On Wednesday, October 10, on CBC Radio Crosstalk, provincial affairs reporter David Cochrane said the following:
"A lot of people talk about elections being about ideas and policies and the reality is, it isn't. You've got the four-year gap between elections and that's when everyone talks about their policies and ideas. The 21 or whatever days of the campaign is about working the phones, finding out who may vote for you, identifying them and then getting them out on voting day. It is a mechanical exercise with the air war of the leaders traveling around to give you a little bit of a bounce. But it's an operational exercise more than a philosophical exercise."
I found this a little shocking. David is a brilliant guy who I respect enormously, but on this one he has lost me.
Why can't we discuss the real issues? Why can't we ask extremely tough questions, the kind that set the leaders back on their heels groping for an answer? if their campaign shenanigans distract us from that, to heck with it - ignore the dog and pony show. Boycott the bus. The time would be better spent digging into what the politicans have said and done over the previous four years, and comparing that with what they promise to do in the future.
I think elections should be a time to ramp up the tough questioning of our politicians. Sure, send the reporters out on the hustings to tell us what the leaders are saying, and make hay when they screw up. That's part of the entertainment. But if that becomes the primary focus of our election coverage, something is wrong with the system.
During elections, I think newsrooms should assign a crack team of journalists to pick apart the platforms of all parties. Crunch the numbers. Do the reality check. If there is inaccuracy, hypocrisy, blatant stupidity or deliberate untruth, come out and say so. To me, that is the real news; not the staged stuff we see on the road.
I could be wrong and this is strictly my opinion, but an election is when reporters should ramp up their scrutiny of politicians, and dig - really dig - into what they are all about.
I know that David was making an observation and I invite him to add some context of his own to this discussion.