Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Liberals and the Right Wing Media

Trying to use the media as a vehicle for getting your message out is like trying to pass a message to someone across a large room by having a series of people whisper in the ear of the person next to them. What message is eventually received is seldom the same as the message given. Some people will hear about such talking points though an unsystematic columnist or pundit, others will discover it buried in a lengthily article and so on and so on. None of these scenarios has been focused grouped for. People in focus groups are exposed to the talking point and only the talking point.

Liberals in particular would be fatally ill advised to ignore this problem. Being the third party they will be given less opportunity by the media to speak directly to Canadians and there is now an overwhelming body of evidence that 1) the bulk of pundits are conservative and 2) the vast majority of articles about the Liberals are negative. The former goes a long way in explaining why the Conservatives have garnered so many more endorsements than other major political parties. In 2006 22 newspapers endorsed the Conservatives and 1 paper endorsed the Liberals 1 endorsed the Green Party and 1 the Bloc. In 2008 20 papers endorsed the Conservatives 3 the Liberals 1 the Bloc and 1 the NDP. In 20011 28 papers endorsed the Conservatives 2 the NDP, 1 the Bloc. As for the later, the last 4 McGill media election studies are a great place to start. I do not care how well a particular talking point focused grouped if it is buried in a negative piece or hammered by a pundit it is probably not going to be worth much.

In order to combat such a short coming the Liberal party is going to have to assume the role of a liberal pundit class that simply does not exist in this country and that means the Liberal party will actually have develop some academically respectable arguments. Board based talking points will not do the trick. They are easy fodder for any well informed person. The party needs to challenge the legions of conservative columnists least various Conservative positions become received wisdom. Factual errors need to be pointed out, non sequiturs need to be mocked and detailed arguments provided. The party needs to be vicious. Ignatieff talked about wanting to the be the party that bases its decisions on sound reasoning and science. A good way of establishing such a reputation is take a conservative pundit out to the wood shed on occasion. When a conservative columnist retires the Liberals should share Trudeau's lament: "I'm sorry I won't have you to kick around any more." Special attention needs to be given to the following papers: The Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun, Winnipeg Free Press, Ottawa Citizen and the Montreal Gazette.

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