Media stenography: The CBC can't bring itself to call Hudak's plan what it is
May 28, 2014

Media stenography: The CBC can't bring itself to call Hudak's plan what it is

If you haven't heard, Hudak's so called Million Jobs plan is more like a 75,000 jobs plan, based on an obvious mistake that meant most of his numbers were multiplied by 8. That is the best case scenario, accepting all the numbers selectively pulled from a particular report, accepting the half million odd jobs that would be created anyways regardless of his plan, accepting the rosy predictions for economic growth, and accepting that his deep austerity cuts and layoffs don't destroy said rosy predictions.

The plan, in short, turned out to be utter nonsense. It was utter nonsense before the error was caught, but now that the error has been caught (and, to be clear, it appears to be accidental), there should be nothing holding the CBC and every other media out there from eviscerating the plan for the utter nonsense it is.

So what does the CBC do? They have to cover it, of course, and here is what they write:

Tim Hudak defends math used in PCs' million jobs planTim Hudak was forced to defend his "Million Jobs Plan" Wednesday as a growing number of economists questioned the math behind the Ontario Progressive Conservative leader's promise, which is the centrepiece of his election platform.
Despite being hammered repeatedly on the issue, Hudak was adamant that the PC figures were right.
"I stand behind our numbers," he said at a furnace-making facility in Niagara Falls, Ont. "I simply believe that permanent tax reductions on job creators, more affordable energy is going to create jobs."

Hudak has promised a PC government would bring a million jobs to Ontario over the next eight years, although about half of those would be created through normal economic growth, regardless of which party is in government.
First the Liberals, and then a number of prominent economists, including a former federal associate deputy minister of finance, have poked holes in Hudak's numbers. They focus, in particular, on the possibility that the Tories misinterpreted information from a Conference Board of Canada report commissioned by the PCs.
"A number of highly respected independent economists have gone through Tim Hudak's plan. They have said that it is riddled with errors," Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne said. "I think it's pretty clear that Tim Hudak and his team got it flat wrong."

That is the title and opening six paragraphs. To be fair, if you read beyond it, the CBC does quote an economist who explains the basic mistake. But if you were skimming the title and first portion of the article, what conclusion would you come to?

It gives a quote from Hudak saying the numbers are true, along with a quaint platitude about the economy. It gives a quote from Wynne saying the numbers are false. This isn't reporting, it is media stenography of the scripted partisan talking points. It isn't illuminating the truth about an important situation, it is letting the truth be buried behind platitudes that leaves the casual reader unlikely to be better informed about their decision. Two political leaders are disagreeing, nothing to see here!

Even when it comes to identifying the error in the latter half of the the article, it is done entirely from quotes by an economist. The CBC themselves can't call it out as nonsense, they can just quote an economist who does this, after making sure they get the obligatory responses from Hudak and Wynne out the door first.

The closest the CBC comes is saying there is "the possibility" that Hudak misrepresented the report. Isn't doing the investigating to determine whether the plan does or does not misrepresent the report precisely what we want our journalists to do, so that we don't have to? Can they really not say anything more definitive themselves than there there is a possibility of this egregious mistake?

The media in general, and the CBC doubly so in specific, try to act as if they are formerly nonpartisan, at least outside of their opinion pages. I think this is a good thing, and don't like the idea of a couple powerful news editors driving the political agenda.

However, there is a difference between nonpartisan, and this version of "balanced" political coverage where one quotes the one side, quotes the other side, and calls it a day. Nonpartisan means you explain the facts to the electorate, and if those facts help one side so be it. It doesn't mean you become a stenographer whose singular dedication is to equal quote length for all parties.

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Anonymous said...

Another election where the only players are the media and the buyers. Voters? Who cares?

Anonymous said...

so many Canadians think the CBC is Liberal. What a joke!

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