By Goodwin Ginger

The National Press Gallery walked out on PM Harper the other day. Why you ask? Because the PM wanted to decide who asked the questions. Now I have very little faith in the national press. They tend to perform play it again journalism: report the spin, provide little analysis, context or objections and call it an honest days work. Interestingly one of the few places journalists actually earn their keep from time to time is at the National Press Gallery. Now of course Andrew Coyne at the National Post would prefer that they simply reported the spin. “It is not the job of the press to provide an independent assessment of the government of the day” Coyne avers on national TV. Apparently Coyne thinks that it is the job of political hacks inside the parliamentary parties to provide any and all critical appraisal of the government of the day!

Oh my, is Coyne serious? Yes…Coyne is deadly serious. His boss after all is the very paper whose original owner Canard Black started the Post to unite the right and restore Canada’s “two party system”. That Coyne cannot find any problem with the PMO controlling the list makes it seem as though he has gone one step further than his patriarch: a two party system and a kinda sorta free press.

Coyne of course objects: “this is not the first time in Canadian politics that the PMO has attempted to rein in the media.” Andrew darling, the only thing you need concern that pretty little economist brain of yours with is this. Do the existing rules ie, where the press gallery controls the list, or Harper’s desired rules where the PMO controls the list, further the cause of open and accountable government? Just apply all that stuff they taught you about the benefits of external competition to guide your answer. Or do you prefer a monopolistic market structure to the cost of information? Get some stones.

Leaving the machinations of Coyne to himself there is a more fundamental question that needs to be asked: Are we really to take the proposition that the Conservative party, backed by Bay St., supported by CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc which includes the National Post, a national network, several regional networks along with a massive cabal of radio stations is getting short thrift by the national media? This claim is about as credible as the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Journalists need to stand up and call this canard for what it is: A weapon of mass distraction constructed by Harper’s PMO and designed to produce a more compliant press.

Here is hoping that those who have stones on the Hill press on and breach the citadel.

Excerpts from the Globe article below:

“We’ll just get the message out on the road. There’s lots of media in the country who do want to ask me questions and hear what the government is doing.”

The comments were sparked by an incident Tuesday when two dozen Ottawa reporters walked out on a Harper event when he refused to take their questions.

The prime minister does not want to hold press conferences unless his staff choose which journalists ask questions from a list they compile. The Ottawa press gallery has refused to play by those rules.

Globe and Mail