Journalist shows up at wrong event, writes juicy story for Ottawa reporters

One of the favourite narratives of the Ottawa media is that the Prime Minister doesn’t talk to them on enough occasions. This, of course lazily and unfairly extends to “doesn’t talk to reporters”. However, while some in Ottawa may yearn for more face-time with the PM, the PM’s comms focus has always prioritized local and regional news to get the story told outside of the “Ottawa bubble” and outside of the pack mentality of some in the Ottawa press gallery.

Yet, here’s a local reporter, getting a lot of buzz in Ottawa this morning among my fellow flacks and hacks on Twitter. Brad Bird’s story about a Prime Ministerial “snub” at a shellfish research centre in BC fits the Ottawa press narrative but has me a bit puzzled because it goes against the PMO local media outreach strategy. Or does it? Local reporter Brad Bird wrote,

For the media it was an odd dance, since no talking with the PM was permitted, and he allowed but that single comment to acknowledge them, during the quarter-hour allowed.

“Give ya 30 bucks if ya ask a question,” one scribe said to another. But it wasn’t that easy. He was too far away for that, and engaged with others. Interrupting would have been rude.

Reporters gathered for an event and no questions? Why? Here’s the event notice from the PMO that went out to all reporters,

September 7, 2010
Ottawa, Ontario

Public events for Prime Minister Stephen Harper for Wednesday, September 8th are:

Deep Bay, British Columbia

1:00 p.m. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper will Tour the Vancouver Island University Centre for Shellfish Research. He will be joined by James Lunney, Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Alberni.

Vancouver Island University
Deep Bay Field Station
Deep Bay, British Columbia

*Photo Opportunity Only

There are no questions at photo ops of course, but can we really have a PM that only does photo ops? Oh wait. There were two media avails later that day. From the same notice,

Nanaimo, British Columbia

3:00 p.m. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper will make an announcement at Nanaimo’s Cruise Ship Berth. He will be joined by Stockwell Day, President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway; and James Lunney, Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Alberni.

Nanaimo Port Authority – Assembly Wharf
11 Port Way
Nanaimo, British Columbia

*Open to Media

NOTES:

• Media are required to present proper identification for accreditation.

Victoria, British Columbia

6:00 p.m. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper will deliver remarks. He will be joined by Stockwell Day, President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway; and Gary Lunn, Minister of State for Sport.

Hatley Castle at Royal Roads University
2005 Sooke Road
Victoria, British Columbia

*Open to media

NOTES:

• Media are required to present proper identification for accreditation.

From Bird’s article,

This wasn’t Jean Chretien, who enjoyed engaging with media.

Chretien would come over and talk to us. Sometimes he’d get all choked up about it, or someone else would, he was that intimate.

If Bird remembers the days of Chretien, surely he’s enough of a press vet to know the difference between a photo op and a media avail?

UPDATE (2/25/2011): Brad Bird sends me an email and I’ve received his permission to publish it below.

Comments

comments

  • real conservative

    Bird is a Liberal based upon info provided, of course he would love teflon Jean to come back and parade around promising to help the military, the Indians, the North and all the other people that Liberals never did squat for. Sun TV please!!

  • calgaryjunkie

    It’s been said of PM Harper that he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. How foolish can a reporter get–
    he misses “*Photo Opportunity Only”, at the bottom of the event notice. And then he extapolates from his oversight, and gives this mediocre political “analysis” at the end of his column:

    “And you have to think that Mr. Harper might ultimately be the loser in this game he’s playing, setting himself apart from the media rabble. Because while it may be safer in some ways, it also has its risks: being seen as lacking courage is one of them, and failing to address local concerns is another.

    I think we need a new word for this guy. Even “buffoon” doesn’t do him justice.

  • calgaryjunkie

    It’s been said of PM Harper that he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. How foolish can a reporter get–
    he misses “*Photo Opportunity Only”, at the bottom of the event notice. And then he extapolates from his oversight, and gives this mediocre political “analysis” at the end of his column:

    “And you have to think that Mr. Harper might ultimately be the loser in this game he’s playing, setting himself apart from the media rabble. Because while it may be safer in some ways, it also has its risks: being seen as lacking courage is one of them, and failing to address local concerns is another.

