Leaders’ Debate 2015: turning point in Canadian journalism or predictable dud?

2015-debate

The Globe and Mail likely squeezed every bit of coverage from the Leader’s Debate it hosted last week, so let’s discuss why this political event may have long-term impact, or not.

The Globe heroically managed to distill not just Debate Highlights from the 90 minutes show between national party leaders Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau. Editors also treated its audience to Memorable Moments and Best Exchanges. Moreover, the newspaper made available an indispensable series of News Videos to highlight newsworthy items such as Harper’s ‘old stock’ comment (which we were all shocked to learn, no doubt, caused hype on social media). Numerous columns and stories provided further analysis and summaries in print and online.

Meantime, on debate night Sept. 17th, CBC The National broadcast a debate about the debate. (Correction: viewers were treated to an analysis by the country’s most-watched national political panel.) Host Peter Mansbridge, presumably in a moment of weakness, couldn’t resist pointing out that an event hosted in Calgary used a backdrop showing parliament buildings halfway across the country in Ottawa. Broadcast amateurs they all are, those folks at the Globe and Mail, right?

Rather than news coverage generated or voters’ response, what seems rather  revolutionary about the event is this. A stately print publication broadcast one of Canada’s largest national election events. All this while Green Party’s Elizabeth May, excluded from the debate, creatively managed to comment from the sidelines with a series of Tweets.

As online news platforms mature, the lines between broadcast and print continue to blur. This  Leaders’ Debate demonstrates just how far media outlets have ventured into their competitors’ traditional territories. Will this Globe broadcast come to be seen as a turning point in Canadian journalism when print, broadcast, social media and online news gathering inescapably merged into one joint news stream?

The jury may be out if this fluid media landscape will make professional, unbiased political journalism more or less accessible to average Canadians in the long run.
In terms of ratings, the new format seems to be a bit of a (predictable) dud.

One news outlet reports that 300,000 watched at least part of the political showdown on YouTube. News 1130 further reports that this compares to Maclean’s Debate earlier this summer which gained total viewership of 4.3 million. In contrast, 10.6 million viewers tuned into the 2011 English debate on national TV when in April CBC-TV/Radio-Canada, CTV, Global Television and TVA worked together to orchestrate the political showdown.

PR pros offer smart analysis of election adverts

In today’s issue of the Globe and Mail, several PR pros offer some interesting insights into the advertisement spots running during this election. If you want to have a look at the story, here it is.

Helen Pak, CEO and chief creative officer at ad firm Havas Worldwide Canada

“We’re hearing about Stephen Harper from what seems to be real people. But the delivery, for me, didn’t come across as authentic. When a real person is talking on camera, there are natural pauses. The delivery isn’t perfect. Those lines were either fed to them, or perhaps they actually said them but were directed to say them over and over again. With this documentary-style storytelling that we see more and more of in ads, people are savvy. They can spot authenticity and see when it’s not authentic a mile away. That’s not the impression you want to give.”

John Crean, national managing partner at National Public Relations

“Notice that they don’t refer to the Liberals, they refer to Justin. And they refer to the NDP, not to Mulcair. They’re trying to create brand imagery around the others. It’s very intentional that it’s not “Mr. Trudeau” or “the Liberal Party.” It’s part of the image of the young, inexperienced guy. They’re using “the NDP,” not “Mr. Mulcair” or “Tom.” When it comes to economic management, Mulcair could be argued to have a better sense of how to be a good economic manager, while the NDP has a pre-existing narrative as left-wing, socialist, spenders. The Conservatives would be trying to reinforce that. … It’s surprising to me, entering into what they call a “technical recession,” that they could continue to use the economic platform as a selling point. They’re making a big bet on the economy as the most important consideration.” Continue reading

Why Trudeau’s pics help cement relationships with young voters

TrudeauGlobe and Mail’s Daniel Leblanc recently asked photo editor Michael Davis to evaluate pics distributed by  PM Stephen Harper, and party leaders Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair.  His feature A Snapshot of How Federal Leaders Frame their Image deserves a second look now Canada Day officially kicked off the political BBQ season.

In evaluating the politicians’ images, Davis declares Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau the winner when it comes to building a positive brand image with his official pics. (Remarkably, Mr. Davis sifted through an estimated one million pictures while working as the lead photo editor in the George W. Bush White House. He can’t be accused of political bias).

Mr. Trudeau “is willing to be openly perceived as he is, not as he is crafted,” observes Mr. Davis. He adds, “It suggests he is much more open to being photographed. As a consequence, he comes across as a much more sincere, caring candidate and human.”

And, I suggest, this is yet another reason why Mr. Trudeau seems to appeal to younger voters. They have been surrounded by an unprecedented stream of social media images since their early teens.  Younger voters can spot a fake pic from a mile distance. Photo ops of smiling men in dark suits holding babies? The Snapchat, Instagram and Flickr crowd won’t buy the message.

Do you really need to have an instant (Twitter) opinion on everything? One way to stay focused

Globe and Mail writer Russell Smith laments the pressure leaders in business, the arts, and others feel to take a stand on just about everything.

Smith writes, “It’s so easy taking a stand now, that you must have a stand: You must have a position right away and publish it, broadcast it, and you instantly have responses, arguments, and that’s thrilling; it seems all so very vital and important.”

He adds, “There is now pressure, real pressure, — rsmith-logoparticularly if you have a Twitter account, and especially if you have some kind of agent or publicist who says you have to ‘build your brand’ by using it — to take sides and issue opinions, all day long.”

The pressure to regularly add posts to social media platforms is real because failing to do so makes the owner of the news feed look inactive almost instantly. You don’t post, you don’t exist anymore. You may as well be out of business. The traditional print ‘news cycle’ of at least 24-hour has been reduced to minutes. It can be brutally difficult to appear current.

I officially follow a couple of hundred smart organizations and people on Twitter – mostly law firms, accountants, marketing gurus, news agencies and some leading non-profits. Unofficially, I flip through my Tweets while waiting for the TTC. When I feel like it, I admit it.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy Twitter. I can be nice about bad grammar (“Of these luxurious outdoor showers which do you want to get clean in?”). I try to put on my marketing hat when confronted with the overindulgent use of maverick symbols now lifted from obscurity.

Nevertheless, rather than feeling pressure to share a constant stream of modestly interesting opinions and news events – posting for the sake of posting to look ‘alive’ — organizations and their leaders may want to ask themselves a simple question: What do I want to be known for most on social media platforms?

Once an organization selects a few “hot topics” of choice, the pressure to post regularly may be replaced by posting and curating quality information when it is available. Information you know your readers want to receive. (More talk about curating in another post.)

Focusing on quality, not quantity may be one way to feel less pressured about sharing opinions and news on social media sites. Your followers and readers will understand quickly that you only post when it matters most.