Cold Hard Wonk

No sentiment but politics

In The Journalistic Dump

Posted by JJ in Bad Press (Saturday January 13, 2007 at 3:43 pm)

Some might recall that day, not long ago, when the Toronto Star decided that controversies suggested by the opposition constituted news of controversy, rather than news of the opposition making partisan speeches.

Clearly not a tabloid to dispose of time-worn strategies, the editorial staff has allowed another such story to pass muster, this time letting partisan comments by John Godfrey, one-time Liberal leadership candidate and continuing MP for Don Valley West, constitute the substance of discontent among NDP supporters.

The story goes thus:

  • If the NDP goes to the polls now, they’re likely to lose seats.
  • If the NDP supports the Tories by working with them on environmental legislation, they prop up the Tory regime.
  • John Godfrey, a Liberal, says that NDP supporters are angry because they would rather see the Tories out of power than effective environmental legislation put in place.
  • At least one NDP supporter has acknowledged that they must both fight the Tories on other issues and ensure that effective environmental legislation is passed soon.
  • Therefore, Layton is doomed if he does, and doomed if he doesn’t.

And of course, anything party members say about their opponents must be true, right? Especially if it falls in line with their past partisan criticism of the same opponents. The fact that Layton’s position raises potential problems is certainly a worthy topic for political analysis; but if the only substantiation for the claim that his supporters are unhappy comes from his opponents, that part of the story is too suspect to be presented as the Star does:

Indeed, in some quarters, Layton is still not forgiven for his decision to force the election that put the Conservatives in power a year ago, a move that critics say has rolled back achievements on daycare, aboriginal issues, the cities’ agenda and the environment.

Which quarters? They won’t say. But the only “critic” cited is Mr. Godfrey.

Which means that the paper decided to write the piece this way, needed some quotes to support their claim that the controversy was serious, and therefore called a source certain to furnish said quotes. The fact that Liberal MPs have no credibility in commenting on opponents’ political fortunes is of no consequence — it’s not like the Star is looking for journalism. Or truth. Or even respectibility.

Before, one might merely have questioned the Star’s journalistic integrity. Now, even the premise that it is a neutral mouthpiece for politicians seems in question.

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