Substantial changes have occurred in the nature of political discourse over the past thirty years. Once, traditional media dominated the political landscape, but in recent years Facebook, Twitter, blogs and Blackberrys have emerged as important tools and platforms for political campaigns. While the Canadian party system has proved surprisingly resilient, the rhythms of political life are now very different. A never-ending 24-hour news cycle has resulted in a never-ending political campaign. The implications of this new political style and its impact on political discourse are issues vigorously debated in the latest volume in the series How Canadians Communicate, as is the question on every politician’s mind: How can we draw a generation of digital natives into the current political dialogue?
With contributions from such diverse figures as Elly Alboim, Richard Davis, Tom Flanagan, David Marshall, and Roger Epp, How Canadians Communicate IV is the most comprehensive review of political communication in Canada in over three decades – one that poses questions fundamental to the quality of public life.
Table of Contents:
The Past and Future of Political Communication in Canada: An Introduction by David Taras
Part I: The Changing World of Media and Politics
The Uncertain Future of the News by Florian Sauvageau
On the Verge of Total Dysfunction: Government, Media, and Communications by Elly Alboim
Blogs and Politics by Richard Davis
The 2011 Federal Election and the Transformation of Canadian Media and Politics by David Taras and Christopher Waddell
Berry’d Alive: The Media, Technology, and the Death of Political Coverage by Christopher Waddell
Political Communication and the “Permanent Campaign” by Tom Flanagan
Are Negative Ads Positive? Political Advertising and the Permanent Campaign by Jonathan Rose
E-ttack Politics: Negativity, the Internet, and Canadian Political Parties by Tamara Small
Myths Communicated by Two Alberta Dynasties by Alvin Finkel
Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater: Canadian Forces News Media Relations and Operational Security by Robert Bergen
Part II: Citizens and Politics in Everyday Life
Exceptional Canadians: Biography in the Public Sphere by David Marshall
Off-Road Democracy: The Politics of Land, Water, and Community in Alberta by Roger Epp
Two Solitudes, Two Québecs, and the Cinema In-Between by Dominique Perron
Verbal Smackdown: Charles Adler and Canadian Talk Radio by Shannon Sampert
Contemporary Canadian Aboriginal Art: Storyworking in the Public Sphere by Troy Patenaude
Intimate Strangers: The Formal Distance Between Music and Politics in Canada by Richard Sutherland
Final Thoughts: How Will Canadians Communicate About Politics and the Media in 2015? by Christopher Waddell
About the Editors
David Taras holds the Ralph Klein Chair in media studies at Mount Royal University. He served as an expert advisor to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and co-edited the first two volumes in the How Canadians Communicate series. He is the co-author of The Last Word: Media Coverage of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Christopher Waddell is director of the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University and holds the Carty Chair in business and financial journalism. He was formerly national editor for The Globe and Mail and Parliamentary bureau chief for CBC television news.
See more and buy paperback version or download specific chapter or the entire book as a pdf at www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120205#
“The trouble in Canada started with consolidation, Carleton University journalism school director Christopher Waddell argues in the How Canadians Communicate (volume four): Media and Politics, a state-of-things compendium of essays assembled in a joint effort by the University of Athabasca and the Alberta Global Forum at Mount Royal University. Media consolidation was a management theory that “dealt a blow to the coverage of Parliament, politics and public policy,” Waddell writes. The idea was to share content across platforms and cut costs. For the most part the latter meant trimming jobs, including those held by regional reporters on Parliament Hill. This, Waddell argues, “eliminated local distinctiveness in standardizing the look and presentation of newspapers and TV” across the new multi-platform giants.
Still, the copy had to be produced, more and more by people with less and less experience covering topics in-depth, leading to rushed research, the tendency to rely on parties and stakeholders for insight and, in some cases, the repetition of falsehoods. And all the while, the audience started to wonder where they fit in, relating less and less to the broad strokes approach to narratives – ones that target everyone but perhaps affect nobody in particular. With less local coverage, Waddell argues, it’s not a stretch to assume people will (and have) become less engaged, contributing to a decline in voter turnout.”
“Mr. Waddell attributes the decline of political coverage to the changing media landscape which has seen Parliamentary bureaus closing down over the years and companies converging to dilute local news. On top of this, the internet has undermined quality reporting because of the fast-pace, 24-hour news cycle which has reporters filing to all media platforms more often but with less context.
“Asking someone to file for print, television and online all on the same day leaves little or no time for reporting and produces simplistic stories that may contain the minimum in terms of facts, but virtually nothing in the way of the background or context that is essential for understanding what any story means,” Mr. Waddell writes.
“Convergence was a management theory that dealt a blow to the coverage of Parliament, politics and public policy, but had a much broader negative impact across the Canadian media landscape.”
Mr. Waddell says that with fewer owners and less reporters, journalists are now all general assignment reporters rather than experts on a certain beat.
“They lost the ability to break stories since they were not talking to the range of people involved in an issue who can each provide a piece of a puzzle that contributes to a news story. With fewer contacts of their own, reporters are much more vulnerable to political parties, communications staff for ministers, and the legions of lobbyists and private-sector communications people each pushing their own employer’s point of view,” he says. “The result was a slow stripping away of the knowledge, history, experience and context required by political reporters to provide coverage of complex issues.”
As a result, journalists, especially in Ottawa, are relying more heavily on the “official” spokespeople to get their stories out easier and quicker, and in the process creating “an alternative reality” of news for insiders rather than the general public.”
Just in time for the upcoming municipal elections in Alberta. Well worth reading if you’re passionate about politics and/or running in the election, especially the last chapter: How Will Canadians Communicate About Politics and the Media in 2015?