Stephen Harper, Christy Clark ‘ethnic media’ events rile ‘mainstream media’

·Politics Reporter

Is Stephen Harper afraid of "real journalists"?

That's a question that the editor of Vancouver's oldest Indo-Canadian newspaper is asking after being excluded from a Harper ethnic media round-table event two weeks ago.

At the 45 minute exclusive 'gathering', each journalist was allowed to ask Harper one question and then had the opportunity to have their photo taken with the PM.

The LINK newspaper's Paul Dhillon says he wasn't invited.

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper is running scared these days following his many scandals in 2013 that has threatened to undo his leadership and send him packing, so he avoided the mainstream media last week while he was in Vancouver," Dhillon wrote in an op-ed published in his newspaper.

"But he did hold a secret meeting with a select few members of the ethnic media, with only two South Asian media outlets.

"So why weren't all the outlets, especially the bigger known ones from both the South Asian as well as the Chinese-Canadian community, invited to this gathering?"

In an email exchange with Yahoo Canada News on Thursday, Dhillon alleged that organizers weeded-out ethnic media who are perceived as too critical of the prime minister.

Others — on both social and traditional media — were also troubled by the 'secret' get together.

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The media round-table, held on January 6th, was captured on tape. That recording was made public by Vancouver's 24 Hours newspaper last week. If you listen to the tape, you'll notice that there are actually some really good questions by some good journalists.

But, as explained by CBC News, the Tories have declined to answer how the invitation list was developed.

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Harper isn't the only one to hold this sort of ethnic media event.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford held court with ethnic media outlets on Monday.

In British Columbia, Premier Christy Clark was scheduled to do one on Thursday afternoon.

That didn't sit well with journalist Bob Mackin.

"These discriminatory sessions are not new, but they appear to be more common," he wrote on his website.

"Here we are, in 21st century, multicultural Canada, and political leaders are picking and choosing which types of media they want to accept questions from, based on ethnicity and language."

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Clearly, 'ethnic outreach' has become a huge undertaking by all major political parties.

Most parties now have staffers dedicated to organizing ethnic events and liaising with ethnic media and one of the tactics they employ are ethnic round-tables.

To a certain extent, they're probably necessary on account of there being a large population of ethnic Canadians — both new and old — who only consume ethnic media; they only read ethnic newspapers and only listen to ethnic radio stations.

Communications expert Marcel Wieder says that this type of media selection is nothing new and not exclusive to visible minority groups.

"Politicians for years have tried to pick and choose friendly audiences to transmit their messages. Whether it is based on geography, gender or ethnicity, politicians and political parties seek out media that will reach their targeted audiences for their messages," Wieder, who is President of Aurora Strategy Group, told Yahoo.

"For example, a politician may invite media that caters to seniors for an announcement on government programs geared to older Canadians. Similarly a political party may invite media from a specific geographic area to talk about a new investment in the region. Finally, some politicians may invite ethnic media from one community to make an announcement in their language so that voters in the community are aware of their position.

"One has to be aware that ethnic media lack the resources to cover politicians nationally or even regionally. Thus they don't get the contact that mainstream reporters get on a daily basis. It is hard to compare a local ethnic reporter with the CBC that has a bureau in Ottawa and can afford to pay someone to follow the Prime Minister or a cabinet minister. These type of ethnic media events are designed to help level the playing field to some small degree."

What do you think?

Are these ethnic media events 'discriminatory' or are they a necessary communication tactic for governments?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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