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I hope all the media are as mad at this Harper stunt as Kady O’Malley is.

So Harper is thinking of building a new media centre where he gets to control what the message is that he gets to send to the media. Jeff explains the differences between it and the National Press Gallery building:

The National Press Theatre, the traditional venue for press conferences along with the smaller Charles Lynch room in the Centre Block, is ran by the non-partisan Parliamentary Press Gallery, which controls membership and who gets to ask questions. In Harperís Shoe Box, Canadaís Ageing Government would decide who gets in, and who gets to ask questions. And to Harper, it seems thatís worth blowing $2 million of taxpayer monies.

As Skdadl over at POGGE says, this is so Washington DC as to how it occurs at the President’s briefings. As Jeff fairly points out, this practice of the PM trying to pick who gets to ask questions started under Martin, but Harper has made no bones about wanting to expand that, and why:

..when the Conservative government made clear it would be the new norm, the national media objected. Harper told interviewers it gave him more control, which is precisely why the press gallery for years has run press conferences, to depoliticize exchanges between the media and government. The moderator is held accountable by his or her peers for playing favourites. The media’s concern has been that the PM’s staff might sideline reporters deemed unsympathetic.

That brings me to Kady O’Malley, columnist and blog writer at Maclean’s. I’ve had the opportunity to meet her in person twice – once at the Liberal Convention last December, and once when I was in Ottawa for the Progressive Blogger chapter get-together. Ms. O’Malley is no flaming liberal – the libertarian POV seems to be up her alley – so when she lays into this latest Harper scheme of message and press control, you know there’s problems, and make no mistake, she’s ticked off:

If this double plus Machiavellian madness actually comes to some sort of fruition, and WeThePressGallery consider going along with it for so much as a nanosecond, we may as well just hand over our press passes, turn in our BlackBerries and move on, en masse, to some other profession; one, perhaps, not quite so essential to a functioning democracy….We are journalists. We are not typists. We work on behalf of the people, not government – not this government, nor the next one, or any government in waiting..We do not have to justify our existence, or our need for independence, to anyone. We are not a tame lion. If this goes ahead, it’s time to roar.

One would hope that the rest of the National Press Corps has as much anger at this attempt at stifling the press and as much backbone as she does.

UPDATE: Another blogger, who is not exactly a liberal, also condemns the planned stifling of the media by Harper and his cronies.

9 comments to I hope all the media are as mad at this Harper stunt as Kady O’Malley is.

  • Jim

    You folks do all realize that this idea was turned down by the Privy council and the PMO over a year ago right? Too bad Kady and her fellow, so called, journalists never bothered to actually contact the PMO to ask……

    They are supposed to be reporters right? Part of the job discription is asking questions? Guess they missed that class in journalism school.

  • Hey Lept: who said I was smug? I pointed out in my post that Jeff said that Martin tried to do this as well. Harper’s just attempting to take this message control and media manipulation to a whole new level.

  • You’re right T-roy.  How silly of me to think the Liberals would do such a thing.  Adscam was a scandal perpetrated by the NDP.  They must be responsible for the missing money, which I had only thought was $50 million (thanks for the correction). 

  • David Elliott

    This new press gallery will be something else if the mainstream media do not show up at briefings.  Attendance is not compulsory.

    Rather than use any video feed of any event there, all the mainstream media need do is give the conference or briefing a read-through and without any supporting graphic except the words describing the subject matter.

    That would make it redundant in a hurry.  Who’d be the first to stay away and would/could this start a mainstream trend?

  • Hey Scott,
    I wouldn’t be too smug about this one because the Liberals tried the same stunt a few years back – they didn’t get away with it just as Harper will probably find the reality a bit more cumbersome than the idea.
    If you want more info – email me since my partner was one of the head communication cheeses at the time.

  • T-roy

    Step to right said:

    “innocent until proven guilty”

    Is that along the same lines as the liberals never paid back 100 million though you people have no proof of that claim? 

  • Gayle

    Shades – you are being deliberately obtuse.

    This is not about building a press gallery (though using tax dollars to build something we do not need does not seem to be particularly fiscally responsible). This is about the government controlling the information that gets out to the people who pay them. It is autocratic and simply wrong.

    That went on for years in Alberta – and we are only now starting to learn things that the government kept from us for those years.

    I certainly hope the rest of the media fall in line behind Ms. O’Malley.

  • Shades

    So……..are you and Kady suggesting that …….only the media can build a media centre. ……..only doctors can build hospitals, …….only teachers can build schools,……. only plumbers can make toilets,……. only pistons can make piss.

  • […] a huge amount of negative attention given to it. So, all you out there left with a runny nose from spending an afternoon crying about this news, forget even “innocent until proven guilty”, but let’s wait for […]

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