I’ve received word that the Parliamentary Press Gallery walked out of an announcement by the Prime Minister today regarding aid for Sudan. The PM was to announce $20 million in humanitarian aid for the country and $20 million for implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement.
I’ve heard that a handful of journalists snubbed the PM by walking out on him during the announcement because they are mad about the issue of the ‘media list’.
Before press conferences, the PMO invites journalists to order themselves on a list for the purposes of running a smooth Q&A. However, journalists are complaining that this deviates from the practice of yelling out questions over their colleagues on occasion and controlling the meetings themselves on the bulk of the other pressers. They also fear that they may not be called upon if they aren’t favoured by the PMO. However, I’ve heard that the PM has exhausted the media list every time there is one and no reporter has yet complained that they weren’t called upon when they’ve put themselves on the list. UPDATE: An email from a reporter in the PPG asserts that these last couple of points are untrue. According to my source, reporters have been passed over and the list hasn’t always been exhausted. According to another PPG source, this isn’t to punish reporters but it is likely done to focus the message to the appropriate media outlets (e.g. Vancouver or Quebec or to the multicultural press).
UPDATE: One of my PPG sources said that the list is likely going to be the make-or-break, do-or-die, die-on-this-hill issue between the PMO and the PPG. I’ve heard that the walkout wasn’t planned before-hand and that only a few reporters remained (including CTV’s Bob Fife and the Star’s Graham Fraser).
One of my PPG friends argued that what the PMO is doing is philosophically wrong by controlling access to the Prime Minister and that the walkout had nothing to do with the ease of doing one’s job. To that I responded that if the reporters were walking out on principle, the PPG has essentially become a political group and not an unbiased observer of events.
Further, the crux of the PPG argument seems to be based upon the fact that since the old method was used in the past, that it is the correct method for the present. Again, the PMO has a communications strategy and it seems that they have determined the fulcrum point of their relationship with the PPG. Now the PPG has adjusted the balance and we’ll see if the PMO responds.
However, it may only stay as the stuff of insider baseball as the Conservatives are now at 43% and the rest of Canada (those outside the PPG) don’t seem to care.
UPDATE: The reporters that stayed for the press conference shuffled off to the sides out of the view of the cameras so that they wouldn’t serve as “Harper props”. This is getting somewhat childish…