Politics and the Press: Counting Endorsements by Cdn. Press Group, 2011 Election
Well, you know what would be a lot of fun? Counting up the number of endorsements each newspaper in Canada gives to each of the Prime Ministerial candidates.
There are roughly 100 daily newspapers in Canada. So far, four newspapers have registered their endorsements for Prime Minister: the Globe and Mail, National Post, Times Colonist and the The Province. All have endorsed Harper.
On the one hand, one could say that there’s 96 papers to go. That would be a mistake.
The Globe and Mail and National Post are national papers and agenda setters. Besides, the last three on the above list all belong to one group of newspapers: PostMedia, the reincarnated Canwest.
Post Media still has ten papers to go across the country. Will they all lean the same way, one city after another?
And how about Quebecor’s Sun Media, with its eighteen newspapers scattered in major and minor cities across Canadas, to say nothing of its much vaster holdings across the media? Will they step on the scales in the same way, further proof that rather than a watchdog, Peladeau’s Quebecor Media (QMI) is the populist mouthpiece of Harper and Gang?
I think building such a list of all the newspapers in the country might be a lot of fun. We can even work this stuff out together.
Here’s a handy list of all the major newspaper ownership groups and all sixty-one of the daily titles held under their respective umbrellas, most with links direct to each title. Pick your newspaper from the list, watch for the endorsement, then send it to me: presto, a national snapshot of whether ‘editorial opinion’ in the press corresponds at all to ‘public opinion’ on the streets. No prizes, no gimmicks, just a ‘crowd-sourced’ creation.
For the time being, I’ve created a simplified list below. It brings us up to date as of the end of April 29th and identifies the 9 major newspaper ownership groups in Canada that account for 61 daily newspaper titles just mentioned and roughly 95 percent of newspaper industry revenues.
As individual papers within these groups announce their endorsements over the next 24 hours or so, I will tally up the results. Again, it’ll really help if some people look at the ‘handy list’ above and send in a link to your local daily newspaper when it takes a stand. In the meantime, here’s how things stand:
|Parent Group & Titles||Mrkt. Share($ 2009)||Dailies / Group||CPC||Lib.||NDP||Bloc||Green|
|Post Media (former Canwest)||27%||12||3|
|Sun Media (QMI)||25.9||18|
|Globe & Mail||7.2||1||1|
|Power Corp/ Gesca||9.8||7|
|9 Groups Total Tally||61 Titles||94.2% Market Share||4|
Harper’s standing at a perfect four for four.
My point is not to fetishize numbers and charts but rather to set up a question, and it is this:
If, in a representative democracy, a free press is suppose to reflect a plurality of a society’s voices and political forces, shouldn’t we hope that the range of editorial opinion in the press comes at least somewhat close to matching up with public opinion?
If so, the fact that Harper is currently standing four for four suggests that we’re off to a bad start.
Voting’s a pretty good proxy for popular opinion, so let’s set out some standards using that measure to help us assess the relationship between ‘editorial opinion’ and ‘popular opinion’. When Canadians went to the polls for federal elections in 2008, they voted as follows: CPC 37.6%; Liberals 26.2%; NDP 18.2%; Bloc 10%; Green 6.8%. National turn out was 58.6%
Now, three days before the 2011 election, the pollster Ekos says that public opinion is lining up this way : CPC 34.5; NDP 29.7; Liberals 20%; Green 6.9%; Bloc 6.3%. Quite significantly different, actually, on close inspection. Advance polls were up by a third over the last election. People are in, even if somewhat begrudgingly.
Harper’s Conservatives have stayed remarkably steady since the last election and Ekos polling of the last few days. One third of the voters dig Harper. Four seasoned editorialists of four who have spoken, however, are ready to hand him the reigns of power despite their own acknowledged lengthy and, truth be told, tawdry list of abuses.
Anyway, the point is not to make the case against Harper but rather to suggest that there’s room for dispute and it would be nice to see such divisions reflected in the range of editorial sentiment available. So far, it has not.
Moreover, the endorsements that are in are not just any endorsement, but from two of the major national agenda-setting papers — The Globe & Mail and the National Post (Post Media).
Only the Toronto Star, so far, has staked out an “anything but Harper” editorial on the 28th. It will announce its ultimate verdict tomorrow. Liberal, Layton or Coalition?
Now, to be sure, editorial opinion is not the opinion of the press as a whole. Nonetheless, it is one critically important indicator.
It is also an important questions about the free press and journalism in this country to know whether or not editors have to tow their respective owners’ line. Will each pen something ‘unique’ for the city they serve or broadly endorse the same candidate for PM right across the chain of a dozen (PostMedia) to a dozen-and-a-half newspapers (QMI) in one city after another across the country?
Of course, there is more diversity across the rank and file journos that fill out the rest of the pages of the press, but it would be nice to know that there’s some diversity in the editorial ranks, and a least a slice of clear blue sky between editors and the 9 entities that own the newspapers that they have been appointed to run.