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Stories that tell a broader tale

Posted by cwaddell under All, Media Commentary

Christopher Waddell

There are a couple of very good and important stories out there at the moment that haven’t received the amount of public and media attention they deserve which in the process highlights two disturbing trends in the media.

One story is the National Post’s pursuit of police doing secret and illegal records checks for Crown attorneys of potential jurors in criminal cases to try to stack juries to ensure convictions. The Post exposed this in Barrie, Ont. initially and now has broadened the story to reveal the same practice occurring in at least Windsor and Thunder Bay.

The other one is the CBC’s work on the untendered contracts awarded by eHealth Ontario and the compensation given senior management. Related to that are serious questions about why Ontario is lagging so far behind other provinces in the move to electronic health records.

In both cases the news organizations did several stories before other news organizations picked up and pursued the issue. Even now the others are playing the issue lower down than the CBC or the Post. Over the last few years the media collectively has abandoned the practice of trying to advance a story that a competitor breaks first. Now they are more likely than not to ignore it. The more reporters and news organizations are competing to advance a story the better informed the public will be. Without that chasing, governments are getting a free pass on the sort of accountability that should be the cornerstone of the media.

Related to that, these two stories show the degree to which the media in general has abandoned covering public policy at the provincial level. The Globe and Mail’s decision several months ago to eliminate its Queen’s Park column was the latest sign that increasingly there is no scrutiny by news organizations of what provincial governments are doing. The public loses here too.

Christopher Waddell is associate director of the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University. He is a former reporter, Ottawa bureau chief, national editor and associate editor of the Globe and Mail and a former CBC-TV parliamentary bureau chief and executive producer-news specials for CBC TV News.