What if there was an election and the Media did not report it?
It came very close to that…locally.
There was an election, and as the Ontario PC Candidate in Ottawa Centre we did not win. We did increase our vote; we are now neck and neck with the NDP as the alternative party to the incumbent Liberals in the riding. These things we are pleased with, we exceeded the expectations we laid out for my campaign.
But there was also an election where many local races were not covered for many reasons. So what voters would have heard on a daily basis is what the Party Leaders did that day on the campaign trail and the countless ads that ran on radio (of which my campaign ran on four radio stations for ten days leading to the blackout period), television, internet ads (again which my campaign also participated in) and in print.
Here is a breakdown on how I felt the local media covered our campaign in Ottawa Centre.
We were happy to be on CFRA one Saturday evening with Nick Vandergragt, but other than those 30 minutes, CFRA did not include my campaign in any all candidate roundtables and tended to only feature “prominent” local candidates as was stated by early afternoon host Rick Gibbons. I was very pleased that some of my colleagues from the around the region were asked to take part as their message would also be mine – but it would have been nice to be able to have the opportunity to debate the issues myself.
From what I can gather, 1310 News did not feature local campaigns, I was not asked and there was no request for a riding profile or candidate profile.
The CBC Radio 1 afternoon drive show drew names out of hat to see what topic and what riding and candidates would take part. CBC started this one week into the campaign, allowing for four weeks to discuss issues. With 7 “Ottawa” ridings, a few were going to be left out of their election lottery. The Local Morning show did not inquire or ask me to come on air. CBC did come by our Election festivities and asked for comments on the results.
Kudos go to several local papers, including the Kitchissippi Times, the Ottawa South Review and Metroland Media for reaching out and giving space to all candidates in Ottawa Centre.
The major papers, the Citizen and Sun stuck, for the most part, to covering the Leaders and their campaign tours.
The Ottawa Citizen has some local coverage, online. It could have been the timing with the relaunch of their new design portals newspaper or could have been a lack of resources but coverage was not what is in the previous Provincial Election. I was contacted a few times by the reporter covering our beat, but unlike in 2011 there was no sit down talk followed by a printed article, nor did we participate in an Editorial Board meeting. I admit that the Citizen had fabulous Election Result coverage the next day.
The local campaign coverage was non-existent in the Ottawa Sun, the campaign had no contact with the paper and when we reached out to them to see what they needed for their Election Day edition (a profile, picture etc.) my campaign manager was told “we don’t know what we are doing about that yet”. Their election result coverage was two pages and a cover cartoon.
Neither the CBC nor CTV Ottawa included Ottawa Centre in their coverage, at least my campaign. CTV Ottawa proceeded to omit Ottawa Centre when listing the ridings and candidates. CTV Ottawa did feature a few ridings, but really only the battleground ridings were of interest to them. CTV Morning Live didn’t catch the election bug until the last weeks of the election.
Rogers TV taped their Riding Debates and broadcast them generously through the election period. What was a shame is that those that do not subscribe to Rogers did not have the change to view them. An option, considering that many also do not subscribe to either Bell or Rogers, would have been to place the debates on You Tube so everyone could watch them and a wider audience of voters would be reached.
The future may be online; operations like Unpublished Ottawa allow all candidates and supporters to share letters and articles to a wide audience. Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and others are all avenues by which campaigns will bypass traditional media for coverage. You Tube has a huge role to play, as mentioned earlier, Rogers TV and other news outlets can easily share their coverage to voters.
Mark Blevis a Digital Media Analyst in Ottawa sat down with each candidate in Ottawa and videoed an interview, posted it online and then provided a social media score for all. It was ambitious and one of my favourite interviews of the campaign
In the end, the way all candidates used to rely on getting news coverage is now history, this election has shown that. Our traditional news delivery has shown it doesn’t have the space, time, reporters or interest in covering anything but the “big’ story of the day.
While increased coverage probably would not have changed the outcome in Ottawa Centre, what would have occurred is a wider knowledge of each candidate running in each of the ridings. We need to heed what happens to local news coverage as Media trims the local budgets and each station is merely a news gathering operation relying on stingers and freelancers that do not have an interest or base in the community they are reporting.
I shudder to think what the local coverage will be for the upcoming City of Ottawa Election this fall and the Federal Election in 2015.
It is really a shame because locally it’s not the big story that wins the votes, but the local concerns and how the candidates react to local questions. As candidates we will adjust and we will use the new media roads being built for us and if or when the Media as we know it today ask us to participate it will be ‘bonus’ news coverage and not something we used to expect.
The Local Election coverage should have been a boon for all media that were itching for a local angle in the provincial election, but sadly they did not scratch.