Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Know Thine Enemy

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Know Thine Enemy

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Know thine enemy


An editorial from the St. John's Telegram, published July 19:

In the summer of 1989, a squeakily new cub reporter sat in The Telegram newsroom. He checked his notepad, lit a cigarette and picked up the phone.

The call was answered by a receptionist who swiftly put the call through ... to a cabinet minister.

The two had a conversation for about 15 minutes, whereupon they both said thanks and disconnected. The reporter checked his notes, rewound his tape, lit another cigarette and began to write.

Two things in this brief story are pure anachorisms, things that simply would not -- could not -- happen in today's newsroom.

First, it's doubtful you can find an office in the country where it is possible to smoke at your desk.

Second, and perhaps more disturbing, is the fact that today no reporter would ever be put through to the minister so easily. Connected to the department's PR specialist, yes. The minister? Directly? Not likely, especially if it wasn't on a topic the minister wanted to talk about.

Gradually over the last 20-odd years, the relationships have changed. Reporters no longer have the minister's cell number or know the receptionists by name.

And that's just the way the game is played these days.

This week, we saw further evidence of what has fuelled this change.

According to The Canadian Press, an email, dated July 4 and distributed among Ottawa media outlets, shows an official in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office asked ministerial staff across the government to draw up lists of troublesome bureaucrats and "enemy stakeholders."

The list was to be inserted into transition notes prepared for new ministers following this week's cabinet shuffle. The documents contained useful pointers for the greenhorn ministers, with handy reference sections on "Who to engage or avoid: friend and enemy stakeholders" or "What to avoid: pet bureaucratic projects. …

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