Attending the recent Liberal leadership debate in Gander, I was impressed by the depth of discussion on topics ranging from health care to education, ferry services, the plight of the fishing and forest industries and, of course, Muskrat Falls.
The five candidates followed the rules of the debate, presented thought-out positions and occasionally aroused the audience with an animated staking out of opposing views. I left at the end of the evening, satisfied that the party is taking a truly democratic and transparent process in selecting its leader.
Tuning in to the news the next day, I was surprised at the negative tone of the coverage. The debate was portrayed as a raucous event dominated by catcalls and interruptions. But I shrugged it off, assuming this must be what television has to do to sell news.
But in last Saturday’s Telegram, I was dismayed by the condemnation of the debate by experienced columnists Ed Smith and Bob Wakeham. Smith described it as “absolute mayhem” dominated by the candidates shouting and drowning each other out. In the same vein, Wakeham described it as “a debacle,” “an embarrassment,” and “Amateur Night in Gander.”
Perplexed that this did not jibe with my impression, I had to ask myself, was this the same debate I attended or did I unknowingly sleep through most of it? So, I read the columns again. Snuck into both was a statement that all the writers had seen of the debate was a clip or two on the evening news. In other words, 60 or 120 seconds from almost three hours of what was mostly an orderly discussion of the most important issues facing our province.
It’s probably true that journalists enjoy looking down their righteous noses at what they would like us to believe is a lower form of humanity — politicians. But people in glass houses should be careful what stones they throw.
The news clips were not an honest portrayal of the debate. This is not excusable, but is not surprising given television’s tendency for sensationalism and lack of real depth.
Much more should be expected of so-called respectable columnists. Their job is to dig below the surface and provide suitably thoughtful analysis. On this yardstick, both Smith and Wakeham failed miserably. Both took the easy route and relied on a couple of television minutes to form their opinions. They should know better. Their columns demonstrated lazy and cheap journalism.
Shame on them, and shame on The Telegram for publishing this rubbish.