Focus of what?


Last week’s At Issue panel concerned the state of Question Period and Paul’s thinking very hard about the subject.

One hilarious myth that apparently needs to be debunked: the belief that too much focus is put on QP.

Someone with a Lexis-Nexis account could compare the number of stories in the daily papers over the past two years that speculated on the timing of the next election with the number of stories that make more than passing reference to the previous day’s Question Period. Or you could simply take attendance each afternoon. Today, for instance, there were nine, possibly ten, reporters in the seats reserved for press gallery members. The empty chairs outnumbered the filled ones by a factor of about 2 to 1.

Question Period has its fault. But it’s not presently a problem that it’s covered too well.


Focus of what?

  1. Last time I was in the hot room, which was almost 10 years ago I’ll admit, there was a TV tuned to CPAC, and as I recall many of my journalistic brethren couldn’t be bothered to make the 30 second walk down the hall to the chamber. Not when it was on TV, and their computers were right there. As for those across the street with bureaus, they had TVs too, and would only wander over for the post-QP scrums.

    So I’m not sure you can really make much of the number of bums in seats in the gallery (woe is still you if you sit in one of the reserved seats though). They’re probably just watching ParlVU or CPAC.

    For the record though I was a traditionalist and liked to watch in person…you can’t get a sense of the theater, or the heckling, by tv.

    • The TV option is an entirely valid point.

      I wonder though how acceptable an excuse it would be for reporters covering any other live event. Then again, given the state of the industry, maybe the press gallery is merely ahead of its time.

  2. Low media turnout – could it be related to the lack of munchies?

  3. 1) I love that you mentioned LexisNexus. I thought only major nerds and law people knew about but evidently not.
    2) You’re absolutely right, it’s not covered enough. From everything I’ve read in both official languages, you are pretty much the only journalist who actually covers QP almost every day. Kudos! Now if only more journalists could pay attention to it instead of regurgitating partisan blah blah.
    3) Why don’t journalists make the trek to the Chamber to attend, at least in the middle of the week, when it’s at its best?

  4. I’m actually surprised that Macleans does not have a Lexis Nexis account.

    • I read that line as “everybody on the At Issue panel has access to LN, but apparently doesn’t use it”.

      • CR: We probably do.

        CM: Didn’t intend that reading.

  5. You want to increase both reporting of QP and the decorum therein?

    Allow reporters to bring in their cameras and focus where-ever they want. I give it three news-casts before you start seeing QP having meaning.

    • I wholeheartedly agree. If the general public could see the faces, rude gestures and comments that come from various MP’s, who are unfortunately (but oh so conveniently) out of the camera shot, we’d have some incredible reactions from everyone.
      Quick, someone write to their Mps so they present a petition.

  6. Our daily BTC dose convinces us of the inane futility of QP.

    Today we are told QP does not receive enough attention from the media and from Canadians.

    Chicken, allow me to introduce you to Egg. Oh, you’ve met? Who was here first?

  7. Well, I try to make it to QP at least two or three times a week, although I admit that I haven’t made it all the way through to the end since the House came back. Obviously, it’s far more compelling as theatre when you’re in the House and can see the full spectacle, but I confess that sometimes I like watching it from the Hot Room, where one can yell back at them without being escorted out by security.

    • I would love to heckle MPs from the public gallery but I wonder what security would do. Do people heckle from the public gallery or anywhere else?

      • Methinks that behaviour not half as objectionable as what is permitted on the floor of the House would net the taxpayer in the public galleries a swift ejection from security, plus-or-minus charges.

        Hmm. Sounds like an NHL game…

        • MPs need to up their games a lot and stop behaving like kids in a sandbox. I find all MPs to be entirely infuriating and it would feel good to tell the lot of them what’s what. If you are charged for heckling or not is key.

          • Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
            Some hoi polloi: Oh, oh!
            Some security guys: Schwing, schwang!

      • The security guards will tell people to be quiet. You can’t even clap. But I’m sure it would be so worth it to yell something out, although the MP’s might have a harder time seeing you if you’re in the public galleries as opposed to being in the ones reserved for special invites and the press gallery.

      • A renegade the-people-fight-back idea:

        One day, forty people sit in the public galleries for QP. After the second question, these forty people start to ape the MPs from one party (start with the CPC, say) by furiously applauding a government member’s response and by catcalling questioning MPs from opposing parties. All forty get thrown out for creating a disturbance.

        Day two: forty new people appear for QP, and repeat the behaviour, this time aping the antics of party #2, say, the LPC.

        Days three, four for the NDP and Bloc, respectively.

        At the end of the exercise, publish a manifesto explaining that this non-violent protest of MP’s appalling behaviour on both sides of the Speaker will hopefully shame same into imposing a certain order among the creeps. Failure to return “honourable” to the Honourable Members within a week will provoke repeat non-violent but noisy outbursts from the public galleries in the near future.

        Hmm, that requires two hundred people who care enough about QP and the HoC to sign up. Meanwhile we’re debating tax credit bribes to get people to actually vote.

        OK, TEN people on each day. No? Five? Two? OK, never mind…

        • Quick preemptive math correction: four times forty equals 160, not 200. Oops.

        • As interesting as this scenario would be, I’m sure after a day or two the government would issue some kind of restriction so that people can no longer attend Question Period.

  8. I wonder how many events in an average Parliamentary day attract 9 or 10 reporters.

    • Are we counting Centre Block random industry association receptions?

      • Not if there are yummy cheese plates.

        • Probably at least a dozen reporters in your typical post-QP scrum, no? How many hang around to catch MPs after caucus meetings? I seem to recall seeing six CBC reporters outside of one of those once.

          On the other hand, Kady, how many people keep you company at those committee meetings?

          • I’d say I’m the only media there at one out of every three meetings — most of the time, there are at least one or two other reporters, and when it’s a high profile witness or a really juicy subject, there can be as many as a dozen of us, but that’s definitely the exception.

          • Six CBC reporters, eh? Lessee, we gotcher CBC Radio, yer CBC TV, yer Radio-Canada radio, yer Radio-Canada TV, yer Radio-Canada International, and, what, maybe cbc.ca? Sounds like the news division could stand a 5/6 cut in its budget. Well, ok, I don’t actually believe that. Go ahead and cut the whole bloody thing.

        • Paul Wells, I love that your display picture or whatever that is, is of Lucien Bouchard.
          Yes I really do appreciate that.

  9. You have to attract reporters with cheese plates. I thought reporters took mikeys in with them, and scrambled to beat deadlines in smokey tavernas. I’m shattered, i was planning a late career change, once i learn to spell. I think i’ll take up politics, yelling and screaming inanities at everyone while only having the fainest idea why has its attractions i’m sure. Besides some of them still hang out in seedy bars i bet.

    • Times have changed. Reporters are allowed to be lazy, but they are no longer allowed to be functioning alcoholics. The seedy bar types are relics of the past.

      • Maybe that’s what’s wrong with politics today. The alcohol-induced courage is gone.

  10. Here’s a serious suggestion. Do they allow blackberries in the observer gallery? I assume so, as the MPs seem to have them.

    So, why doesn’t ITQ or someone equally adept at rapid blogging live blog who is doing what outside of camera range – including yells, hand gestures etc. Name names – and post in regularly here on Macleans so we can see who the buffoons.

    Or how about giving the honour to post live on Macleans to some budding journalist students from Carleton , or others who can randomly rotate in – good training and exposure. Then the MPs wouldn’t be inclined to be on best behaviour ONLY when they see that their antics were being blogged live to their constituents by a recognizeable face.

    Worth a try.

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