Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Laurie Watt scores a win for real journalism over sycophancy

Score for one for competent, responsible journalism.
A communications officer in the Prime Minister’s Office sent an email to The Advance, in Barrie, Ont., encouraging the paper to do a story on a speech that Justin Trudeau gave in the community six years ago.
Trudeau got $10,000; the local college lost $4,118 on what was supposed to be a fundraiser.
An OK little story, although Trudeau wasn’t an MP at the time.
But PMO communications staffer Erica Meekes asked that the the information - including a poster for the 200 event - be identified as coming from a “source.”
Instead, reporter Laurie Watt reported the story, including where the information came from.
Why did Meekes want to hide the role of the Prime Minister’s Office? Maybe she thought it looked bad that people on the public payroll are spending their days on partisan work for the Conservative party. Maybe secrecy is just a way of life for PMO staff. Maybe she thought the story would be more credible if the source of the information wasn’t identified.
Who cares? She wanted to hide information from the public, and Meekes and The Advance recognized their role was to report, not keep secrets.
Sources sometimes require anonymity. People might have legitimate fears about repercussions. But at a minimum media should say why, specifically, they aren’t identifying the source of the information. It’s a critical part of the story for readers and viewers.
(And while they’re at it, media should push back against the growing and destructive practice of accepting vapid, anonymous email responses from government and other institutions instead of demanding real interviews and accountability.)


Anonymous said...

Is the PMO office not supposed to be free of partisanship?

paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
paul said...

The PMO, the premier's office, cabinet ministers' offices - they're all partisan. There are people working in them who are paid to get up every morning and think about how to get the party re-elected.
But you would expect some limits and some respect for taxpayers when it came to actually working on party business - like the Trudeau attacks and the B.C. Liberals ethnic outreach.

Eleanor Gregory said...

There was a good interview of the Barrie Advance reporter/editor who got the call to tell the story on As it Happens this evening.

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