Wednesday, 10 April 2013

City Council and the Media

Good afternoon Regina!!

After thinking about the way the media has been treating the past and current City Council, I couldn't help but recall some of the serious issues that our former mayor had with the media. This is most likely the reason a lot of Regina media outlets are afraid to ask the real tough questions of Mayor Fougere and others. Well, that is, until recently. I must give a big shout out to Sheila Coles and CBC for asking those really tough questions in her recent radio interviews with the Mayor; the ones that really no one else dares to ask. Also, to CTV Regina Morning Live, where I saw yesterday they didn't pussyfoot around the serious questions about the massive debt that Mayor Fougere wants to put on the taxpayers of Regina. (Current Debt = $82M -> Projected Debt = $450M - a 550% increase, and no guarantee that is the end of the debt)

If it weren't for those tough questions, the taxpayers might think that everything in Regina is all glorious, when in reality it is anything but. I think this is a good reason why my approach to the election last year was not well received, because a lot of people did not actually realize how serious the issues were that are present at City Hall and City Council. Here's hoping the rest of Regina Media become more willing to ask those necessary, albeit tough, questions that truly inform the residents of Regina. I would much rather financially support a media outlet that isn't presenting a skewed version of City Hall.

Thankfully, Prairie Dog has taken the hard nosed approach since day one, and I think that is one of the big reasons that I respect their paper, and their resident City Hall reporter, Paul Dechene. Below is Mr. Dechene's summary of Pat Fiacco's very public battles with the press. Well, only a few of them. Enjoy!


Without a doubt, Pat Fiacco is a popular mayor. So popular that even the media seems to be in love with him sometimes. But has that general air of approval affected city journalism in this town?

Has Mayor Pat been given a pass by the media?

"There hasn't been a lot of really heavy scrutiny of his term," says Patricia Elliott, a journalism professor at the University of Regina. "You have these media chains who aren't that interested in giving resources to local coverage so there's a lot of understaffing for city coverage.

"But then you've also got a mayor who's famously thin-skinned and the city is a big advertiser," she continues. "And he's let his displeasure be known to many a publisher and editor when he doesn't like something he sees in the media. So I believe there's a tendency to back off or to show him support in the editorial pages."

Most will remember the Maclean's incident of 2007. After the magazine ran a story calling inner-city Regina Canada's worst neighbourhood, Fiacco was involved in the ambush and subsequent lecture of a reporter from the magazine, who'd been lured to the city by the promise of a neighbourhood ride-along.

Then there was a 2008 incident where Fiacco accused CBC reporter John Weidlich of giving him a single-figure salute at a press scrum. Weidlich was cleared of the charge by CBC.

And then there's Roger Currie, host of Access 7's Talk of the Town. He's also run afoul of Fiacco.

It all started during the autumn snow storm in 2010. City hall came under fire because residential streets were a total mess and city crews weren't clearing them fast enough. At the time, Currie was working at CKRM where he was doing daily commentaries.

"I wasn't there but Pat was doing a scrum," says Currie. "And people were asking him, 'What are you going to do about the residential streets?' And he looked at the camera and kind of smiled and said, 'I'm not hearing any complaints.'

"So I did a little thing about the whole issue and one line I threw in struck a chord, I guess. I said, 'Mr. Mayor, I think you should get out a little more often and not just go to fancy dinners and boxing events.'

"[Fiacco] didn't come to me at all. He went straight to the manager of the radio station. So I was called in and told this was perhaps inappropriate and maybe I should apologize. Which I did. But without a huge amount of sincerity.

"I thought it was a not a particularly venomous kind of shot. But I've never spoken to him since.

"And now I'm over at Access doing Talk of the Town and when the city budget came down, I sent a note to [Fiacco's senior advisor] Mark Rathwell asking if there was any chance the mayor might come on to talk about the budget. We went back and forth but the message was pretty clear that, no, hell would freeze first."

So between a reputedly prickly mayor's office and city beats that are under-supported, you wind up with a lot less serious digging going on at city hall.

"That's a problem for democracy," says Elliott. "That's why we get these lopsided elections where 85 per cent are in favour of him.

"Any time you see lopsided results like that, I think you have a media deficit or a democratic deficit at some point. Because nobody's perfect." /Paul Dechene (