"We are all in mortal peril of disappearing up our own backsides."
Perhaps I'm late to the party; perhaps this has already been knocked around the blogosphere ad infinitum, and the few readers stumbling across this mostly dormant site are already rolling their eyes.
But Andrew Coyne's scathing indictment of political reporting in this country is devastatingly on point:
But here's the thing: in his secret heart of hearts, that's who the journalist wishes he was — one of the players, the guys in the room, and not one of those legions of drudges who must forever stand and wait outside the door. We write about the horse race, the polls and the strategy, not because it matters to our readers, but because it matters to the pros, the people we cover, the people we idolize. We parrot their language, even as we absorb their values: the latest campaign ad is analyzed from any number of angles — Will it work? Is it on-message? — except the most obvious: is it true?
My only quibble with his piece is the lack of context. I fear he neglected to measure political reporting against any other type of reporting in Canada, because the analysis would have only become more depressing.
The truth is that, bad as it is - and every criticism he levels is fair and true - political reporting is one of the things journalists do best. I'd say sports reporting is the only other category of journalism where the paid media have as much knowledge of the game, the players, the inside scoop, as they do in the political arena.
Put another way: if you think political reporting in Canada is poor, try critiquing military reporting, as we do over at The Torch.
As a journalist said to me the other day, "Journalism isn't a profession - there are no standards, or bodies enforcing those standards; nothing like a College of Physicians or Law Society. No, journalism is a craft."
He was right. Unfortunately for us, it's all too often a poorly practiced craft these days.