian people had already spoken as to what voices they wanted in parliament. The Ottawa press gallery weren't on the ballot, yet they declared themselves elected, and they've by and large behaved like pompous, entitled Liberal senators with a broadcast license ever since.

It's time they were forced to relinquished those seats.

When those in media assume a de facto role in government, the instution becomes inherently dangerous. When a declared "opponant" owns the kill switch and the ability to reshape the message to reflect a political agenda, not just truth, but democracy itself comes under threat. Having assumed a political stance of being in "opposition to the Mulroney government" those 20 odd years ago, it's no wonder that so many have lost trust in what we are hearing and reading - indeed, the mining of the Mulroney era negative messaging to "taint" the Harper government is already in full swing. It matters not what Harper appointees like Michael Wilson have accomplished before or since in private life - if they had any association with the Mulroney government, that is how the media frames them.

If Harper is making a concerted effort to reposition the role of media in this country, we can only applaud - no matter our political views. The opportunity has arrived to push back, because the tides of technology are changing - with subscriptions and television ratings losing ground to the internet and other alternative sources like talk radio, the legacy media no longer have exclusive control of the filter.

It appears that Harper is taking a page out of Republican presidents' handbook, not wasting time with a hostile and politically biased elite press but instead going to outlets more tolerant of divergent views. My guess is that if he's able to stay in power, Canadians will see a similar profusion of new media similar to what we Americans have.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013