There is a new, to me at any rate, columnist in the Vancouver Province named Ethan Baron whom I enjoy. I was, however, amused and nonplussed by today’s article where he lists the errors of Gordon Campbell quite in contrast to The Vancouver Sun‘s editorial this morning praising the premier to the heavens. That the editor of the Sun‘s Editor Page is Fazil Mihlar, a Fellow of the Fraser institute, doesn’t, I’m sure, have anything to do with this fulsome praise for the departing premier.
What I was nonplussed about in Baron’s column was that it was accurate in the many low points of the Premier’s tour of duty but made me almost scream at the breakfast home, WHY THE HELL WEREN’T THESE MATTERS DEALT WITH BY COLUMNISTS AT THE TIME? In fact, it’s been amusing and annoying to see the Vaughn Palmers and Mike Smyths turn on their former hero during the last couple of months almost as if their editors had taken their leashes off.
A great part of Campbell’s political longevity can be attributed to the relative paucity of contradiction or critical analysis by columnists.
There was a time, not all that long ago, when columnists wrote about the government from a backdrop of contrariness based upon a mandate to “hold the government’s feet to the fire.” As one who was in the legislature and before that Kamloops City Council I didn’t much like what they did to me but I recognize now, if not then, that it was the critical journalist who kept my head from spinning and made me ever more cautious about what I was doing.
Whether it’s a city council, a legislature or a parliament, the public interest is harmed when the media pulls its punches.
We can look at fairly recent years to grasp this point. During the 90s, then Premier Clark launched his Fastcat ferries program. Vaughn Palmer was immediately on the case with column after column such that he can take most of the credit for exposing the issue as a major screw-up. I’m not picking on Palmer but simply am focusing on one major item which makes my point. Moreover, it’s not the writer’s fault but that of the ownership who, however subtly, steer opinion away from being critical of the status quo politics of the “establishment”. It’s not that government policies are not covered but that they are relatively unchallenged.
This hasn’t simply been a BC phenomenon but throughout the world owners like Rupert Murdoch have been choking off freedom to speak out unless, of course, the government tends to the “left”, when anything goes when the whistle blows.
I find that with our papers, I have a hard time reading editorials past a paragraph or two. The fact that a Fellow of the Fraser Institute controls the editorial page of the Vancouver Sun tells me that I needn’t read the editorial page unless I’m going to the loo and the bathroom literature is badly out of date. In fact, the two Vancouver papers must be the fastest reads in the country.
Hopes that the Internet would change this have not been met. There are good online “papers” but they are so many and often so hard to find that their impact to date has not met expectations.
In conclusion I believe that the fact that Gordon Campbell ruled this province with almost non existent media challenge has kept him in office past his time and resulted in 10 years of right wing philosophy trumping all contrary viewpoints. It’s not drawing too long a bow to say it’s meant government by ideology of the ultra right wing Fraser Institute.