Monday, October 25, 2004

More Media Meditations!

Are the Parliament Hill media too buddy-buddy with the politicians they cover? If you think so, the annual Parliamentary Press Gallery dinner is just more proof that the 'T'wa is just one big jaw-jawwing clique.

I, however, don't really think that. I think the best sign that our nation's journalists are doing a pretty good job is that both the Left and the Right regularly complain about media bias. And the Parliamentary Press Gallery dinner, at least since it started being held on the record, allows everyone -- not just the clique -- to enjoy a laugh.

The best lines last night surely came from Stephen Harper, who appeared on stage with a binder marked 'Hidden Agenda' and said that his party could come with a warning label that it "may contain nuts." (As an Epi-pen carrier, I'm a sucker for food allergy-related humour.) Every so often Harper pulls out this self-effacing charm and you just have to wonder why he doesn't more often... (Last June, Harper --then the head of the Alliance -- poked fun at his reputation for being humourless with this joke: "How many Stephen Harpers does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "One, only one Stephen Harper.")

In other Ottawa press news, spurred on by my old McGill Daily colleague Phil Todd (who runs the Mediascout blog at Maisonneuve Magazine), Paul Wells stops talking about his surf 'n' turf with Brison and commends Don Martin's column about Ottawa journalists angling for jobs with the politicians they are covering. Writes Wells, "Don did have a point and should be congratulated for raising it... The substantive proposals in Martin's column — a cool-off period between employment for news organizations and politicians; a ban on Order-of-Canada appointments for working reporters — all made sense to me."

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And on the topic of the media, the National Post will celebrate its sixth anniversary on Wednesday and is not going to disappear anytime soon... according to The Globe and Mail publisher Phillip Crawley of all people. This is the fellow who has said for the last six years that the paper will be destroyed by the Globe any moment now.

I, myself, will have been working at the Post for 18 months at the end of the month -- a quarter of its lifespan. The first day I was supposed to show up for work, I actually was at a Canadian Newspaper Association conference speaking about how to get young people in their 20s to read newspapers. (My self-serving answer: Hire young people in their 20s and don't confine them to writing about being young.)

Having been in Toronto for exactly two days and completely unaware of who was who at the conference, I accidentally sat down at a table full of newspaper publishers including Phillip Crawley and The Star's John Honderich during lunch that day.

Now the day that was supposed to be my first day of work at The Post -- the day I was speaking at this conference -- was also the day that Ken Whyte, the first editor-in-chief of The Post, was unexpectedly fired. It was a gleeful Crawley who told a suddenly-terrified me the news and joked that I should call in and see if I still, indeed, had a job...

To Crawley and Honderich gabbing at the table, Whyte's departure was a sign that the paper was on its last legs. Honderich, kindly trying to make me feel better, told me to call him if I didn't have a job the next day.

Of course, in the end, The Post survived the regime change and my job ended up lasting longer than Honderich's...

With this tale, I wish an early Happy Birthday to the National Post.

(See David; I do indeed mention my job on my blog from time to time!)

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