Media Coverage of the Election

It appears that our major dailies have decided that the Tories should win this election. I often wonder if newspapers’ editorial boards, come election time, consciously decide to support one party or another, simply through editorial policies. With two elections in such a short time-span, it feels (from a reader’s perspective) that this must be the case. In the last election, the Tories could do right. Their policy announcements were buried deep in the election coverage, while every single gaffe or potentially damaging/contentious issue was plastered across the front page of the Globe and the Post. This election, the exact opposite is happening.

I had wondered if this was simply papers reflecting political momentum – which the Conservatives certainly have more of at this point. But that begs the chicken-and-the-egg question. Are the papers focussing more positively on them because they have momentum, or do they have momentum because of the papers focussing more positively on them?

There’s a well-stated case-in-point in today’s Maisonneuve Media Scout:

News that Tory leader (and consensus front-runner) Stephen Harper would re-evaluate Canada’s stance on missile defence and Kyoto while balking at the $5 billion Native aid package promised in November was bumped off the front page of the Globe and relegated to an aside in coverage of Derek Zeisman’s problems in the Post and Citizen. ADQ leader Mario Dumont’s limited endorsement of Harper gets bumped to the very last page of the Globe’s election coverage despite the potential ramifications for Tory and Liberal fortunes in Quebec. While poll numbers and photo-ops are interesting, Canadians vote based on policies. It’s all well and good to spice up your coverage, but when such significant pronouncements are buried or ignored, nobody is being served.

You know that a year ago, all the papers would have been trumpeting about the Conservatives “secret hidden agenda”, playing right into the Liberal’s hands. But not so this year. Major, potentially unpopular or controversial policies are buried deep in the coverage, where only the die-hards will read it, in favour of meaningless poll statistics, or family-relationships of a leader, re-inforcing his hard-fought image of being a “regular guy”