Can Canada's Harper Teach Bush a Lesson in Media Relations?

Most Americans don't care one whit about news from Canada,
justifiably so. I think at least some Americans, namely the press folk
in the Bush White House, are keeping an eye on how Stephen Harper, the
new Conservative prime minister (whose party is in power after decades
of Liberal dominance) is taking no prisoners when it comes to dealing
with a press that is actually further left-biased than the one in this

There are two effective ways of dealing with the press,
neither of which has been pursued by the Bush White House up
until new press secretary Tony Snow started practicing the
genial-but-tough tactic.

One gets the impression that Harper and his staff are pursuing the "bad cop" route, based on
the conclusion that making nice with journalists who despise you, your
party, and your policies, doesn't do much good.

The latest proof of
this is that Harper has let it be known that he
won't be attending
the annual Parliamentary
Press Gallery dinner, Canada's version of the White House
Correspondents Association confab over a dispute about media behavior
at press conferences.

Harper, like his Liberal predecessor, wants
to keep the practice of a staffer calling out a reporter's name before
he or she is allowed to speak. For its part, the press wants to return
to its regular practice of shouting out questions with whoever is the
loudest and most brash getting called on by the PM.

So far, the "bad cop" approach seems to be working for Harper. His poll ratings
have gone up significantly since the Consevatives took power two months
ago. Will Snow's "good cop" approach work similar magic for Bush? Will Harper's no-nonsense approach make journalists increase their attacks? Only time will tell.

Canada Government & Press
Matthew Sheffield's picture