Opinion Column

Transparency needed in press conferences

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Stephen Harper. (Postmedia)

Stephen Harper. (Postmedia)

We pride ourselves on being a transparent organization, open to all — potential members, curious onlookers, researchers et al. — Canadian Ethnic Media Association

Is it discrimination to hold ethnic-media-only news conferences where English-language journalists are deliberately excluded – or just political pandering?

Vancouver is one of the world’s most integrated and diverse cities, yet we still see ethnic media segregation.

Why do some ethnic media get invites while others seen to be more critical in their coverage are excluded?

And do so-called mainstream media perpetuate the need for politicians to meet separately with ethnic journalists because issues concerning their communities simply aren’t news to English-language outlets?

Tough questions, all prompted by 24 hours Vancouver’s Jeremy Nuttall, who broke the national story that Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper held a secret and lengthy news conference in Vancouver this month – but only for invited ethnic media. Christy Clark is no different as the B.C. premier held an “ethnic media roundtable” last week that was crashed by 10 English-language media outlets after 24 hours Vancouver publicized it.

Still, Clark’s communication director Ben Chin told media that he didn’t “think” the ethnic-only events would change in the future.

New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix also held an Asian-media only “newser” this month, but allowed 24 hours Vancouver to attend when a request was made.

This is all wrong.

And it’s about politicians attempting to pander to particular ethnic communities outside the scrutiny of other media, sometimes sending very different messages than the ones English-language mainstream media are getting from the same party.

But I confess to personally helping organize ethnic-media-only news conferences for premier Clark – but it was Glen Clark, not Christy, way back in 1996 when I was communications director to him.

Ethnic-media-only news conferences weren’t controversial then, but one would hope that 18 years later more progress would have been made and separate events wouldn’t be necessary.

Ethnic-media-only news conferences may not be discrimination but they are increasingly anachronistic and controversial.

So here’s a radical suggestion for politicians in 2014: be totally transparent, invite all media regardless of ethnicity or language to attend all news conferences on whatever the topic and let them decide if they want to attend.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read more at billtieleman.blogspot.com Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman


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