Can we change the channel?

10Dec08

News editors and directors know what people like to read, right? They know what will sell papers? They know which news matters and which is irrelevant?

I always assumed the grizzled veterans of Canada’s newsrooms knew what their readers wanted to read. And maybe they do. Today, though, is one of those days when I doubt their collective wisdom.

I’m convinced that Everyday Canadians could not care a morsel less about Michael Ignatieff’s ascent to the Liberal throne. This is big news simply because, well, it is. This particular journalist-academic-turned-politician has everything someone needs in order to be Big News.

This morning, MediaScout’s Vivian Belik summed it up simply and appropriately: Ignatieff Rises to the Top. It was a long time coming, apparently.

A brief history of the career of Canada’s Next Prime Minister (as many assume, rightly or wrongly):

Born in Canada.
Son of a diplomat.
Grandson of a Russian cabinet minister from the days of Nicholas II.
Noted journalist for the venerable BBC who reported from places like Iraq.
Reputed academic who published books about human rights, right, and rights.
Upstart politician who won a suburban Toronto seat in the 2006 federal election.
Leader of the Liberals, Canada’s “signature political party”

That’s quite an ascent to Canadian political royalty, and newsmen and women obviously love it. They have covered Ignatieff’s every move since he returned to Canada in 2005. I wonder how many stories have been written about him — thousands, probably, in the last three years.

Today, his story led the Globe, the Star, and the Post. Maybe they all cover the story so excitedly because they know every other national reporter is on the same job.

But why do I think that most people in the country don’t care? Neither the Edmonton Journal, the Calgary Herald, Vancouver’s Province, the Winnipeg Sun, or Montreal’s Gazette led with Ignatieff.

These are large papers that serve large constituencies. Of course, they are also local papers and as such, they often lead with local issues. But it begs the question: Is today’s most important national news story the one that tells readers about Ignatieff’s rise to (almost) power?

Maybe it is. But after a couple of weeks of political chaos, I’m inclined to think that Everyday Canadians want to read about something else. Turn the channel, as it were.

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2 Responses to “Can we change the channel?”

  1. Hate to break it to you, but it’s been “a long time coming” for you to get a new phrase. Twice in two days???

  2. 2 nicktaylorvaisey

    Ouch, duly noted. I guess I could pretend that I planned that, and that “a long time coming” will be used in some capacity at least every day.


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