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.

Social media’s selfies become legacy media’s sustenance

Wai Young, MPThis July 14 was an exceptionally heavy news day. The historic nuclear deal with Tehran, the Pan Am games, and the first photos of Pluto competed for airtime.

Yet, an obscure fur trader in St. John’s, NFL, and Conservative backbencher Wai Young in Vancouver made the editorial lineup on CBC’s The National.

Why?

Blame the “celebrity factor” for our furrier’s moment of fame. Bernie Halloran is a smart business man. One of Rod Stewart’s entourage asked him to rent some of his fur coats for the women about to accompany the singer on an outdoor stage in chilly St. John’s. Instead, Halloran offered to loan the outfits at no cost. Pure PR instinct, I suggest. The decision earned the merchandiser a selfie with the celebrity wearing a sealskin coat. Of course, the savvy Halloran posted the shot on his Twitter feed. Next, anti-fur activists responded by lambasting Stewart for wearing seal fur. In this case, all publicity is good publicity. “It’s the middle of July, people are talking about fur. It’s pretty cool,” concluded Halloran in an interview with CBC’s Ian Hanomansing.

Let’s blame the complete absurdity of our MP Young’s comments about the Air India disaster for her spot on The National. She delivered her talk at a relatively small church at the fringes of main stream Canadian Christendom. The pastor shared his selfie with the MP with his very modest number of Twitter followers. Next, the MP’s comments spread into the wider, secular world.

First, no matter who you are and where you are, watch those selfies.

And, of course, the two stories  demonstrate once again the fascinating interdependence of legacy media outlets and social media even on a day when history is made in outer space and right here on earth.

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.