The shame of the fourth estate -

The shame of the fourth estate

Andrew Potter on the grouches, cynics, and professional complainers who dissed the Liberal thinkers’ conference


CORRECTION: In the body of this blog entry I wrote that Tasha Kheiriddin called the conference “pretentious”. My mistake — the word does not appear in her column. It does appear in the subhed of the Post’s unsigned editorial. That was sloppy of me, and I offer her my sincerest apologies.


Journalism – especially the opinion-writing precincts of the biz – tends to be populated by grouches, cynics, and professional complainers. I should know, I’m one of them. As the lowest grade of intellectuals, we spend most of our time criticizing other people’s views, which means we tend to get anxious or frightened or confused when surrounded by serious thinkers promoting smart, challenging, or simply sensible ideas. We react badly.

That explains why virtually the entire opinion-writing class in the country managed to embarrass itself over the past week, as it tried to confront the fact that Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party of Canada were staging a serious conference devoted to long-term strategic policy thinking about the future of Canada. In the days leading up to the show in Montreal last week, columnists desperately tried to one-up one another in predicting the exercise would be a disaster. And now that it is over, it’s the same business in the rearview mirror.

The most shameful venue is, naturally, the National Post, whose editorial pages since its inception have been Canada’s one-stop shop for snide anti-intellectualism. And so today’s edition features Tasha Kheiriddin  telling the Liberals “you’re not in Kingston anymore,” though she can’t seem to decide whether the problem is that they have bad ideas, they have good ideas but a bad leader, or a good leader with good ideas with bad timing. She probably thinks it is all three.

Meanwhile, Kelly McParland leads off by calling the conference an unsurprising failure. Canada has challenges? Tell us something we don’t know, says McParland. Instead of talking about the obvious, he thinks the Liberal party should be focused on confronting its own moral bankruptcy and self-delusion. Following that theme, the paper’s unsigned editorial criticizes the party’s “continued belief in one-size-fits-all solutions to social problems, and their off-putting self-assurance that they alone possess enough love for Canada to determine what is good for the country.”

These are the precise commentaries you would have written if you hadn’t been there, or, having been there, hadn’t really understood all the big words and ideas being bandied about.

Look, the Montreal conference wasn’t some big-brained idea-laden jamboree destined to go down as The Weekend that saved Liberalism and Canada and What’s the Difference Anyway.  Like every other conference of this sort I’ve ever been to, it had a mix of everything: Great speeches, challenging speeches and boring speeches, useful panels and useless panels, and – as always – a whole lot of boneheaded and self-serving commentary from the floor during the Q&A sessions. Liberals are also an obnoxious bunch at the best of times, and they didn’t do themselves any favours with the trained-seal routine, standing and clapping along on cue during Ignatieff’s closing address to what was billed as a non-partisan conference.

But only someone completely immune to the possibility that good ideas have the power to do good in the world could come away from Montreal convinced that the conference had been a waste of time and a political failure. Is it really a bad thing to bring together people like Martha Piper, David Dodge, Dominic Barton, Derek Burney, Linda Hasenfratz, Sujit Choudhry and Pierre Fortin to debate the future of the country? Is it delusional and pretentious to think that something good might come of that? Is that the kind of country we have become??

In Canada’s newsrooms, the answer is yes, yes, and yes. Which is as good an explanation as any for why not a single working journalist was asked to speak at the conference.


The shame of the fourth estate

  1. Right on.

    • ibid.

    • I agree. Good column. Relief after reading M. Wente.

  2. Well, not a single serving or ex-General was invited to speak either, right? Or, was there one and we didn't hear about him/her?

    • Why didnt they have any architects either? Or Robots? Why didnt they have any robots huh? THE LIBERALS MUST BE EVIL!

      • Beware the robot apocalypse. We are edging closer…..

    • Point being?

  3. In the ironic words of Mike Duffy, you've all been brainwashed.

    Here's what I really think: when one is trained to approach all things with a critical, discriminating mind, it's not surprising when one struggles to find hope and reason for optimism.

    • 'Brainwashed' to 'approach all things with a critical, discriminating mind'?


  4. so…. um, what were the good ideas?

    • Universal access to post secondary education (so we'll be smarter and know how to better compete against new tech powers like China and India — or do you WANT canada to be poor?); Universal access to affordable daycare (or your choice of a baby bonus type payment) so single parents can go to work during the day and earn income, instead of welfare; Funding for youth activities, counselling, etc. which would be paid for through less need for prison (did you know the Cons have increased the prison budget to almost $400 million a year from $250 million (meanwhile they CUT literacy funding for adults who can't read.); enhanced stable secure public pensions (CPP is already secure for the next 100 years but this would be a voluntary additional contribution because 3/4 of Canadians don't have any pension or savings other than CPP. (And no, you won't retire on your house, because EVERYONE will want to do that along with all the other boomers — so what will that do to your house price? See…? The world's complicated. We don't need more dumb cons screwing up Canada. We need a smart country.

