On Saturday Susan Delacourt filed a piece in the Toronto Star under the headline: "Tories planning a spring election?" in which she wrote that a source had told her that a Conservative Party fundraiser had called them up on the phone and let it slip that there would be an election on March 29, 2011; 'letting the cat out of the bag'. Delacourt went on to write that the CPC had denied the Mar 29 date but basically ignored the denial and continued on with the premise of a March 29th election going so far as to formulate just how a March 29 election date was possible by counting back the days on a calender and checking the House of Commons schedule before 'assuming' that PM Harper would be paying a call on the Governor-General asking for Parliament to be dissolved forcing an election.
When I initially read that story on Saturday morning I started a blog post where I Fisked the article line by line but soon gave up as it became clear that the entire story was too much of a joke for anyone to take seriously. It looks like I was wrong and that I have seriously underestimated the ability of some in Canada's main stream media to show even the most basic common sense in their reporting. (more on this later)
First off the entire article was based on hear-say, which should always raise red flags as to the reliability of the information. Hear-say evidence is so unreliable that rarely, if ever, is it allowed to be used a court of law.
Next the story is based on the totally implausible premise that a person working the fund-raising phone bank, who may not even be a party supporter, would themselves have such deep knowledge of the most secret party policy & time-lines and then would divulge that secret information to some random person who they have never met and who told them that they were not even a party supporter. (Seriously, that does not make sense in any way, shape, or form)
And lastly, the entire theory of a March 29 election is flat out IMPOSSIBLE because Canadian federal elections always take place on a Monday, unless it is a statutory holiday which is not the case. One might think that those reporting on Parliament might know that, but obviously they don't or this story would never had seen the light of day or had any type of afterlife.
But this blog entry is not about the Delacourt story, it is about how others in the media have decided to compound this bad journalism by using/citing her story with the (impossible) March 29 date in their own work ignoring the obvious problems and the many criticisms from out of the bubble.Delacourt's article was blasted in blogs and comments across the land within hours of its publication and one didn't even have to venture past the comments at the bottom of the page at the Star to realize that the story was bunk and its value questionable. Yet it lived on.
First the Toronto Star: "Reports over the weekend said Prime Minister Stephen Harper is considering a federal election for this spring with a possible date of March 29." ( Not to be critical but shouldn't that read report, you know without the S?) Not that I am surprised that the Star would use the nonsense from Delacourt as they were the ones that published it in the first place, but considering all of the criticism her original piece garnered wouldn't you think that an editor somewhere might pick up that there might be a problem and that perhaps it would not be the best source to use in another story? Of course that would assume that they bother listening to any criticisms or even care about truth or accuracy.
The next example comes from Jennifer Ditchburn of the Canadian Press, but her use of the 'March 29th' date was not to come in print form as one might expect from the Canadian Press reporter with the Parliament Hill beat. Instead Jennifer would go on national television to tell the entire country about the March 29, 2011 election day theory based solely on Delacourt's article . Listen to what she said below.
She starts out by praising her "fine colleague Susan Delacourt" and then proceeds into the March 29 election date theory laughing with Jane and Craig. While Ditchburn seems to just be reporting what her colleague wrote and may not have known how badly that article had been trashed, although I find it hard to believe that a reporter could read that article and not have concerns or questions, she gets something fundamentally wrong about Delacourt's story. Listen to it again and note that it appears that she is saying that an election will be called March 29th and not held on March 29th. Interesting because if you read the article it is quite clear that it says an election would take place ON March 29th as the very first line reads: "The Conservatives are planning for a March 29 election..." and later on reads: "“She replied that the election would be on March 29th..." and still farther into the article reads: "A March 29 election would have to be called sometime before Feb. 22 for a minimum, 36-day campaign. But since the Commons is not sitting that week in February, it’s assumed the election would be kicked off simply by Harper paying a call on the Governor-General and asking for Parliament to be dissolved."
So what was Ditchburn really trying to say on during her Question Period segment? I was not so sure at first and thought that maybe I would not be able to use her comments for this blog post as she seemed to be just reporting on what Delacourt had written, as I and others have done, but I subsequently found out later Sunday evening what she did intend to say about the March 29th date and also answered my question about the suitability of using her comments at the same time.
It all came to be when she responded to a Tweet I had made earlier in the evening.
albertaardvark: To @SusanDelacourt @jenditchburn & others pushing the Mar 29 election theory... Elections are always held on a Monday! That is all.
Related: another fine example of journalism from Jeniffer Ditchburn. Guergis had a history in the clubs with the hometown playboy.
As stated earlier, many bloggers had written about the Delacourt article. In time I will try to link to them all below. (let me know in the comments if there are others)
and of course Blue Like You where you will find plenty of comments on this subject in the comments!