MY DIRTY SECRET - POLITICS IS OFTEN BORING
Once upon a time when a handful of people started the flagship of what became the Sun chain, I covered everything in Canadian politics 24/7.
I spent more time with the mayor than my wife, and talked more to the premier than with my neighbours.
It wasn't that I was that brilliant an observer - although some days I was happy to pretend - but the baby Sun didn't have reporters at the City Halls of Toronto, or the Legislature, or the Commons. If I didn't cover the budget or the fare increase or the Throne speech in my daily column on Page 4, the editors had to scramble to put together a news story.
Fortunately in those days in my mists, there was no television coverage of Question Period or the council meetings. So I could rush around grabbing the first draft of Hansard or glean some coverage of debates from the faulty and egotistical memories of the participants.
My accounts of a verbal duel was often the first time readers knew what happened. That was a break for me, but some coverage today is stuck in that past. Today it would be reported ad nauseam because of the frantic need of the electronic media to fill 24 hours with something, anything, besides old movies.
As I was saying to Steve Paikin the other day at, damn it, another retirement function for a Sun stalwart eased out the door, I really don't miss those frantic days when politics consumed every waking minute.
When the pressure eased and the Toronto Sun actually boasted an array of reporters and columnists, I rebelled a trifle and played hookey. I didn't always write about politics in the thousands of columns that I had to churn out.
I wrote about my family, the cottage, movies, anything rather than the same old debate in the Legislature that happened every spring. It was a welcome break.
The brass didn't like my departures from political coverage but I explained it helped me keep sane. Yet one publisher finally got his grumpy revenge when I retired but agreed to continue to write a column for more than a decade. The letter of agreement stipulated, and he pretended it was a joke but it wasn't, that I could only write about the cottage occasionally.
So you may well ask, what the heck has this to do with that headline about wanting to dump Trump coverage and confessing that politics is often boring?
I confessed this at a luncheon to a lawyer who said he had once dealt with me and other directors when our charity was planning to fight Betty Fox in court. (We decided that while the law was clearly on our side, the public would hate us for any legal action against the Terry Fox organization.)
He loved politics and couldn't understand that I would find the overdosing on political coverage today so boring because of my background.
I said that politics was relatively cheap to cover compared to investigative journalism and that thoughtful coverage of ALL the events of the day would require far more staff than newspapers and television now want to devote to real news and not just the latest bloody accident and what city council is going to discuss again for the tenth time this year.
I said that the previous night I had switched from the talking head panels of CNN discussing another Trump flipflop to the usual suspects on the CBC discussing federal politics in careful terms. I turned off the TV in disgust and picked up the latest Time magazine. I rather like Time (and have written for it) but it seemed every para was devoted to Trump.
So I picked up the latest Maclean's, which I rather like because (I have written for it) and it has improved recently even though tragically it has been forced into those Internet editions. Canada's national magazine had nothing much beyond provincial and national politics and politically-correct coverage of Indigenous issues (what we used to call native issues even when most natives were still calling themselves Indians in interviews.)
The ironic tragedy is that at the very same time that the voters of Canada and the United States demonstrate an incredible stupidity in their political choices and their lack of knowledge of the issues, there has never been more political coverage for them
Perhaps the problem is that so much of it is just talking head stuff. Then there is this infestation, particularly on the CBC, of what I have always called "equal time for Hitler." My argument is that if Hitler was running Germany today, there would be many authorities, especially CBC lawyers, who would order that his views be given equal time and space to the views of those great politicians opposing his evil.
There aren't just two sides to every issue. Generally there are many. There also can be confusing partisan smokescreens. But democracy is not served when gutless brass insist that their anchors and commentators refrain from telling us obvious majority views of the best proposal. It would be nice if there was some digging into the issue rather than just recording the flimflammery of politicians whose level of competence is often not getting elected.
Remember that environmental and humane activists may be on the side of the angels in what they are protecting but it would be nice not to exaggerate their clout and numbers and let their science go unchallenged. As for all the sacred cows, let them flee to the protection of India!
So my thesis is that there is too much political coverage these days. Democracy and stewardship of the public purse would get a great boost if there was less but better coverage. Right now we are boring all those men and women who we really want to understand the facts, and to realize that there are no alternative facts in the real world.
The typical political session is boring repetition. We have to hire more observers who can dig the nuggets out of the BS and not just think a good day's work is repeating the usual arguments from the usual suspects.