Media in the bag for incumbents? *** UPDATED ***
It is my contention that the local media plays an important role is how much information voters get about the challengers to incumbents during municipal elections. Very few reporters reach out to get candidates’ points of view on breaking local stories yet incumbents words are splashed all over. You know how many times per week I see the name Maria McRae, councillor for River Ward (Ward 16) commenting on even the remotest issues that have nothing even to do with River Ward? Yet not once have I seen a comment on a issue, not even on a River Ward issue, from either Nadia Willard or Micahel Kostiuk, the two challengers for McRae’s council seat.
Yesterday, on CFRA Challenger’s Panel, the host Rob Snow asked a very poignant and important question to his panel. His question was, has any media called you, the candidate, since your candidacy to get your opinion on a city story?
Can you believe that people criticized Snow for interviewing Clinton Cowan on Peter Hume’s pro ECO Fee stance? If Snow hadn’t had that interview with Cowan, would residents of Alta Vista Ward (Ward 18) know that they have a choice for a candidate who doesn’t support the ECO Tax.
The fact is that the local media does not take the time to get to know the candidates in the ward races and even during an election cycle only rely on comments from incumbents for local stories.
Let’s look at an example. Recently, St. Hyacinth’s Roman Catholic Polish Church has been in the news over a parking by-law issue. This noted local church is where fallen Ottawa police officer Eric Czapnik was remembered. I did a quick scan of the news reports on the parking issue and could not find one piece that sought the opinion of any mayoral or ward candidate other than elected officials. One Ottawa Citizen article said they tried to contact Councillor Diane Holmes since the church is in Somerset Ward (Ward 14) but she was unavailable for comment. Did the reporter try to contact Don Fex, Rob Dekker or Barkley Pollock for their thoughts on the subject? Wouldn’t that have been the prudent thing to do given that any of these candidates could be the next councillor who would have to deal with such issues?
Rob Snow is right on the button to question where is the media when it comes to vetting candidates and getting the views of the people running to represent us. Fancy flyers, staged debates and editorial board recommendations should not be the only ways electors get to know who these candidates are. Finding out how they would deal with real live city situations would give voters a nice contrast between what we have now and what we could elect.
*** UPDATE *** Rob Snow of CFRA did a op-ed on Friday on this very topic. Listen to it here: The Fix Is In