There are, I think, many things that are notable about this past federal election. In a future post, I'll consider some of the political issues that develop out of it. Right now, however, my concern is with the way this election was covered in the media. On election night, Peter Mansbridge of CBC remarked that the Liberals were doing surprisingly noting the fact that there had been, since the beginning of the campaign, nothing but a string of bad news stories. I found it interesting that one of the people who was in charge of designing the stream of negative media coverage that followed the Liberals should so freely acknowledge that the media had nothing positive about the Liberal party or its leader in the course of the campaign. I can only think of a couple of other examples of such amazingly negative media coverage. Kim Campbell in 1993; John Turner in 1984 are the only ones that come to mind. While press coverage is good some days and bad others, I don't recall Mulroney, Trudeau, Chretien or even Joe Clark being so roundly condemned each and every day, day after day. It never let up. The "income trust scandal" was reported as if it were true (no one bothered to ask the RCMP about their rationale for investigation of policies related to complaints and investigation). Early in the campaign with the Liberals running high in the polls, polling numbers were ignored or distorted. Strategic Council polling data (which proved, as it usually does, wildly inaccurate) was reported as if Alan Greg did not have ties to the Tories. And we could go on. Conservatives were asked no tough questions by the national media, etc., etc.
Is there any necessay reason why the election campaign had to be filled with anti-Liberal stories? Were there no pro liberal stories to be told? Maybe that is not the right question. Perhaps the question is not whether or not the media should have said nice things about the Liberal party but whether or not they should have been more objective. For instance, an objective reporting of the "income trust scandal" would have pointed out that the complaints against Ralph Goodale were lodged by a member of the opposition party (a member of the NDP, which stood to gain a great deal by anothe Liberal scandal). To the best of my knowledge it was noted only once that the RCMP themselves said they had no evidence Goodale was guilty of anything. No one discussed Tory attack ads (one featuring the former head of the Royal Mint, David Dingwall, who was portrayed as guilty despite the fact that he was cleared of all accuastions against him) but focused instead on a Liberal advert that never ran. Yep, that is right. Journalist chose to focus attention on an advert that did not run instead of an attack advert that portrayed an innocent man as guilty. That might not have been worth much in the scheme of an election campaign, but you'd think it would have been worth something.
One could go on but all these examples would only serve to reinforce the same point. Media coverage of this election campaign was, perhaps, the worst I have ever seen. I have to keep pointing out in these posts that I have not been, cannot imagine ever being, and certainly do not vote Liberal. I did not vote Liberal this past election and certainly did not want to see the Liberal Party win. My own political views, however, should not stop us from seeing what is patently evident. This election campaign was marked by horribly biased reporting. It represented a complete failure of journalism in Canada, a complete loss of objectivity, and, in my view, a remarkably unprofessional job. The media's bias was so great, their reporting so poor, their command of the issues so limited (in fact, I can't recall any serious discussion of the issues in reporting on this election) that we can say the Canadian media utterly failed Canadians. I hope they do better in the future, but this election campaign does not bode well.