      • Riey; Right On, Its time we had politicians thinking about Canadians & Canada's future on the world scene, instead of themselves & the size of their own pensions.

  5. Fantastic post.

    • Agreed

  6. Ba-Zing! Eat that Nat Post journos – I would include many of the hacks that report on the HIll requently too. I'm looking at you Delacourt!

  7. Mr Potter,

    I am thank full you took the time to write this article. I was struck that the media panned the liberal gathering before it happend and then after it happened. If any one of them watched it over the weekend, some of the discussions were actually really good and informative. Unfortunately, the folks over at the National Post (no wonder their readership continues to decline) berated the liberals and their leader. It is a shame that some reporters don't argue both sides, and automatically take the position of being anti-liberal or anti ndp or anti-conservative. Again thanks for writing this article.

  8. I couldn't agree with you more. I am always dismayed at the level of cynicism in our political punditry. I watched some of the conference and found the speakers to be generally upfront, intelligent and honest in their ideas and opinions. I would like to have seen someone from the media, military and public service give their opinions but I guess you only have so much time. Overall, I think that this is a good sign for our democracy that events like this happen. Honest, straightforward talk is refreshing. Maybe the other parties will host their own thinkers' conferences. I would like to hear from more people like this.

  9. And journalists never forget to mention the low number of voting citizens after each election. Cynicism starts and ends with those same journalists.

  10. I agree that Canadian journalists often have a herd mentality , and Twitter only makes it worse. You can actually track media pile-ons in real time by following their tweets.

  11. True, but in this day and age of the pundiot, this burst of insight means nothing, and shall soon fall to the wayside of the next attack ad brought on by adults talking like adults.
    The ironic thing is that the pundiots have as much a lack of principles as the politicians they write about, yet think the public doesn't notice it either.

  12. Spring is here. A green shoot of objectivity from our fourth estate just emerged from the dank, dark, ground of journalists.

  13. It's time for a major changing of the Guard in the establishment of Canadian opinion writers. Too few of them back up their arguments with either well reasoned arguments or primary reporting. Contrast that with the likes of Friedman or Brooks in the Times – when I read their columns I don't just find out their opinion, I learn something too.

    • I have to disagree. Friedman is possibly the worst columnist out there. Worse than pretty well any Canadian columnist. Much of what he says is simply wrong.

    • The poor level of basic reasoning by Canadian political pundits is sort of embarrassing. I wouldn't necessarily say that it is better in the US, particularly per capita, but they do have a couple of good ones. I would add Krugman to your list.

      Coyne, Wells, and Potter are generally good here, and are far better than most columnists. The entire Sun Media chain is an embarassment, as is the National Post. Steyn and Amiel here are obviously a bit of a joke.

      At least part of the problem is that opinion columnists are often giving us opinions on subjects that they don't know very much about. They aren't experts in the area; they're only experts in their own opinion. To take an area on which I feel qualified to judge, you wouldn't believe how many ridiculous and unfounded legal opinions are contained with opinion columns. Go over the last couple years of Steyn columns for examples, if you can stomach doing so.

      As a reader, it is concerning. I have to think, if they are constantly getting elementary things wrong when it comes to legal analysis, what are they screwing up when it comes to areas that I don't know very much about?

      • "At least part of the problem is that opinion columnists are often giving us opinions on subjects that they don't know very much about."

        Which gets back to my point about primary reporting. Very few reporters are experts – but good reporters do enough reporting to write well thought out pieces that teach the reader.

        The same standard is simlply not applied to most opinion journalism. Wells and Coyne are notable exceptions (piling on in the PW/AC love-fest).

    • I'd be interested in seeing a balanced ranking system for Canadian political journalists.
      But who would be unbiased enough to do something like that?

  14. I thought the nadir was established when the subject of the carbon tax came up. Let's face it: if you ask people who are remotely familiar with the subject what the best policy is in response to climate change, the first answer you will get is a carbon tax.

    And yet somehow this was portrayed as a 'spectre', an 'old idea' whose very mention was an embarrassment to the Liberals. Why wouldn't this be taken as a rebuke of the CPC or the NDP?

    • I think it's called "framing" — a device perfected by the likes of Karl Rove.

