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Political media coverage getting even more challenging

Posted on 24 April 2023 by Ryan Dahlman

By Ryan Dahlman

For more people outside the media industry, reporters are either (a) annoying, opinionated, bombastic corrupt, jaded and at best not to be trusted; (b) beacons and purveyors of the truth. 

Like in any industry, there are good and bad people and unfortunately the ones who fall on the unsavoury side seem to be the ones who get the most attention whether it be media, politicians or anyone who does a job that is public, we seem to be inclined to seek out the ones who are bad. 

Right now, media seems to be under attack. Yes, I know, insert ‘sarcastic-sounding, baby crying” sounds here. Understanding of don’t shoot the messenger is so apropos. 

Government-funded media, fake news, 

When you think of those in the media, it is always the ones who offer the opinions you desire are the ones you think of first. Quick: think of the first reporter, journalist, columnist who comes to mind: probably someone you despise. 

Sadly, in order to make sure the official word gets out, Alberta’s UCP and NDP parties are each doing their own way of trying to ensure the “best” coverage possible.

For Smith, she is controlling the news conferences by limiting questions.  

“To be clear, individual journalists, not outlets, are welcome to ask the premier one question so she is able to respond to as many journalists as possible in the allotted time,” the office said in a statement.

“As always, if a journalist requires a clarification or additional information, they are more than welcome to contact our office,” it said.

Having dealt with Jason Kenney’s protocol, it was an exercise in futility with many of the ministers and don’t even ask the workers to comment. With Smith, access to government officials has got better but the news conferences have apparently been an adventure. 

Why should you care as the reader? Well if you are allowed one question, it is much easier for a politician to avoid it. Interviewing former longtime federal Liberal minister Ralph Goodale was extremely frustrating. He could ‘word-waltz’ past your initial question and it would take 2-4 follow-ups if you were so fortunate to have that many. Roy Romanow was another masterful artist at that. 

Smith having worked in media both as an editorial writer for the Calgary Herald and as a talk show host, undoubtedly knows how media works. So for her, this is her best way to get the easiest puffball questions as possible.

Now there is the situation with The Western Standard publication, whose publisher Derek Fildebrandt was once a prominent member of the Wildrose Party. The NDP forcibly removed a Western Standard reporter from a recent news conference. Notley said she would not take the Western Standard questions because she didn’t consider them an accredited newspaper. In fact she said they needed to apologize for what she felt was “homophobic and racist” slurs against members of the party. 

Arbitrarily, the Western Standard are gone. Justified? Arguable. Fair? As a media outlet, no. 

Say what you want about them or any other media outlet who have been accused to have bias, i.e. CBC, unless they have been banned or shutdown for hate speech, this is wrong. 

Again, going back to the cry towel comments, the reason is that while everyone can got to chat rooms etc, which is a helpful way to release frustration, it is pent up emotion and not deep on a lot of facts. 

With the start of the Alberta election quickly approaching, as a voter, you need to know what the would-be premiers are advocating. Because it seems to be basically a two-party race, the war of words will be heavy and while political name calling, personal insults and attention grabbing one-liners and 10-second clips are what they want you to see. People still go to media outlets to find out what parties truly stand for and what their motivations are for doing what they are doing. 

All parties try to utilize the best methods to control the message and with the election military ready to roll out, it won’t necessarily be the best party for the province who gets their message out there, but the one who does it the best. The fact that parties are doing what they can to eliminate media tells you where you are going to hear the clearest message.

Ryan Dahlman is the GM of Saskatchewan Newspaper, Alberta Newspaper Group and managing editor of Prairie Post

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