19 November 2015

Kicking ass in political coverage #nlpoli

The province’s major media outlets have taken different approaches to political coverage in this election from what they did last time.

The result has been one of the most interesting campaigns in recent memory.

First with the political news…

In the second week of the campaign, VOCM has been kicking ass with a series of polls commissioned from Abacus Data.  Tim Power’s firm has been producing poll results with much more interesting and useful data than we’ve seen in the province for a while. Their work so far in the 2015 election has consistently made news.

VOCM started out with a poll showing the Liberals with a massive lead over both the NDP and the Conservatives.  They followed up this week with a set of four polls looking at individual district races.  The first one confirmed that Liberal Siobhan Coady has a massive lead over New Democrat Earle McCurdy.  The second one showed Premier Paul Davis is also getting his ass kicked in his own district.

The third poll will likely show that Deputy Premier Steve Kent is in trouble in his district.  By the time you read this the results will likely already be on the street.. The fourth poll will look at the race in Windsor Lake.  That one will almost certainly confirm that Dipper turned Tory Ryan Cleary couldn’t see the back end of Liberal Cathy Bennett if he had the Hubble telescope.  Bennett is that far ahead.

The score for VOCM here has been in getting the other media to carry their story, often as a major part of their newscast, complete with the the attribution to VOCM.  Other news outlets in the province could take a lesson from VOCM’s highly successful news coverage of the campaign thus far.

Next week, look forward to the VOCM leader’s debate.  This is the one Dwight Ball’s people decided to skip even though he will be in town and could make himself available for it.  Depending on the format, this could be a big news or a big snooze.


NTV fell flat on its face with the leader’s debate on Monday night.  The format was one that has long-proven to be terrible.  Host Glen Carter bungled the show badly.  The result was a confused mess that did no one any good, least of all NTV itself.  To make matters worse, NTV followed up the hour-long debate with an hour of three party operatives spouting predictable lines. 

Other than that, NTV coverage has been its usual stolid stuff.  Mike Connors is knowledge, professional, and fair and he’s proven himself time and again as one of the leading journalists in the province.    NTV has used MQO for polling data.  MQO, a local firm, does decent work.  The problem for NTV is that MQO obviously doesn’t have the political analytical chops of a firm like Abacus and it never releases detailed poll reports for others to chew over and – more importantly  - circulate widely.

The Telegram

If you want solid coverage from around the province, The Telegram is your sure bet.  That’s the advantage of having a daily in St. John’s and Corner Brook coupled with the weeklies in every other part of the province.

Solid means thorough and accurate.

In 2011,  the Telly took a leap and partnered with Corporate research Associates on a batch of polling.  The idea was to generate lots of copy easily.  At that level it succeeded.  Unfortunately, the content didn’t shed any light at all on anything going on in the province.

They are making up for that by providing reliable election reporting every day.  The telly website includes a simple interactive map with information on each district.


For all the resources at its disposal, the mighty Ceeb’s main political story on Wednesday’s radio news was from VOCM.  That reflects a curious editorial choice but it also says a lot about the way CBC views its own reporting on the campaign. 

You can say the same thing about the Outsiders panel that Here and Now has been running.  The first instalment ran at the bitter end of Here and Now.  Not exactly a prime spot.  The second instalment, the night after the first televised leaders’ debate was a short spot (less than seven minutes) in the second half hour of the show. Again, not a prime spot.  All that tells you that even CBC’s own producers aren’t looking to this to do more than fill space.

The other panel – Good Lord do we really need two? – is made up of some very familiar, very dull faces offering highly predictable commentary from a partisan perspective.  Shawn Skinner is commenting for the Tories.  John Hogan is the Liberal.  Lana Payne is the NDP “insider.”  That’s a bit of a joke since only a couple of weeks earlier,  Memorial University’s political science department featured Payne on the grounds she wasn’t politically affiliated.

In any event,  this is pretty flat stuff devoid of either sparks or the odd light-bulb-over-the-head moment.  That’s entirely a function of the folks sitting on the panel. Different faces could have given either entertainment or insight. They might even have given both. There are a few colourful ex-politicians still around.  An experienced ex-journalist or two - Doug Letto springs immediately to mind – who could have added miles of depth to CBC’s on-air analysis.  Otherwise, CBC’s television coverage of the election has been reliably good.

Over on radio,  and despite fewer resources overall folks are managing to fit in some decent election coverage among all the other stuff going on in the province.  No one is setting the world on fire, but the calibre of the reporting is good.  Ditto the online presence and for the bulk of TV reporting.  That counts for a lot.

CBC has a televised debate of its own coming up on Monday night.  Hosted by David Cochrane,  the show will run for an hour and a half.  While they haven’t announced the format,  presumably it will vastly different from the NTV fiasco.  Here’s where CBC could score some points and produce some coverage that people will be talking about all the ay through to polling day..

In the meantime,  though, look over at VOCM.  Tip your hat to a relatively small newsroom that’s managed to score big news of its own for the first two weeks of a three week campaign.