Political panel discusses scandals

Professionals and undergraduate students converge to deliberate media coverage of politicians

Jonathan Rose, Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant and Taylor Mann spoke at the event.
Jonathan Rose, Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant and Taylor Mann spoke at the event.
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Canada needs more of a watchdog media, according to a visiting CBC anchor.

Adrian Harewood, a television host for CBC News Ottawa, was one of four panelists to debate the nature of scandals in Canadian politics at last night’s panel discussion, the second of four to be hosted by Politicus this semester.

Founded in 2013, Politicus is a student-led academic journal that looks to foster and facilitate political studies writing and discussion.

Approximately 80 people attended the segment in Dunning Hall, which also featured associate political studies professors Jonathan Rose and Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant and fifth-year politics major Taylor Mann.

Aptly entitled Dirty Laundry, the panel reflected on a turbulent year in Canadian politics, which saw a plethora of prominent scandals — most notably, the ongoing saga of Toronto mayor Rob Ford.

According to Harewood, Canadian media outlets don’t currently devote enough resources to uncovering political scandals.

“We need more investigative journalism.

“We want a media that’s going to reveal more about the truth of our institutions,” Harewood said.

The ability of news outlets to provide quality coverage correlates to the amount of money and other resources they’re willing to dedicate, Harewood continued.

“If we want a media that reveals the truth about our institutions, that requires investment,” he said.

Journalists influence news coverage on an individual basis, Harewood added.

In his role as an anchor for CBC, he was recently forced to drop one of two news stories before a rapidly approaching broadcast: a Rob Ford update or the arrival of the deadly pig virus in eastern Ontario.

Although Harewood ultimately chose to cut Ford and include the spread of the virus in the newscast, he said many media outlets would likely choose otherwise.

“In order to sell to advertisers, the media needs stories that are sexy,” he said.

Much of the panel discussion centred around the apparent disparity between scandal coverage in Canada and the United States.

Harewood said Canadian journalists seemingly have a tacit agreement with politicians to not pry into their private lives, while the American media is more willing to challenge politicians.

Rose linked this phenomenon to Canada’s relatively stringent libel laws, referencing a news story written by Greg McArthur, a former Journal Editor in Chief that now works as a national reporter for the Globe and Mail.

McArthur’s coverage of the Brian Multroney airbus affair in 2007 was screened extensively by the Globe’s lawyers, according to Rose, while McArthur’s American counterparts assured him their organizations could publish the story immediately.

Rose said moral transgressions are the crux of political scandals, later adding that journalists should challenge the precarious gap between power and privacy in certain cases.

“The media have an obligation to investigate the personal lives of politicians if there’s something hypocritical about it,” Rose said.

While the resumes of Harewood, Rose and Goodyear-Grant trumped that of Mann, ArtSci ’13, the undergraduate student held his own right alongside them.

Mann, a manager at Common Ground, emphasized the role of new forms of media in an ever-shifting journalistic landscape, adding that traditional news outlets are prone to sensationalizing scandals.

“I think they tend to be their own worst enemy by distracting from bigger issues,” Mann said.

Despite this overabundance in scandal coverage, Mann said many Canadians only have a passive interest in Canadian politics — but this doesn’t have to be the case.

“If you give citizens the ability to be journalists, I think they can do wonders,” Mann said.

“We’re just not there yet.”

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