When I was a fresh-faced young radio reporter in the days before journalists discovered ethics, we would occasionally—on slow days when news was in short supply—create our own.“Did you hear the rumour?” one reporter might say to another. “The premier is thinking of calling a snap election.”
“Really?” the second reporter would reply. “We should check that out.”
Within a few hours, we would have our lead story. “Premier G.I. Smith is denying rumours he plans to call a snap election…”
Other media outlets, relieved to have “news” they didn’t have to work for, would match our non-story. Without crediting us for our nonsensical non-sourcing. And so it went.
Journalists today generally don’t stoop to such tactics; they have standards. Besides, they don’t have to. Political insiders, with too few standards and too much Twitter-tapping time, are happy to make stuff up for us.
How else to explain the recently reported round of provincial “election fever.”
Liberal tweeterers, hunkered in the bunker of their election war-room-in-waiting, began 140-character speculating Premier Darrell Dexter was about to trigger a fall election. Tory twits followed suit, creating an irresistible social media echo chamber for reporters, who had no choice but to ask Dexter about it, who had no choice but to deny it.
But, I mean… Really?
The NDP is trailing the Liberals in public opinion polls. They are facing a no-win electoral boundaries mess of their own making they can only make worse by calling a fall election using existing boundaries. Their opponents are promoting seemingly attractive short-term power rate fixes that won’t stand up to long-term analysis, but the government will need time to debunk them before asking voters to render final judgment.
At the same time, the NDP is still hoping to introduce a balanced budget next spring—triggering sugar-plum voter visions of an HST cut—at around the same auspicious time construction begins on a new Halifax convention centre and pre-pre work heats up on the $35-billion shipbuilding contract and the $1.2 billion Nova Scotia-Newfoundland link for the Lower Church power project…
A fall election? Hardly.
But the rumour-debunk-the-rumour still makes for an easy column… er, news story. And so it still goes.