Blogger and tech journalist Jeff Jedras has a good analysis of the moral panic that swept through the Parliamentary Press Gallery last Friday (and previously touched on here).
The leading lights of Canadian journalism had had the news cycle snatched from their grasp not once but twice the day before, and not by the customary culprits in the PMO but by a pair of tweeters, one obscure (the PEI man who kicked off the wildly popular #tellviceverything meme) the other anonymous (@vikileaks30).
After floundering unhappily for 24 hours in the turbulent wake of these citizen journalists, the gallery regrouped Friday for an all-out assault on @VikiLeaks30’s “despicable” exposé of ministerial hypocrisy, supplemented by feckless efforts to unmask the fiend.
It should be noted that had @Vikileaks30 given their documents to a journalist who chose to publish a story based on them, then the media would be reminding us how important it is to protect the confidentiality of their sources. Even competing outlets wouldn’t try to unmask another journalist’s confidential source. That’s just not cricket, old boy.
What the media reaction to @Vikileaks30 really shows though is how angry, and perhaps frightened, they are about losing their traditional role as the gatekeepers of news, the people that get to decide what we, the unwashed masses, need to know and what we don’t need to know. Journalists are used to being in the know, to having the inside details, the scoop. It helps make up for the low pay, long hours and heavy drinking.
Jedras is onto something here. Obscure tweeters had exposed the media’s failure to make a story out of the well known (to them) disconnect between Vic Toews’s sanctimonious public pronouncements on family values and his own tawdry infidelities. That embarrassed and angered the gallery. When the Ottawa Citizen claimed to have linked the offending twitter account to a House of Commons IP address, it propelled the flock into a frenzy of denunciations and a hunt for the malfeasor.
Except that, as Jedras pointed out, most of these same news organizations had already made their own passing references to Toew’s messy divorce. He compiled a litany of these media mentions, in the Winnipeg Free Press, Canadian Press, the Vancouver Sun, and the National Post. They were, to be sure, only fleeting mentions, each consisting of a bare-bones sentence or two. No major media outlet had fully reported the story, though the details were all on the public record.
Compare that reticence to the same media outlets’ treatment of a scandal involving NDP-affiliated Toronto City Councillor Adam Giambrone, whose 2010 campaign for mayor came to an abrupt halt after the Toronto Star exposed his escapades on a City Hall sofa with a 19-year-old student blissfully unaware that his would-be worship had a long-term, live-in partner.
The Star’s respected National Affairs Correspondent, Linda Diebel, broke that story in lurid detail, whereupon the same journals that would later denounce @Vikileaks30 pounced on the scandal with a vengeance, publishing comprehensive followups until they succeeded in driving Councillor Giambrone from office. So entranced was the National Post with the story that it followed up a year-and-a-half later — after Giambrone had moved to another city — with a snide “where are they now” reprise of the incident.
That would be the same National Post that denounced @Vikileaks30’s recital of the unreported facts in the Toews case as a “further debasement of the Canadian political conversation..”
Do as I say, not as I do, at least when Harper cabinet ministers are involved.
H/T: Charlie Phillips