    I think we need a new word for this guy. Even “buffoon” doesn’t do him justice.

  • Gabby in QC

    “Chretien would come over and talk to us. Sometimes he’d get all choked up about it, or someone else would, he was that intimate..

    What a bird brain! Chretien would get “all choked up”? I thought HE was the one doing the choking to others.

    I’ve often lamented the PM doesn’t do enough pressers or Q&As for my taste, thus allowing the media to fill in the gaps with their own imaginative interpretation of events or invention of non-events.

    But why didn’t any of the “reporters” react when the PM spoke to them, when he asked them “Did they tell you this is all oyster shells?” That was an opening from the PM, perhaps not to ask for the PM’s solution to world peace (sarc.), but an opening nevertheless a savvy reporter might have used for a little chatter. Is Bird THAT docile that he was intimidated by the “bulges” in the PM’s security detail?

  • Bec

    The ‘Oceanside Star’ should ask for his paycheque from this month, returned. He didn’t earn it when his missed the opportunity to get his job done.

    Far to many losers like him out there, pretending to be reporters. Lazy and really lazy, says it all.

  • Mthielen

    Wasn’t there another case recently of reporters going to the wrong site, in one of the Atlantic prov, and then try to do a story that the PM snubbed them.

  • batb

    O. M. G.

    What kind of credibility can you have — not a shred, I suggest — when you purposely misrepresent Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s intentions towards the media. How ungracious can you get, when the PM offers two opportunities for you, a reporter — all reporters — to ask him questions and you don’t show up at either BUT show up for what was announced as a photo op only about which you then whine and whinge sour grapes because you weren’t able to ask Mr. Harper any questions?

    None of this guy’s pistons fired — and he blames Prime Minister Harper! Next thing you know, he’ll be blaming George Dubya.

    Bad Birdy.

  • Webbjan02

    I noticed no one took credit for this disgusting journalism. Having helped organize the Hatley Park event, I know what this fool writes is patently untrue. Harper was VERY well-versed on Island issues and his address was particularly pertinent to lower Island residents. He left Ottawa early in the morning, flew to Nanaimo for their function, then came to Victoria. The press was notified well in advance. In spite of his gruelling schedule, he stayed until much later, to allow the families that attended an opportunity to have a photo with him – until 8:00 p,m, Pacific Time. He must have been dog tired. 500 people attended (considerably more than Ignatieff attracted, but not a breath about that.) Unfortunately, the media is centred in Victoria (entrenched with NDP influence), but the 2 ridings surrounding it are more pro-Conservative. We locals face this bias continually.

  • Webbjan02

    I noticed no one took credit for this disgusting journalism. Having helped organize the Hatley Park event, I know what this fool writes is patently untrue. Harper was VERY well-versed on Island issues and his address was particularly pertinent to lower Island residents. He left Ottawa early in the morning, flew to Nanaimo for their function, then came to Victoria. The press was notified well in advance. In spite of his gruelling schedule, he stayed until much later, to allow the families that attended an opportunity to have a photo with him – until 8:00 p,m, Pacific Time. He must have been dog tired. 500 people attended (considerably more than Ignatieff attracted, but not a breath about that.) Unfortunately, the media is centred in Victoria (entrenched with NDP influence), but the 2 ridings surrounding it are more pro-Conservative. We locals face this bias continually.

  • Liz J

    What do they teach in schools of journalism theses days, how to fabricate and spin the facts to manipulate opinion?

    If Birdie is a professional journalist surely he knows the difference between a photo-op and a Q&A session.
    Of course he does but he wouldn’t have this little bit of concocted dirt to write about . How pathetic.

  • Liz J

    What do they teach in schools of journalism theses days, how to fabricate and spin the facts to manipulate opinion?

    If Birdie is a professional journalist surely he knows the difference between a photo-op and a Q&A session.
    Of course he does but he wouldn’t have this little bit of concocted dirt to write about . How pathetic.

  • john g

    But lets all remember, Fox News North is the biased one.

  • Oldweesie

    Jean Chretien knew who his party’s sympathizers were. Of course he would walk up to them and exchange convivialities and love embraces. Puke!

  • Mthielen

    Seems there are a lot of “Blairs” working for our media.

  • Mthielen

    Seems there are a lot of “Blairs” working for our media.