    • The best response to "climate change" or "global warming" is to ignore the alarmists as they've rang their bells one too many times, falsely, and are crying wolf at this point. "Inconvenient?" Sure Al Gore, sure. We all know liberals are the enemy of freedom, so pretending that having to reduce our consumption is "inconvenient" is a rather convenient cover. No need to discuss further on this issue, but anyone who speaks about "climate change" as if it is fact and without doubt will not get anywhere.

      The science? Not settled.

      • Seen that story on Koch industries today? You'd think $25 million would buy you more than some slightly questionable emails.

      • "We all know liberals are the enemy of freedom"

        Funny, in my experience conservatives are, at least, equally guilty of legislating morality and restricting government transparency. I'd be curious to see the evidence you have to support your argument that liberals are more freedom hating than conservatives.

        • Were you on the moon when Ann Coulter was in the country!
          Couldn't miss the Liberal tolerance on that score!


            WASHINGTON – The anonymous caller to Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter's office left no doubt about his intentions. With debate raging in the U.S. Congress over the passage of landmark health-care legislation, he threatened "snipers" would kill the children of lawmakers who voted yes.

            The messages to Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak were even more graphic. Mr. Stupak, a pro-life congressman who voted for the health-care bill over the objections of anti-abortion activists, was called a "bastard and a baby-killer," a "baby-murdering scumbag" and warned he would die "either by the hand of man or by the hand of God."

            Even as U.S. President Barack Obama celebrated a new health-care victory Thursday with the Senate's passage of a set of legislative "fixes," lawmakers who supported the legislation were being targeted with violence and threats of violence by fringe opponents of reform. Several Democrats reported bricks being thrown through the windows of their offices and about 10 of them have obtained additional security.

            But, you're right, left of center types are the only violent, freedom haters. Keep drinking that KoolAid.

  15. Good column.

    Marketing wants a word with you.

  16. " It is a shame that some reporters don't argue both sides, and automatically take the position of being anti-liberal or anti ndp or anti-conservative."

    See, that's part of the problem! The reality is that most issues are far more complex than simply "two sides", anti-government, or anti-"party of your choice". We really shouldn't be limiting ourselves only to the options presented by any of the parties.

    I would like to see much more nuanced coverage of political issues and decisions that took into account a whole range of options. If you're only being offered hamburger from McDonalds or hamburger from Wendy's, you're still only going to get hamburger. If you want meatloaf, or filet mignon, you're out of luck in our political system. Journalists should familiarize themselves with the entire menu, which means doing more than just accepting press releases from the parties as their primary sources.

    • If you want meatloaf, or filet mignon, you're out of luck in our political system.

      We do get a lot of chicken, though.

  17. Finally, an intelligent response to what was a great weekend of extended discourse, yes some moments were less interesting than others, but the whole exercise did indeed prove one thing: corporatist media is engaged in deeply anti-intellectual pontificating in order to lower the bar enough to allow the con mentality equal opportunity. I can still remember reading Norththrop Frye talking about the way Canadian voters liked intellectual leaders, what a sad and pathetic day this is when the knee jerk response of paid hacks is endless anti-intellectual drivel. The lowest common denominator is now the IQ of working journalists. Now wonder we can't trust the estate – a corporatist word – to defend democracy: it is by definition anti-democratic.

  18. Seems to me Potter is wishing that the press return to the ways of Liberal cheer-leading. I'd prefer to see a skeptical press.

    • Skeptical, yes, since it was a Liberal affair.

    • Skepticism yes.
      Negativism no.

  19. Stephen Gordon: I believe140 of the country's leading economists signed a letter during the last election supporting the carbon tax, instead, the media pretended Dion couldn't explain the subject: it was Canada's third rate journalists who didn't even bother thinking about the issue: no wonder media in this country is going broke, who wants to pay for a third rate product.

    • Ever since the Liberals had 140 apostles write to the G+M swearing there were 11 Commandments, I have pretty much disregarded the whole Liberals have all the answers, are the sole representativesof true Canadian values and we have 140 hacks to prove it contingent.

      • The American Enterprise Institute – the conservative think tank – favours a carbon tax over cap and trade. It's a myth that it's some sort of socialist plot.

        • A carbon tax is a very market oriented solution. Not as pure as cap and trade but much easier to administer. I was surprised that Conservatives were so opposed to it on "socialist" grounds.

  20. "It is a shame that some reporters don't argue both sides, and automatically take the position of being anti-liberal or anti ndp or anti-conservative" Just to clarifiy my quote above. It would be great for a reporter to make an article anti-liberal or anti-conservative but to argue the merits of the policy or the mertis of round table etc. I get the sense that with the national post…it does not matter what the liberals bring forth in ideas even if it is a great policy position, the NP automatically will dump all over it. That is not journalism but cheerleading for your party!!!

