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My back and forth with London A-News over their census coverage

I’d been meaning to post this sooner, but other events kind of interrupted my intention, so here it is now, for your consideration. When the Census controversy was first brewing last week, it dutifully got reported on last Sunday evening’s broadcast of A-News London (they are a CTV affiliate) as a fight between the Liberals and Conservatives – no mention of the countless editorials and organizations that even then were condemning the move. The station then broadcast excerpts of an interview they did with ex-Cabinet minister (and new apparent point-man for attacking the tyrannical mandatory longform Census and the Liberals who defended it) Maxime Bernier, who happened to be in London – coincidentally or not. No other point of view on this, no rebuttal to Maxime’s points.

That spurred me to write a letter via email to the News staff of A-News London, where I voiced my displeasure at the way the issue had been presented. My letter in full was this:

First, (the presenter) framed the issue as being the Conservatives vs the Liberals on the longform part of the Census (whether it should be mandatory or not). In my view, she and your newscast presented the Conservatives view without any balancing statements from the other parties (their attack points were mentioned, + playing Bernier’s interview/defence of this move). 2ndly, you failed to mention that many different organizations, groups and newspaper editorials have also condemned this move. This is not just “Conservatives vs Liberals”, as your newscast implied.

I think if you’re going to inform people about this issue, you need to be a little more indepth then this, else some folks out here might think you’re favouring/pushing the Conservatives points of view on this particular issue. I don’t think that (yet), but I would like to see some better and balanced reporting of this issue then what I saw Sunday evening.

I did get a reply back from them. The regular News director was out on holiday, so another person who was in the same department I believe replied back. The letter read as follows:

As you can imagine we have limited airtime, especially on weekends to fit in all of the news that happens in our region. With this story in particular we did mention that the Liberals are against the idea of scrapping the long version of the census. That is a fact. Granted there are numerous sides to this story which newspaper editorials can flush out with more space and resources. In this case we touched the surface but wasn’t in a position to go further than that. We will however continue to follow the story and will pass on any developments.

So the basic reason for the way they presented the story was: it was a weekend broadcast (where the show is cut to 30 mins from an hour) and they didnt have the resources to fully cover it, but they may do followup’s where warranted. Oh, and the Liberals opposing this was a fact, as if that was somehow the point of my writing in.

That didn’t particularly cut it with me, so I wrote back this:

I don’t dispute that it’s a fact that the Liberals oppose what the Conservatives have done in scrapping the mandatory longform, nor do I dispute that you have to cram things into a 30 minute newscast on a weekend, but it’s simply not correct for your newscasts to be saying its solely a Liberals vs Conservatives thing. As mentioned, countless others have come out against this move… and in my opinion, you do your viewers a disservice by not mentioning that or properly informing them of it, or (not) giving the opposite side rebuttal time to counter Bernier’s rants, regardless whether it’s a weekend newscast or not.

It is well known that Conservative Party media strategy is to go around the national news media and set up interviews with local/regional news, where their hope is they can get their particular point of views out on topics, with the local/regional media networks being less apt to grill them or challenge them on their spin. Unfortunately, it appears to me that you’ve contributed to that strategy by not presenting the opposite point of view properly.

I did not receive a reply to that last letter, and of course events since have overtaken this dialogue, with the resignation of the StatsCan chief statistician, (and I’ll be interested to see how they present the story now), but I thought I would mention this exchange, and let others take from it as they will.


6 comments to My back and forth with London A-News over their census coverage

  • Northern PoV

    The Vancouver Sun kept the stats-can resignation (a HUGE story) well away from today’s front page and given your anecdote here I’d say the media are succeeding in helping the Cons weather this issue.

    In fact – it is all part of the plan – the base loves it and the “swing voters” won’t notice anything beyond “squabbling politicians”, so I thik this is working out just fine – demolishing Canadian civil society will get messy as the cons know.

    Today’s affirmative-action announcement – another brick in (or taken from, rather) the wall, so soon – shows they love it. It is all part of the “give us a majority to stop all this squabbling” plan – and IMHO, working all too well.

  • JMR

    spelling errors due to bad eye sight

  • JMR

    Not quite on topic but around it. I want to say how appalled I was at the interview done on Power and Politics berween Rosemary Barton and Tony Clement. There was only one proffessional on that interview and it was not the minister. He was so patronizing, kept calling her Rosie not once but severaltines while she called him Minister. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the substance just the general tone of the interview was very distressing to me. One proffessional Rosemary Barton one dismissive minister Minister Clement, or should
    I call him Tony

  • @kmartin, The thing is, no one in the Liberal Party is dragging Harper through the mud. This census thing is all of his own making. The organizations and newspaper editorials that are coming out against this aren’t anything to do with Liberal bloggers or Liberals in particular. These are organizations and folks that are outraged that ideology is being used to cripple facts and stats. The fact that a senior civil servant has turned in his resignation speaks to what he thinks how important this is.

    If you want to ignore it, then stop reading blogs or news sites or anything else that talks about it.

  • kmartin

    Its a 5 minute story. You are again making a mountain out of a mole hill. If Liberal bloggers would concentrate more on what the leader of the LPC is doing to move his party into a position to become the next government instead of focusing on what they think Harper is doing wrong the liberals may actually get back into power again. Dont get me wrong Scott. I am a liberal and I dont post here often but the whole problem with the LPC at this moment is a weak leader, infighting at all levels and failing to focus on real policy. We cant win an election on trying to drag Harpo through the mud alone. So far since Iggy took over I see nothing that turns me on about his leadership qualities and ability to make Canada better. His numbers are bad and although the polls suggest it could be close unless one party or another achieves a majority we will continue to have a deadlocked parliament. To be honest at this point I think any party with a majority could at least get some real work done instead of fighting and bickering over issues that to you may appear to be significant but to the average Canadian they turn the channel or page and don’t care about it. Right now people are more concerned with their own issues!!

    • Gayle

      @kmartin, I am confused. You think if liberal bloggers spend their time agonizing over the leader’s each and every move that is going to HELP the party?

      I kind of doubt that.

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