From “The drought is over”, by Douglas Fisher, writing at the age of 81, as published in the Ottawa Sunday Sun, September 2, 2001, p. 6:

Consider the press gallery on the Hill, some 400 strong…

When I first hit the Hill in 1957 as an MP, there were a mere 80 gallery members, all working in print. The numbers rocketed to over 100 with John Diefenbaker’s huge popularity in 1958. Shortly, gallery membership was extended to radio and TV reporters and producers, jolting it upwards. Given the Chief’s messy troubles, the racy years of Pearsonian scandals, then the wave of national enthusiasm for Pierre Trudeau in 1968, the gallery list swelled well over the 200 mark, and from there moved rather steadily toward and past 300 and on to 400.

What’s most surprising or in need of explanation about this growth?

The rise in numbers would suggest a strengthening in the quality of the coverage, but this misses (a) the remarkably high turnover of gallery members and (b) the scarcity of subject specialists amongst them.

Over the decades, there have been as many gallery members coming and going as there havee been Members of Parliament. So, for better or worse, the press gallery as a collectivity is not a host of long, institutional memories.

The dearth of journalistic specialists in Ottawa is truly surprising. Washington may hve its White House corps of reporters, but Ottawa hasn’t any [Prime Minister’s Office] group. Rather, one might tag most of the many day-to-day reporters on the gallery list as the Question Period Corps.

The bulk of the coverage of politics emanating from the press gallery’s members continues to be by generalists, and most of the larger operations within the press gallery membership focus most on party leaders.

Generally, they chase the same story lines…

There seem to be no more reporters in the press gallery today who are specialists on, say, finance and taxation, or the Constitution and federal-provincial relations, or the cabinet and its role, or bureaucratic excellence, or on the fields of health, labour, transport, environment, cultural and electoral law, than there were 30 years ago…

Had there been reporters specializing in financial reporting to counter the wasted parliamentary time on alleged “deferred” taxes of corporations

Thinking about how Marjorie Nichols emphasized the importance of reporters actually reading and analyzing the reports…

And there are how many press gallery members today


About brucelarochelle
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