24 December 2010

Delacourt and the political rumour mill

From Susan Delacourt at The Toronto Star comes a column taking issue with two of her colleagues at other publications who have taken, it seems, to writing about a rumour as if it were true.

Delacourt quite rightly chastises her colleagues and truthfully her metaphorical pen has an edge to it that ought to cause corporeal real wounds it is so skilfully wielded.

Journalism involves investigating tips or questions, determining their accuracy, and telling the public the facts.  The difference between Misters Spector and Cohen is that they seem to have taken a little shortcut there, or worse, done it backwards. They've reported the rumour and asked other people  to investigate. I would hope that Mr. Cohen is not teaching young would-be journalists to do the same. Apart from being supremely unfair, it's also just plain lazy.

Over the past few weeks, the local political world has been beset by all manner of story.  Your humble e-scribbler tossed up two separate ones so that readers could be aware they are out there.  Neither was presented as fact.

One of them merely added a bit of colour to what had existed as whisperings but that was quite clearly becoming fairly obvious true:  within the Conservative party someone  - alone or in concert with others – had resolved to avoid a leadership contest over the next couple of months and instead have Kathy Dunderdale carry on as leader of the party and, by default as premier, until sometime after the 2011 general election.

The other, as David Cochrane reliably tweeted, is one that he tells us all he’d checked into it a couple of weeks ago and received a denial from Danny Williams’ publicist. 

That one is important, though, not for the substance of it but for the fact that it existed in the first place. Danny Williams’ left abruptly and without apparent cause or explanation.  As a result, a great many people are wondering why Williams left as quickly as he did.  A great many of those are Conservatives who have been left very unsettled by his departure. 

And if nothing else, the rather speedy exit he made created the climate in which the party is now engineering a little story to avoid a leadership contest of any kind at least until after October 2011.  People are searching for an explanation.  The Maple Leafs’ rumour seems as good as any of the others that are flying around the entire province but which are more obviously preposterous.

In a sense, that’s the same sort of discussion Susan Delacourt offers after slapping her two colleagues.  She recounts the story of the rumour story itself.  That’s actually quite useful since by telling the whole tale, Susan has helped inoculate people against this sort of foolishness in the future. 

Nothing kills corruption like daylight.

Good on Susan for spreading a little daylight on this nasty infection.

- srbp -