  21. Hear hear!

  22. "These are the precise commentaries you would have written if you hadn't been there, or, having been there, hadn't really understood all the big words and ideas being bandied about."

    That is precisely the kind of commentary that often makes Liberal journalists seem so pretentious.

    • I want to thank you for being one of the rare few I've seen commenting from the right on how conferences aren't necessarily such a terrible thing, even if they're held by Liberals. Since I'm one of those angry, betrayed ex-Toroes who's wondering where all our "ideas" and "solutions" went.

      Seeing your post gives me hope.


  23. Great post. Most of what Andrew says here has to do with, I think, the quality of education and training journalists receive today. Most have some formal training, but even this is problematic – you've got j-degree mills churning out kids with little to no real world experience, thrust immediately into positions of responsibility. Then you've got the diploma kids, with two years less formal training to contend with. But whether journalists are receiving the degree or diploma, and whether their education is in English, journalism or political science, they're still missing some key components.

    Reporters (some, anyway) like to say they're working in a 'profession.' But they're wrong. There's nothing professional about journalism. There's no professional code of ethics. There's no minimum standard of professional education and training. There's no accreditation. There's no professional body that can deal with problems and issues regarding the profession itself.

    I've pushed for these types of ideas with reporters in the past, and have always – always – come up against resistance. The problem with turning journalism from a craft to a profession is that, they say, you limit the amount of people who can engage in what most assume is a necessary and open field that essentially anyone can do (with a modicum of writing skills). But I argue, of course, that not everyone should be able to be a journalist, in much the same way as not everyone's cut out to be an engineer or a doctor or a lawyer. It SHOULD be harder to become a reporter. The standards of journalism SHOULD be higher. And there SHOULD be a professional code of ethics that journalists must adhere to.

    Anyway, rant over.

    • I agree with you Kaplan. I'm all for improving the standards for journalism. I think establishing some kind of of journalists' professional association that has raised the bar for its membership would do well for improving the credibility of the industry. Like the CGA's, to maintain your membership, you have to continue with professional development on top of your education and experience.

      Just imagine the difference in the calibre of the news reports we would be basing our understanding of the what's going on – in our country and the world….

    • It is wrong to say there are no professional bodies in Canada dealing with problems and issues in journalism. There are at least two professional associations in Canada: the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) and the Radio-Television New Directors Association (RTNDA Canada). Each body has a code of ethics and principles that members (practicing journalists) must uphold. In addition, the larger news organizations, such as the CBC and the Globe and Mail, maintain codes of ethics to which journalists under their employ must adhere. Add to that provincial Ombudsmen charged with investigating public complaints against news gatherers, and recommending remedies for misconduct, plus the laws of liable and slander. With respect to education, colleges and universities offering degrees or certificates in journalism include ethics training as part of the curriculum. Non of these governance measures, however, prevent the kind of cheap, low-brow invective so common among today's editorialists across the political spectrum. Consider as well that all the professional standards in the world do not prevent malpractice among doctors, lawyers or engineers. Sadly, Andrew Potter's lament is bang on target: the profession is loaded with grouches, cynics, complainers, and anti-intellectuals. A general reflection, I'd say, of the Canadian population. The fault, dear Brutus, lies in ourselves.

  24. That's a bit asinine. Clearly Potter wants the press to be less anti-intellectual. If we're going to have a conversation here, we have to give each other fair readings.

    • Conservatives seem to think being less anti-intellectual leaves them at a disadvantage for some reason.

  25. I was one of them. And yes, that drove me nuts. Especially those who described it as 'complicated'. What was complicated? Carbon taxes up, other taxes down. People who can't understand that have no business being journalists.

  26. Do you think he's being pretentious and wrong, or pretentious and right?

  27. I'm still waiting for the diligent Canadian MSM to hold Ignatieff accountable for his past sordid political life first as a stone-cold Thatcherite and then a neocon Bushbot "we Americans" while at Harvard.

    If a Conservative, any conservative had proclaimed that "torture, assassination, denial of rights and preemptive war" are "lesser evils" in support of open democracy, the Canadian MSM would have undoubtedly declared him the second coming of Hitler/Stalin .. and drummed him out of Canada. Wonder why Ignatieff gets a pass from the Canadian MSM ..???

  28. Right about the Conference itself as the first sentence points out. Wrong about why people have these impressions, as the second sentence points out.

  29. So, back it up. Calling a comment pretentious isn't the same as calling it wrong. Why is it wrong? What's your alternative explanation for the National Post editorials?

