Excessive media attention or a sign of the times?

Senator Pamela Wallin has been subjected to excessive media attention. | Photo by Richard Burdett, Wikimedia Commons

Senator Pamela Wallin has been subjected to excessive media attention. | Photo by Richard Burdett, Wikimedia Commons

Maybe it’s because the whole thing reached a climax in the middle of summer – a time when even political media seem to be on holiday – but, really, this expenses business at the Senate has received unusual attention. Don’t think for a minute that I am trying to be an apologist for deeds done. If illegal acts were committed, well, guilty parties will have to pay. But why all of this attention?

Reading and listening to the very many reports on Senator Pamela Wallin’s travel habits and expense reports, I recognized in them certain behaviours that aren’t exclusive to Sen. Wallin. True, eyebrows may be raised by the whole business, as Sen. Wallin’s numerous and so-called work-related expenses are, it seems, clearly not related. But as for some of her other expenses ­– a little meeting or two, in her official role, which by chance coincided with some partisan activity in the neighbourhood – she wouldn’t be the first to make use of that ploy.

She is certainly not the first or the last Senate member to find herself in the right place at the right time during official travels. It’s not reason enough to give her a pass, but the virulence of the media storm surrounding this issue surprises me a bit. As I said at the start, it must be because it’s summertime.

It is as though someone timed this news report on purpose, perhaps in order to draw all eyes to the Senate at this very period in time. And not kind eyes. No! Eyes full of anger and ready to get even. Could it be that this sorry episode is akin to the straw that broke the camel’s back? Well, the Harper government will surely have to pay a price in the short term, but is it possible that this senatorial scandal will lead the same government to arm itself with arguments and finally move forward toward Senate reforms? It’s not unthinkable. We’ll probably hear about it when the government unveils its political agenda, at the next Speech from the Throne.

But I want to get back to the media space this issue has occupied over the past few weeks. A U.S. poll gives us a peek at what people think when it comes to the role of media. It explains a bit about why media focus so much on our leaders. In fact, according to Pew Research Centre, and bearing in mind that our neighbours south of the border are quite critical, more than two-thirds think the guard dog role played by media blocks our leaders from doing what they should not do.

As for the rest, the poll doesn’t shine a very bright light on the media. Only a very small percentage of Americans think that media are factual, fair or independent. This might explain why non-traditional media are gaining in popularity.

But back to Sen. Wallin and the political class in general. They will have to get used to the fact that journalists will, more than ever, keep spotlights on their behaviour whenever their actions don’t pass the test of integrity. It seems to be one of their last entrenchments.

Translation Monique Kroeger