The Globe and Mail isn’t happy . . .

. . . that Doug Ford will be the next Premier of Ontario.

For years I have had the impression that the Globe and Mail leans to the left. If challenged I couldn’t have supported that position. Until now. Last Saturday (June 9 2018) I was reading the Globe and Mail at the local library, and was struck by the unrelenting anti-Ford bias in its pages. So much so that I spent $5.25 at the local pharmacy to purchase Saturday’s edition. No price is too much to pay for the raw material for a blog article!

Digression: The Globe and Mail’s bias is probably well known to Torontonians and they are probably thinking “Well done Captain Obvious! What’s next? Are you going to validate your impression that the sky is blue”? I will see that criticism and raise you this quote: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so”.

It contained fifteen (!) opinion pieces on the Ontario election with an abundance of content critical of Doug Ford. Examples include:

  • “A sober, centrist province got the choice of a populist blowhard, a far-left ideologue and a cynical, exhausted premier. The worst of the lot won”,
  • “Make no mistake, Doug Ford’s election is a disaster for Toronto”,
  • “Nothing in his career thus far suggests a capacity to learn and evolve”.

On the other hand, I could not find a single positive statement about our premier-designate in any of the fifteen articles! Damning with faint phrase doesn’t count, like when Adam Radwanski writes that “He proved more adaptable this spring than many who knew him predicted. …he was expected to be too stubborn and convinced of his genius to take advice and show discipline“. To be fair, several of the articles accepted the Ford victory as a fact and their tone was more neutral.  It is impressive that some journalists were able to move through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression in less than 48 hours!

Digression: When Ford was elected head of the PCs, my first thought was for the #MeToo movement which was responsible for unsubstantiated accusations against his predecessor and false accusations against Steve Paikin. The slightest impropriety in Doug Ford’s past, or even someone with a grudge, could have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. To me the fact that this didn’t happen is an indication that Doug Ford has a moral compass. That’s newsworthy.

As well, contrast this coverage with the Globe and Mail’s coverage of Justin Trudeau’s victory back in 2015. The Globe and Mail characterised it as a “stunning political comeback” (link). No such adjectives were used to describe Doug Ford’s victory, even though he received a greater percentage of the vote (40.5% to 39.5%) and a greater percentage of seats (61% to 54%).

Even the letters to the editor reflected that same bias. Eight letters commented on the election: seven were critical of Rob Ford!

Bottom Line: my initial impression was correct. If anything “leans to the left” is an understatement, although it wouldn’t make a top-ten list (link).

Final thoughts: Looking at something like this in depth always raises more questions than it answers: How can a professional organization let their bias reach this level? Have they decided that their role is to confirm the biases of their readers? Do they think that not appealing to PC voters is a good business model? Do they think that readers won’t notice? I expect that I’ll be thinking about this off and on for years!

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4 thoughts on “The Globe and Mail isn’t happy . . .”

  1. Chicken or egg question answer to yours regarding does the Globe see its role as to confirm reader bias? Left-leaning readers will favour a left-leaning paper?
    Agreed it seems a poor business model for multiple reasons to limit viewpoints in a news medium.
    Thanks for another great post!

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  2. A few notes on the “left-leaning” G&M:

    The G&M endorsed the Tories in federally in 2006, 2008, 2011, and 2015. In no small feat of contortion, the 2015 endorsement was of the Conservatives, though not Stephen Harper, leading to considerable mockery for the effort. With regard to leaning left more generally, it is worth noting that the G&M also chose not to allow the Green Party to participate in the debates that it organized at the time. In Ontario in 2014, the paper apparently, in spite of the choice of its own editorial board, endorsed the Tories under the flailing Tim Hudak. That the G&M declined to endorse any party running for office in Ontario in 2018 is hardly indicative of bias against any one.

    Regarding apparently negative coverage of Mr Ford during the 2018 Ontario election – without running through the full slate of G&M opinion columnists, Margaret Wente, Marcus Gee, Konrad Yakabuski, John Ibbitson, Eric Reguly and others are known to regularly profess a conservative bent. That even most of these have expressed scepticism about the prospect of a Ford premiership indicates not ideological bias but a specific concern with Mr Ford.

    (On post-election coverage, that you take pains to mention post-election writings have “accepted the Ford victory as fact” hints at the contrast with what is now occasionally put forth in some right-leaning media (I trust that I need not provide much in the way of evidence here).)

    The post might be more convincing if it were to demonstrate that, by comparison, the G&M treated the other parties more gingerly. Admittedly, without having analyzed this myself, I would still hesitate to suggest it was any kinder to the Liberals or their leader.

    We glean hints about the likely behaviour of politicians from their past record of behaviour, and in that sense, this behaviour is fair game for those who would seek our support. Mr Ford’s past behaviour in business and in politics demonstrates clear patterns of recklessness, unchecked partisanship, and intransigence (with occasional bullying), all strongly suggestive of the possibility of ego-driven unilateralism and confrontation as a default style, in or outside the confines of party and caucus. So while it is true that there is considerable capacity and experience within the PC caucus, which could, if utilized, serve to guide sound policy in the new government, Mr Ford’s past behaviour makes the likelihood of such collaboration very uncertain. And this is the rub: it opens the way to the kind of chaotic and impulsive management which characterized his late brother’s tenure in Toronto (and for which he served as chief enforcer). That there has been little articulation, during or since the election, of a clear policy direction, vision, or even a semi-coherent ideology does little to bolster confidence. It’s just gonna be great.

    The effects of Toronto’s chaos were bad enough in Canada’s largest city; if continued, it could be much worse in Canada’s largest province. It is legitimate to be concerned about what Mr Ford may or may not do as Premier of the country’s largest province. The mere absence of public accusations concerning his personal behaviour by #MeToo does not automatically suggest a moral compass and therefore a worthiness to govern, let alone represent newsworthiness. (One wonders as well if his sister-in-law would agree.)

    On referring to the Liberal 2015 campaign comeback as “stunning”: they started the campaign in 3rd place, and largely through a well-run campaign, won a majority government. One could refer to that as stunning. The Ontario PC’s did win a majority in 2018, defeating a deeply unpopular government; few thought this a surprise, let alone stunning.

    On the selected quotes:
    “A sober, centrist province got the choice of a populist blowhard, a far-left ideologue and a cynical, exhausted premier. The worst of the lot won”
    – I would suggest this is less evidence of left-leaning bias than an expression of genuine trepidation given the new volatility we could be facing on several levels.
    “Make no mistake, Doug Ford’s election is a disaster for Toronto”
    – This quote was from Toronto councillor Josh Matlow, cited by Marcus Gee in a piece in which he points back to the original speaker by beginning the next paragraph with “If so, it is a disaster at least partly of [Liberal and NDP] own making”. Bias?
    “Nothing in his career thus far suggests a capacity to learn and evolve”
    – I really don’t think this needs explanation. It seems an observed phenomenon.

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