  30. People who can't understand that when a politician says "Carbon taxes up, other taxes down" he is only being honest about half of the sentence have no business being journalists.

    Dion's tax, which was claimed to be revenue neutral, clearly wasn't to anyone who knows how to read, since it was intended to fund social programs.

    I'm not a fan of the nation's journalists, but they clearly got that story right.

  31. It was a model of clarity and precision when compared to what the CPC and the NDP were peddling. And somehow they never got hit with the 'complicated' tag.

    • Who were the big payers? The West ! Who got the big benefit for social programs? The East.
      Check out NASA's own "climategate" and climate change news.

      • Oh, right. Like the East doesn't emit any carbon. All 22 million of us are just eco-hippies, riding around on bicycles powered by peace and love.

      • Not true at all. Cap and Trade is where the west will get punished, and the price is going to be double or triple what Dion was proposing.

  32. When people say pretentious things, other people tend to assume they are pretentious people.
    Potter has just illustrated the former; he was not the first. Many other journalists are now concluding the latter.

    Hence "they're just unimpressed because they're stupid – clearly we really aren't pretentious snobs" sort of refutes itself, see?

  33. Look when the national newspaper of record holds as its esteemed senior pundit a guy like Simpson, who, fresh out of Queens went to work for a couple of weeks for Ed Broadbent and has been cubically contained ever since ( 37 years, should we talk about his backflip with a full double twist over CCS as an example?), the entire industry needs a shaking out. Twitter patter Taber, and most of the sycophants at the Star, the well summed problem at the Post (however, calling it the worst is a photo finish…), Larry reduced to Metro, and the sad, sad state of television reporting (not even they call it journalism any more…) means that we as a nation have been long under served by the fourth estate.

    Which, upon reflection, is probably why the industry, without exception, is in such dire straits…looks like we had a look at the product and shopped elsewhere…

    And fwiw, I haven't had a scrip to Macleans for going on 6 years now…

  34. We're talking past each other a bit. The commentary wasn't just that the conference was pretentious, although with regard to that I definitely see your point. The commentary that Potter cited immediately prior to his comment that you were responding to was that the through the conference the Libs were showing a “continued belief in one-size-fits-all solutions to social problems, and their off-putting self-assurance that they alone possess enough love for Canada to determine what is good for the country.” Potter's claim was that to make such a comment, one would either have had to not have attended the conference, or attended but not understood what was going on. My initial question was whether you thought this claim was correct or not.

  35. "I'm still waiting for the diligent Canadian MSM to hold Ignatieff accountable for his past sordid political life first as a stone-cold Thatcherite and then a neocon Bushbot "we Americans" while at Harvard."

    How do you know about all of this, if the media haven't reported sufficiently on them?

    Meanwhile, the rest of us are in almost complete darkness about Harper's employment history.

    • The Canadian media may have made mention of this in passing, but they haven't judged Ignatieff as they would have a Conservative, any conservative, and declared him as not representing Canadian values … but Ignatieff get's away with his sordid past political and personal life with not a further peep from the MSM … almost as if there is a coverup..!!!

  36. In Canada's newsrooms, the answer is yes. Which is as good an explanation as any for why not a single working journalist was asked to speak at the conference.

    Those lazy journalists with no more experienc then you and I .Why bother as they think its a waste of their time and simply just make up their own stories based on nothing concreat. Yep,it is no wonder these institutions are going bust. There was a time not so long ago that journalists and papers looked after the rights of citizens as well kept the ruling government in check but sadly, they are in bed with them speading their own grade 2 comments and spreading the governments propaganda. What a farce they are.

  37. No.

    • I dislike having to back up Potter, but really the NP arguments are simply inane. The conference had plenty of the Liberals discussing their own challenges (true they did not use the terms such as "moral bankruptcy and self-delusion"). The conference did not (and was not designed) to provide a single view so if they want to parse out policy they should presumably go after what Iggy said. I did not like the network of networks theme, but it is much closer to Joe Clark's community of communities (and oppositional to much of the centralism that Trudeau stood for). In brief, it is completely counter to "a continued belief in one-size-fits-all solutions to social problems".

      Potter's post did not argue that every possible criticism of the conference is weak, ill constructed or not true. He simply provided examples from the NP that were.

      • I agree that the NP got it wrong. I disagree that they could only have gotten it wrong because they either weren't there or are incapable of grasping all the "big words and ideas" that were floating around, challenging even for the intellectual, humble giants that are the Liberals let alone us ordinary folks who sometimes (in our stupidity) get the mistaken impression that the Liberals are a bit arrogant.

  38. "Kelly McParland leads off by calling the conference an unsurprising failure."

