Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Getting beyond the day-to-day buzz

As the US election approaches, the media is overflowing with stories about the campaign's final days. The hype, the shrill nature of the coverage, the "gloves are off" style of reporting are with us everywhere. But it's a high-paced kind of reporting, and I've been hoping for something a lot more thoughtful.

This past weekend, the New York Times Magazine ran this story. The piece was written by Ron Suskind, whom some of you may know as one of the most hated reporters covering the Bush White House. You can find out more about why if you want (see this) but for now, take a look at his most recent article.

It talks about the "faith-based" presidency of George W. Bush and how that runs smack up against the "reality-based" world that he's struggling to govern. It's a revealing look at Bush's first term and a sobering preview of what may be ahead in the term to come. But it's not a partisan attack. It's something closer to what history will write when someone has the luxury of looking at the events that we have been living through with the advantage of sober second thought. Already, we can see that the US reaction to the events of 9-11 have influenced today's events in ways that were never imagined at the time.

But enough about what I think about this article, and the natural questions and speculation that arise from it. Read it yourself. It's a long piece, and you'll want to take the time to sit through it all.

Then, when you're done that...we can start thinking about some of the things that are happening here in Canada that deserve a lot more sober second thought.

One Ontario item is the recent flap in the media over the resignation of a Vice-President at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. There are also allegations that other administrators have been muzzled or removed under pressure from the Liberal government. (UPDATE - I changed the source of the articles because the Star put the originals behind their pay firewall)

(Disclosure Note -- My interest in this story is decidedly personal, as well as professional. Cyndy DeGiusti, the VP in question, was my boss at Stentor for a couple of years.) Was she forced to resign for speaking out against the Liberal government's decision to force hospitals to balance their budgets at all costs? It does sort of look that way. And the government did warn hospitals that if they said anything negative about the government, there would be hell to pay...Still, it does seem a little heavy-handed.

This morning, my wife posed an interesting question. "Do you think (Ontario Premier Dalton) McGuinty has a plan? Or are they just stumbling along from one crisis to the next?" Indeed...that is the question, isn't it?

At some point, a more detailed look at exactly what is going on in the McGuinty inner circle, similar to the scrutiny now being aimed at the Bush White House, may prove revealing. I hope so.

I'll finish with this thought. Suskind paints a potrait of a President surrounded by a tight inner circle of advisors. He does not hear dissenting opinions. For him, there is only certainty that he is doing the right thing. I'm not saying that Canadian politicians are acting in a similar manner. But I find it interesting that in today's political world, leaders like George Bush (and lots of others) routinely ignore the facts while they implement their decisions. They're not about to let facts get in the way.

But as "facts", or "reality", become less relevant, where does that take us? And what does the role of the media become, if simply reporting the facts doesn't actually affect the outcome?

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