All Ignatieff, all the time

August 28th, 2006
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No there is no bias in the mainstream media. Breathe deeply and repeat that 10 times. Clearly Solzhenitsyn was wrong when he declared, after being exiled from the Soviet Union, that there was no censorship in the West per se, but rather certain things were simply not said or published.

The flip side is that other things are said ad nauseum. Case in point. For those of you who haven’t seen Saturday’s Globe and Mail, let’s play a little game. If a “national newspaper” were doing a feature on Michael Ignatieff, how many pages do you think would be reasonable? One? Two? Try seven; yes, seven.

In an unconscious act of piling on, last week’s MacLean’s added another five pages (OK, one page is a full colour photo). In its current incarnation – Scott Feschuk notwithstanding – the magazine cannot be accused of pro-Liberal bias, but a four-page Ignatieff manifesto? What’s that all about?

As regards the Globe, when Stephen Harper actually won the leadership of the Canadian Alliance, the paper did a one-page feature on him written by his biographer, William Johnson. That is, as it’s called in Canada, a level playing field.

Globe journalists have argued convincingly that their paper is somewhere in the centre, based on the fact that it publishes a range of views. When this is indeed true, I guess the coverage needn’t be the same length. In other cases, such as the climate change smear it published two weeks ago, it simply refuses to publish the other side. Including letters to the editor. But more on that later…

But the Globe is, in this case, apparently simply covering “one of their own”, Ignatieff having worked there as a cub reporter 40 years ago (how old is this guy?). Michael Valpy, the author, knows Ignatieff personally. So it could be excused the voluminous coverage (which will soon be augmented by an on-line forum with Valpy). Or not.

While readers learn more than they would likely want about the Liberal leadership contender, it still doesn’t explain the sparse coverage of the other side. Stephen Harper was commonly portrayed as the man “of whom we know so little”, which dove-tailed so well with the “hidden agenda” smear. Furthermore, Conservative leadership contenders, with the possible exception of Belinda Strohsack, sorry Stronach, never received a fraction of the coverage given Harper (when he won the leadership), and Harper received precisely one-seventh of Ignatieff’s space. And Ignatieff isn’t even leader yet, he’s merely one candidate among 11, or 10, or was it 42?

Why is this? Look for the simplest explanation, and it rests not so much with Ignatieff as it does with Solzhenitsyn.

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