Friday, September 4, 2009
US and Canadian Political Journalism: Different Yet Similar
The American Political Science Association is meeting in Toronto this weekend. I was asked to speak on a panel comparing and contrasting political coverage in the US and Canada.
Here are some thoughts on why both countries have news organizations that can't or won't provide the in-depth coverage that their citizens deserve:
1. US and Canadian journalism now operates under extreme financial duress that accentuates headline journalism.
2. Citizen-journalists, bloggers and stand-alone websites have risen up to fill in the gap left by mainstream media. This is the so-called "vacuum" effect.
3. Mainstream media spent so much in Iraq, they barely had enough to cover the campaigns.
4. Mainstream media are spending resources putting content on multiple outlets. This is turning media into "platform agnostics" (not the name of an indie band).
5. Investigative journalism will be increasingly contracted out to Politico, ProPublica and Global Post, among others.
6. Broadcasting and newspaper broadsheets will lose influence to "boutique" or "à la carte" journalism. This includes "pay for play" reporting: you want the story? You pay for it.
7. Financial pressures will exert an increasingly overt form of self-censorship.
8. US bloggers have more influence on the political system than Canadian bloggers.
9. Canadian political journalism is less deferential toward its politicians than are their American counterparts. This is due to the Parliamentary system where the leaders are forced to defend their policies in the rough-and-tumble of Prime Minister's Question Time.
10. Public broadcasting in the US plays a more crucial role than in Canada. In Canada, public broadcasting - as an idea - is still seen as a public virtue even as support declines. In the US, public broadcasting is a civic necessity worthy of support.