    Wow, somebody actually cites Conly McFarright as though revelant. What next, Mike Duffy wasn't impressed? Shocking.

    Congrats to you for reading, 99.99997% of Canadians never will.

  39. Andrew, you (and Delacourt) deserve a medal for taking on the worst offenders of what passes for journalism these days. It needed to be said, and the fact that a member of the fourth estate is saying it is encouraging. For far too long the 'opinion-writers' in this country have short-changing readers by repeating political one-liners with no attempt whatever to point out the obvious redefining of events and issues to suit political purposes. Coincidentally today, both of the political talk shows made a fuss about the apparent change in diplomatic relations between Canada and the US – the Afghanistan mission, the guests invited to the Arctic summit, and maternal health issues in countries receiving foreign aid were all discussed publicly by the US Secretary of State. Since these are the kind of issues normally discussed only at the highest diplomatic levels in diplomatic terms – the general public is kept in the dark until all the i's are dotted, it seems to me that it's entirely possible that the Obama administration has made a deliberate choice to inform Canadians about these issues because our government has demonstrated it's unwillingness to allow parliamentary debate on them. I won't be surprised to see endless stories about the US 'interfering' in Canadian affairs.

  40. "The most shameful venue is, naturally, the National Post, whose editorial pages since its inception have been Canada's one-stop shop for snide anti-intellectualism".
    My goodness, considering the calibre of intellectuals who write for the National Post, I think Mr. Potter would be hard-pressed to understand most of their writings. As he says himself, when confronted by serious thinkers, he gets cranky. This article is a perfect example of that. Give me the National Post any day and I do get Macleans also.

    • Well, even the massive brain-trust you suggest exists there can't rescue it from hopeless insolvency.

      I think they tried to give it you 'every day' and even that couldn't right the bilious thing.

      • The Red Star gives away its rag free on a semi-regular basis. All print media is getting desperate as they no longer control the channels of communication. People have options.

  41. I'm always amused by the word "pretentious" coming out the mouths of notorious social climbers.

    • Mr. Kheiriddin recently participated in the Manning conference so I believe she knows something about pretension.

      • Are my comments on auto delete?

      • Oh c'mon. I hear they served hot dogs at the Manning Centre conference. Hot dogs! Can you imagine anything more delightfully working class authentic and unpretentious as that, dahlings?

    • Well said.

      Just a few weeks ago, she was complaining that conservatism in America wasn't pretentious enough…

      Whatever gets you published, eh?

      I guess intellectualism is fine as long as you have the same party card as she does. Pathetic.

      • Whoa. How can the same person write those two articles withing weeks of each other?

        • Because Tasha is not a person, she's a bot.

    • According to her c.v., she spent three years with CPAC, hosting the following anti-intellectual programs:

      "Hosted and produced three national weekly programs for CPAC: Legal Talk, a half-hour legal affairs magazine; Jurisprudence, a regular four-hour broadcast of Supreme Court hearings; and Public Life, a 25-part series of hour-long one-on-one interviews with prominent Canadians."

      I'm sure the prominent Canadians she interviewed were somehow much better than the prominent Canadians at the Montreal conference.

    • According to her c.v., she spent three years with CPAC, hosting the following anti-intellectual programs:

      "Hosted and produced three national weekly programs for CPAC: Legal Talk, a half-hour legal affairs magazine; Jurisprudence, a regular four-hour broadcast of Supreme Court hearings; and Public Life, a 25-part series of hour-long one-on-one interviews with prominent Canadians."

      I'm sure the prominent Canadians she interviewed were somehow much better than the prominent Canadians at the Montreal conference.

    • "I'm always amused by the word "pretentious" coming out the mouths of notorious social climbers"

      …so, in this case, you're not amused?

      From the updated blog post above:

      "My mistake — the word does not appear in her column."

  42. Now Potter has seen what the Conservatives have put up with the last four years. Cry me a river Potter, the Liberals are a joke, and once the taxpayer paid funding stops, how manyof the Liberal supporters are going to ante up? My guess the intellectuals are only good at dumping on the Conservatives without having to support anything. Pathetic really.

  43. I believe Potter and those of you who know how dismal all western media has become, would do well to read John Pilger's acceptance speech in Sydney. Although he is talking about Australia, his speech reaches across all the oceans and speaks for so many of us. Breaking the Silence!

    • I'll wait for Stephen Harper to plagiarize it rather than click that link.

