Friday, August 28, 2009

Presumably, the Wrong Kind of Journalist

Senate becoming retirement home for journalists?

Writing in a blog post on the Georgia Straight website, Charlie Smith seems to be taking issue with the appointment of journalists to the Senate.

Smith notes that it seems to be happening more and more often. Linda Frum Sokolowski was appointed to the Senate yesterday. She was preceded in December 2008 by former CTV personality Mike Duffy, another appointment that Smith seemed to take enough umbrage with to identify within the very title of his post.

Frum and Duffy's fellow journalists in the upper chamber include Conservative Pamela Wallin, as well as Liberals Joan Fraser and Jim Munson. Conservative Pat Carney and Liberal Laurier LaPierre both recently retired.

Smith -- whom one assumes wouldn't accept a Senatorial appointment if offered one -- muses that a revolving door between journalism and the Senate has emerged, similar to one between politics and lobbying.

"The problem with the revolving door is that it creates an incentive for politicians and political aides to try to curry favour with those special interests," Smith writes. "They know that if they play their cards right, they won't have to worry about finding employment when their government service ends."

"Now, we're in the strange situation of having a revolving door for journalists," Smith continues. "If they don't step on too many toes, they know they might be in a position to land in the Senate, thanks to the actions of recent prime ministers."

Smith seems to be suggesting that the allure of political patronage may provide incentive for journalists to be biased in their work.

The problem is that the two individuals who Smith seems to single out for special treatment -- Duffy and Frum -- don't really support his argument.

Many Liberals like to point to Mike Duffy's treatment of Stephane Dion's abortive CTV interview as evidence of media bias. Yet they still can't account for the fact that Dion's functional illiteracy in English is fair game within Canadian politics -- after all, functional illiteracy in French so often has proven to be.

In fact, many viewers of Mike Duffy Live often accused him of being a Liberal hack -- but such things are apparently so easily forgotten.

Linda Frum, meanwhile, was a columnist for the National Post, and several other publications. Columnists, whose trade tends to be opinion writing, rarely pretend to be impartial. Only an individual whose media literacy suffers to a spectacular degree would attempt to argue they are, or even should be.

Despite Smith's objection to the appointment of journalists as Senators -- and four of 105 members hardly represents a deluge of journalists in the upper chamber -- politics is actually an ideal trade for journalists.

As journalists, the job of the reporter is to ask the questions that need to be asked, and tell the stories that need to be told. The job of the political reporter is to dig in the dark corners of government and tell the citizenry what they find.

The work of government -- especially recently -- is often conducted in various panels of inquiry, where a journalist's skills would serve them -- and their country -- particularly well.

When one considers this, one begins to wonder if Charlie Smith's objections to journalists, particularly Mike Duffy and Linda Frum, isn't really with journalists accepting political appointments, but rather if they're simply being offered to who Smith regards as the wrong journalists.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

Montreal Simon - "Stephen Harper and the House of Pork"

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