Sunday, October 18, 2020

On coverage failures

As noted a couple of days back, let's take a look at how Saskatchewan's provincial election is being covered by local media - and how people responsible for holding the government to account are instead going far our of their way to serve it, leaving important stories to be dealt with by the national media if they're going to be noticed at all.

The most striking example is of course the car crash in which Scott Moe caused one fatality and one injury. 

I've pointed out recently how Moe's driving record was never sufficiently covered. But what's happened during the election period has been even more appalling.

First, PressProgress was able to track down documentation from another incident where Moe caused an accident, this time after drinking and driving. Moe's response was to hold a single press conference, declare that he'd consider speaking to the family he destroyed once it was politically convenient, and demand that the media stop asking him questions.

And the local media has fully complied. 

This despite the fact that it was immediately after that the passenger involved in Moe's fatal crash - whose mother was the person who died - started speaking up and demanding answers. He was able to secure an opportunity to speak on national TV with Evan Solomon - explaining what he wasn't told about the collision, what questions he has about the circumstances, and how Moe has continued to fail to reach out.

But even with important new details about the story emerging - and with the person most affected by Moe's poor judgment positively begging for answers - the local media has kept up its blackout at Moe's request.

That said, let's not assume Moe actually has to ask for unhelpful messages to be suppressed.

This past week, the Canadian Press' Stephanie Taylor reported on the extreme intimidation campaign against Canora-Pelly NDP candidate Stacey Strykowski - including personally threatening notes, vandalism, and gunshots fired at her campaign office. (Notably, even that report didn't include any comment from Moe or anybody associated with the Saskatchewan Party.)

But rather than recognizing that as grossly unacceptable conduct to be called out, apparently the ol' boys' club has decided that anybody campaigning in orange is asking for it. And so there's been no local followup, whether in terms of reporting or commentary - even as mainstream punditry has regularly included tone policing about far less serious issues, including the gleeful silencing of one pseudonymous website after it had the temerity to suggest the Sask Party might be able to consider alternatives to Moe. 

Meanwhile, Moe's performance during the debate included an absolutely stunning bit of historical revisionism claiming that there was some problem with past NDP governments failing to balance budgets. Yet even after that was debunked by another national media figure in David Akin, the local media has almost universally accepted the talking point about responsibility in budgeting as true - or at least not to be challenged. 

And as the coup de grace, Canada's least-reputable pseudo-media outlet showed up on the scene to harass Ryan Meili - only to be told in a stunning self-own that its plan to spout Saskatchewan Party talking points (regardless of their accuracy or lack thereof) only duplicates what's already being done.

Needless to say, a governing party could hardly ask for a better servant than a local media which allows it to dictate content, takes pride in echoing government messaging no matter how inaccurate, and buries any criticism in a thick layer of "but nothing is going to change".

But if anybody is open to recognizing that journalism should involve comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable rather than the opposite way around, there's still some time to reflect that in covering the election.

Update: Let's note that there is one media figure (in the destructive entertainment realm rather than the journalism department) talking about Moe's vehicular fatality - but only for the purpose of stomping on the victim to benefit Moe politically.

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