Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Lawrence Martin: Has the fourth estate lost its tenacity?

Lawrence Martin:
Much wonderment has been expressed recently on why stories of abuse of power don’t seem to hurt Stephen Harper’s government. The stories don’t stick, it is said. The reason may well be, to cite Mr. Thomson’s cautionary words, because we in the media don’t stick to them. It’s episodic journalism. We report one story, then move on. We don’t probe deeply. If a Watergate was happening, the public would never know it.

It’s not because journalists don’t sense there is something very serious going on. The conservative Sun chain recently went after the government’s penchant for muzzling critics. The conservative National Post wrote that there is no excuse “for the paranoia, secrecy, rule-bending, shirking of due process and committee bullying that has rightly become the subject of opposition ire in recent years.” That list is quite an indictment. It’s the type of stuff that in the 1970s would have spawned all kinds of Woodwards and Bernsteins. Not today, though.

During the election campaign, there were stories of voter-suppression tactics by the Tories, of barring people from rallies, of pork-barrelling with G8 funds and the like. In the last week of the campaign, there was a seeming attempt by a Conservative operative to present Michael Ignatieff as an Iraq war planner. One can imagine what would happen if this kind of thing, straight out of Nixonland, happened in a U.S. campaign. The media would blow the roof off. Here, the story passed in a day or two without further comment.

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