Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How the Right Co-opted Canada's Media

Rightwing nutjobs like to attack the mainstream media as Liberal pawns. Anyone with roots in journalism going back more than three decades knows the media has actually gone the other way - right into the laps of the right. It takes a real nutjob to see Liberal bias in Canada's media, especially our newspapers. The Sun Media group, CanWest Global, National Post - they're all firmly entrenched in the right and shamelessly spread their deplorably biased coverage. Even the Globe & Mail has shifted centre right over the past decade. That pretty much leaves the Toronto Star and CBC in a lopsided position.

Frances Russel in today's Winnipeg Free Press points out that it was the way the right co-opted the mainstream media that all but killed the Mulroney-Schreiber story:

"William Kaplan is a law professor and author. Norman Spector, now a political commentator, was Mulroney's chief of staff from 1990 to 1992 and then his ambassador to Israel. Lawrence Martin is a Globe and Mail columnist and author. And Stephen Kimber is Rogers Communications' chair in journalism at the University of King's College in Halifax.
All have commented on the Mulroney-Schreiber affair and what it says about Canadian journalism.


In the opening chapter of his 2004 book, A Secret Trial: Brian Mulroney, Stevie Cameron and the Public Trust, Kaplan writes that he couldn't believe his ears when veteran reporter Philip Mathias read him the story the National Post refused to publish in 2001. Had it been, Canadians would have learned almost seven years ago that Schreiber paid Mulroney $300,000 in three instalments in 1993 and 1994.

Kaplan was equally shocked when Mathias recounted why his story was "spiked."

Mathias gave it to Post editors in early January 2001. Three months later, it still hadn't seen the light of day. Frustrated, Mathias wrote letters to Conrad Black and the Aspers, the paper's co-owners. At a meeting with senior editors, Mathias was told there was no story. He was repeatedly asked why he kept pursuing it -- and why he went over his editors' heads.

That night, Mathias was phoned at home by Kenneth Whyte, the Post's editor-in-chief, now editor-in-chief of Maclean's magazine. Whyte told Mathias he also backed killing the story.

Thus, Canadians didn't hear about the cash payments to Mulroney until the fall of 2003. Even then, they were only mentioned in passing in paragraph 26 of one of a series of articles written by Kaplan for The Globe.

In a column last month, Norman Spector excoriated the media for allowing Kaplan's 2003 shocking but buried disclosures about Mulroney to "fizzle out." Here's why Spector thinks they did:

"With the National Post having killed what would have been an extraordinary scoop, Mr. Kaplan's book ended up being ignored by most CanWest newspapers. In Quebec, Mr. Mulroney has always enjoyed the benefit of the doubt, as well as the support of influential friends in command of major chunks of the media. In Ottawa, many reporters were looking for reasons not to write about the book..."

Lawrence Martin has written several articles about the Canadian media's rightward migration. In a January 2003 column headlined It's not Canadians who've gone to the right, just their media, he quoted an unnamed European diplomat saying "You have a bit of a problem here. Your media are not representative of your people, your values." Too many political commentators are right of centre while the public is in the middle, the diplomat continued. There is a disconnect.

Martin believes the disconnect began when Conrad Black converted the Financial Post into the National Post, hired a stable of conservative commentators like Mark Steyn, David Frum and George Jonas, bought the centrist Southam chain and turned the entire package into a vehicle to unite Canada's right and retool the country's values to U.S.-style conservatism.

Even further right rests the Quebecor-owned tabloid Sun Media chain. Mulroney was chairman of the board of Sun Media and sits on Quebecor's board.
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4 comments:

CuriosityCat said...

A timely reminder.
Thanks!

Phillip Huggan said...

Yes. I read a recent Winnipeg Free Press column lifted from the Freedom/Heritage Institute or a clone, I forget, that states the science of Global Warming isn't true. The same day the Winnipeg Sun said Kyoto is worthless.
I expect Sun Media to be a tabloid, but the WFP doesn't have Tuesday NHL stats or a sunshine girl, what's the point of buying it?
I used to read the Financial Post and I used to wonder why CanWest Global was trading around $3 a share. Now I don't think it's a bargain at any price. Being a Winnipegger means enbracing big oil politics without the money (or low crime rates and high social program investments).

The Mound of Sound said...

I think it was "60 Minutes" that ran a segment a few years back featuring a Republican strategist who candidly explained the right's campaign to co-opt the American media. They began with the open-mouth radio/alternative media. The way they gamed it was to start with "opinion" pieces that, once repeated often enough, were advanced as "news" items in low-grade media until the cacophany of the faux news had to be mentioned in the mainstream media. Mission Accomplished. The truth of what they were putting out didn't matter. It got through the truth filter thanks to the open mouth louts, Limbaugh/O'Reilly/Hannity and, after that, it was like the Bismark breaking out of the Denmark Straits.

The Mound of Sound said...

I think it was "60 Minutes" that ran a segment a few years back featuring a Republican strategist who candidly explained the right's campaign to co-opt the American media. They began with the open-mouth radio/alternative media. The way they gamed it was to start with "opinion" pieces that, once repeated often enough, were advanced as "news" items in low-grade media until the cacophany of the faux news had to be mentioned in the mainstream media. Mission Accomplished. The truth of what they were putting out didn't matter. It got through the truth filter thanks to the open mouth louts, Limbaugh/O'Reilly/Hannity and, after that, it was like the Bismark breaking out of the Denmark Straits.