Side note: In a previous article on the subject, The Star explained that the press had walked out on Harper, and the last line was that The Star was one of the few outlets to stay and report the PM's announcement. Why? Why would you stay? He needs you, if you don't report what he announces, where are people going to hear it? CPAC? I'm pretty sure that only 5 people watch that channel and 3 of them are related to me.
Harper thumbs nose at national media
PM says he'll take his message to local news outlets after Ottawa press gallery refuses to play by his rules
May 24, 2006. 08:06 PM
OTTAWA — Stephen Harper says journalists on Parliament Hill are biased against his government so he'll be avoiding them.
The prime minister says the parliamentary press gallery seems to have decided to become the opposition to his Conservative administration.
He told a London, Ont., TV station on Wednesday that he is having problems with reporters in the capital that a Liberal prime minister would never face.
So Harper says he will take his message out on the road and deal with the less hostile local media.
"Unfortunately, the press gallery has taken the view they are going to be the opposition to the government," Harper told London's A-Channel.
"They don't ask questions at my press conferences now.
"We'll just get the message out on the road. There's lots of media in the country who do want to ask me questions and hear what the government is doing."
The comments were sparked by an incident Tuesday when two dozen Ottawa reporters walked out on a Harper event when he refused to take their questions.
The prime minister does not want to hold press conferences unless his staff choose which journalists ask questions from a list they compile. The Ottawa press gallery has refused to play by those rules.
Harper has groused publicly about an anti-Conservative bias in the media before — but not since becoming prime minister.
"I have trouble believing that a Liberal prime minister would have this problem," he said Wednesday.
"But the press gallery at the leadership level has taken an anti-Conservative view."
Ironically, senior Liberal officials earlier this year complained of an anti-Liberal bias in the national media.
In the dying days of the last election campaign, Paul Martin's staff grumbled that reporters were out to get them and were working to elect Harper.
One prominent media analyst said Wednesday the prime minister was being paranoid, and that his remarks were a strategic error that could backfire.
"Basically, what he's saying is the regional media can be trusted to be compliant. They will find that insulting," said Chris Dornan, head of Carleton University's journalism school.
"Just as the national press corps will find insulting the suggestion that they're all paid-up Liberal hacks.
"He's going out of his way to make enemies — and that's not a good sign."
The president of Ottawa's press gallery objected to Harper's comments.
"It's a little paranoid," said Yves Malo, a reporter with the Quebec-based TVA network, who urged his colleagues to walk out of the Tuesday news conference.
"I'm not anti-Conservative. I'm not pro-Conservative. I'm just a journalist who's trying to do his job."
Dornan said Harper's allegation is surprising because the Conservative government has generally received good coverage in the national media.
Harper earned mostly glowing headlines for the federal budget, for his new Accountability Act, for changes to the way Supreme Court justices are named, and for a cultural deal with Quebec.
But he also came under fire when he recruited David Emerson and the unelected Michael Fortier to cabinet. Harper has said he expected a negative reaction, but that it was worth it to build a stronger cabinet.
The government also received poor coverage when it announced journalists could no longer cover the repatriation ceremonies for soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
Even so, Harper's government is off to a good start with Canadian voters.
Recent polls have placed his Tories above 40 per cent, which could put them on track toward a majority government.
Relations with the media began deteriorating just weeks after the prime minister took office.
The relationship is so poor that his spokespeople have asked registered lobbyists to act as intermediaries in dealing with reporters.