  44. I ‘think’ that most journalists know that ‘thinkers’ are a dime a dozen. Heck, our Senate is the multi-party ‘think-tank’ that we like best, right? The ‘Thinkers Conference’ is institionalized. Gov’t thinks alot thanks. So more thinking, extra thinking, can be dangerous. Witness “I think, and I shall think more (and so should all of #you) about how to decide. ;)

  45. Thank you for writing this.

  46. Thank you for writing this.

  47. Great post, Andrew.

  48. Anything of substance withers in the 'scene and herd' world of tweets and 12-hour news cycles. And given the 'any-reason-to-dismiss' pre-disposition of the pixel-stained wretches, it's no doubt that verdicts would be in before any kind of substantive jury could be summoned.

    Was there substance at this thing? Who knows? If the current crop of always-engorged poll-grabbers and equine pursuit enthusiasts that constitute this contemporary press continue in their lazy ways, we, as a semi-engaged body politic shall never be able to fully digest and honestly debate any idea of consequence that did indeed raise its sheepish head.

  49. I used to subscribe to NaPo about 6-7 years ago. I think a few journalists there are decent and smart but its a very one-sided cocoon view of the world. Don Martin, Barbara Kay, Father De Souza, Conrad Black, Lorne Gunter etc, after you read one of their articles you should fact check it and notice all right wing unsubstantiated rhetoric.

    I want a newspaper or magazine that enlightens me, challenges me and airs disagreements, debates and controversies…..

    • I get it; the NP should be more like all the other bleeding heart left wing advertising rags that advertise themselves as newspapers (my frame of reference is Toronto and its dailies) and stop being so cynical about the Liberal gang that has run and warped Canada for longer than most of us can remember. You do understand about brain washing, one assumes?

  50. Ya Potter…You're the only one who captured the brilliance of the Montreal meeting…. Everyone else is obviously in the dark.

    The Nat post might be an easy bash for the predisposed, or lazy, but you apparently didn't read the Globe either. This ultimately becomes about politics, not just a brainstorming wonkfest. Unless you can get elected to implement your agenda, the rest becomes moot.

    Most of the political and pundit class at least understand that reality.

  51. Now it seems that ideological war is fracturing MSM as well.
    Liberanos are such a lost cause that even MSM rats are jumping off their sinking ship.

    I do not think Andrew Potter will stop them with his heroic claim that Liberano sinking ship with a broken rudder, and busted steam engine is in fact an atomic submarine making a strategic submerge only to resurface when their intercontinental missiles are ready to launch and deliver deadly blow to their political foes.

  52. It's clearly silly for a newspaper to heap scorn on an "ideas conference" rather than discussing the actual ideas put forward. That being said, this event was held by a political party–not a university.

    Partisan politics is the crucible that turns ideas into action and theory into practice. That's the role politics plays in our society. Instead, we're once again all witness to the obvious consequences of a political party electing a leader with no experience in politics, government or Canadian public life. Ideas are great, but so far as I can tell this conference didn't produce a single usable one.

    Hey, Ignatieff: less talk and more action.

    • "Partisan politics is the crucible that turns ideas into action and theory into practice."

      The last three years would suggest that partisan politics is the crucible that turns ideas into bumper sticker slogans and theory into failure.

  53. Brilliant!

    Thank you SO MUCH for saying what I've been thinking about Canada's sour puss political press.

    Politics in the Canadian press has become a mere horse race. Who's up, who's down. Who's gonna win, who's doomed to fail.
    What about IDEAS? FACTS??? ISSUES!!! No one cares to talk about what's good for Canada. No one wants to debate.

    It's despicable.

  54. The Canada 150 conference last weekend was a stroke of genius! The format and the medium enabled progressive, hard-hitting expert opinion to be heard by the people without interference or distortion by the usual flock of journalistic hacks. No talking heads! (CBC take notice.) No slanted comment by indentured scribblers – just solid, thoughtful analysis. What a breath of fresh air! Bob Fowler was fantastic. The LPC – and all Canadians – will ignore his advise at their peril. Vancouver has given Canada a platform; let's use it to project a progressive message for the times: education (including early childhood) and healthcare – with special attention to First Nations – and a wider application of “preventive” medicine. Protection of the biosphere – essential! A revenue neutral carbon tax to fight climate change and peak-oil. (Forget “Cap and Trade” – a wasteful gift to Wall Street.) Add a point to the GST, a modest tax on financial transactions, reduce income taxes a bit – and crack down on the underground economy. For too long, Canadians have been wallowing aimlessly under Harper's dark cloud. It's spring time, Canada – let's come out fighting!

  55. Well, there was at least one prominent former journalist — a gent named Michael Ignatieff.

  56. What an arrogant column by a self serving journalist. While I agree that the media is sick in this country the fact remains attacking the National Post for publishing their opinions as a source for a column is plain stupid. The fact is the people speaking at the conference were serious people. Lots of them told us what we knew was looming but to think that the Libs could convert this conference into an election platform is also delusional. The Liberal party has a lot of problems and do not have the guts or the willingnes to do what is necessary. Their interest is being re-elected and power. That is their sole motivation. It has nothing to do with the betterment of the country.

  57. Thank you for writing this Andrew.

  58. The "Thinkers Conference" reminded me of the old SNL skit "Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey". Vaccuous.

    I thought it was a joke, especially after Iggy said that they were bringing together the best Liberal minds in the country, but most of the Liberal caucus wasn't attending!

    These guys are like the Bowery Boys of politics. (I was going to say Marx Brothers, but they're not that clever)

    • "I thought it was a joke, especially after Iggy said that they were bringing together the best Liberal minds in the country, but most of the Liberal caucus wasn't attending!"

      Give him credit: it proves he was sincere!

  59. Interesting Article. However, what I find funny is that you feel the need to criticize others for being too critical. Tell me, how does that make you any different from the reporters you mentioned from the National Post?
    Perhaps you should consider spend your time more wisely by writing your own opinion on the issues, rather than criticizing others for giving theirs.

  60. Here's my take on the press – there are far too many journalist chasing too few real stories to fill the 24 hour news cycle that is now common. The result is simple – silly stories that have no meaning to anyone outside of the journalists writing them. It is make work projects for most of them and the more sensational their stories are the better their chances that they will lead the newscast or be on the headline. Compound that with journalists who really do not have a good grasp on fundamentals – such as reading/interpreting statistics, understanding fed/provincial constitutional responsibilities, little knowledge of the k-12 or post-secondary education system (although most of them graduated from such institutions) etc. and the stories covered are meaningless.

  61. This is some work of art Mr. Potter! We need more of this kind of thinking. We are failing terribly at bringing facts, real concrete debatable facts, that live up to some intellectual standard. I think we lost that standard.

    What's up with that nonsense anyway? Has it been like this forever? I'm young, and a young intellectual at that, but I sadly don't remember if these lower class criticizing methods have always been around. I suspect otherwise but I'm still skeptical.

    You know, it's better to do something then nothing at all. At least we're heading somewhere with people gathering to have a thinkers conference. The problem is, we don't know for certain where that somewhere actually is. The Liberals are brainstorming and I am glad for that.

    For those professional criticizers out there that have some difficulty talking positively of a story to cover; please, look on the bright side of things and don't cloud actual intellectual thought. That's just plain wrong.

  62. While I agree with Andrew one has to wonder what rock he has been hiding under for last 15-20 years. The media have been writing opinion pieces that they pass off as news for far to long now. One wonders some days if any of the reporters have gotten out from behind their desk and actually done some research.
    Why should the thinkers conference be any different in how the professional criticizers write their columns? It is fair game like all the other political events that take place. I find it hard to believe that you haven't felt any shame in the fourth estate prior to this event.

  63. thank you. canadians of all political stripes should be able to brainstorm with appropriately nuanced, useful criticism from the fourth estate rather than an apathetic dismissal disguised as an analysis.

  64. People don't want news, people want to be reassured that their line of thinking is the correct one.
    So people eat up editorials like the one Mr. Potter criticized: they're exactly what the masses are looking for.

  65. One of the problems with journalism today is too many journalists. Here we have a columnist criticising other journalists. On TV, most of the news consists of news readers interviewing reporters, getting opinions from self-proclaimed "experts".

    The whole "fact reporting" thing seems to have been pushed to the back burner. That's how you end up with FOX news shilling for the Republicans, and Maclean's and the CBC barely able to disguise their Liberal Party bias.

  66. Well the thinkers conference did nothing for Iggy's polling.He dropped, the party should drop him

  67. Excellent post, Potter.

  68. Hmmm – about a year ago thee and I had a shortish correspondence, which ended when you accused me of insulting the many great journalists in Canada. If you're having second thoughts, you might have a read of this – What Happened? – a more recent piece that, whilst being somewhat uncomplimentary towards the media in general en passant, attempts to explain the bigger picture of what has happened to our country over the last few years. Lots of ideas for anyone wanting to be seen as a 'real' journalist sometime to start on the path to redemption.

  69. Oh Andrew, you silly silly little Liberal shill. When elitists gather to discuss how THEY would rule the country and the biggest idea they an come up with is to force feed us a very distinct class structure where their 'thinker's make all decisions on behalf of the "common folk", and the common folk have no voice, it is a dictatorial fascist celebration of ignorance. You Potter are as delusional as these arrogant Liberal autocrats.
    You should be ashamed at what YOU and the Liberal sheep like you want this country to become.