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Media Bites: Five Things the Media Got Wrong in 2012

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Well, I mocked and I teased but in the end, I couldn't resist. Year-end retrospectives might be trite, but dagnabbit, they're also a lot of fun.

So here's my picks for the "Top Five Media Bites Moments of 2012", also known as the "Top Five Times the Canadian Press Was Inadvertently More Interesting Than the Stories They Were Trying to Cover."

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Five Things the Media Got Wrong in 2012
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#5. The Mark Carney love-in

Vapid, evidence-free speculation that some transient public darling might be interested in leading this-or-that political party is a Canadian media trope as old as Canadian media itself. I'm sure even our 1867 broadsheets were full of editorials discussing whether Queen Victoria was "contemplating" a bid to run the New Brunswick Confederation Party ("'We are not amused' isn't exactly a 'no!' And she has plenty of experience running old Brunswick!")

Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney spent much of 2012 as the top draft-pick in this year's pundit version of fantasy baseball, with a string of pushy editorials declaring that the empty crown of the federal Liberals was just begging to be filled by his brainy gubernatorial head.

It all seemed a bit presumptuous and naive at the time (I may as well become a "circus clown" the Gov famously sniffed) but considerably less so these days, particularly in the wake of a recent Globe and Mail exposé that leading Grits were actively courting Carney for higher office, and an admission from noted Liberal-friendly pundit Lawrence Martin that some of the same folks pressured him to churn out a pro-Carney column.

Considering that Mark was not exactly unknown and unloved by the Ottawa press corps to begin with, 2012 Carney boosterism was probably one of the more revealing examples of how having all the right names in your contact list can do wonders for your political career -- even if you decide not to have one.

#4. The cabinet shuffle that wasn't

Speaking of cliquey elitism and empty gossip, there's nothing our pals in the Canadian press love more than a good ol' fashioned cabinet shuffle! Who's getting promoted, who's getting turfed, who's coveting whose portfolio, who's on Harper's you-know-what list -- it's the perfect excuse to flaunt all the juicy tidbits they've been overhearing in the Ottawa buffet lines! Almost like 38 tiny leadership races all at once!

This summer, the Canuck press wasted a great deal of time clucking smugly that Stephen Harper was moments away from a major cabinet "overhaul," confident that whatever gossipy sources they were following knew more about this sort of thing than the PM himself.

And then nothing happened. Well, Bev Oda got fired, but you'd have to be wearing giant Bev Oda-style tinted glasses to not see that coming.

#3. The terrible Alberta election predictions

Speaking of way-off predictions...

During this spring's big fancy provincial election in Alberta, Canada's punditocracy was super-duper convinced that the tired Tory government of Premier Redford was over, kaput, stick-a-fork-in-her-well-done-flank-of-Alberta-beef finished.

It was a near-unanimous conclusion based mostly on some grandiose theory of historical predestination: Alberta politics, we were confidently told, adheres rigidly to a set plot: right-wing party gets elected, right-wing party stays in office for several decades, right-wing party loses office to more right-wing party. Danielle Smith's upstart Wildrose faction seemed to fit the historical narrative nicely, but alas, a lot of voters apparently failed history and embarrassment city ensued when the pundits' -- and pollsters' -- bluff was called.

It would be unfair to single out the National Post's Andrew Coyne for particular scorn just because his editors made the ill-fated decision to run his cocky Dewey-defeats-Redford column on their font page the day after the election.

It would also be fun.

#2. The great Robocall fizzle

In ordinary circumstances, the life-cycle of a political scandal begins with a small but scurrilous seed of suspicion, which is then carefully watered with months of heady journalistic investigation before eventually blossoming into a hideous rafflesia of damning evidence.

Back in March, the media's breathless teaser of l'affair robocall certainly promised lots of scandalous foliage -- crooked elections, a massive multi-province conspiracy originating from the highest offices of the Conservative government, a man made out of cheese curd -- and yet nine months later, we're basically still starring at an acorn.

Did all  these alleged menacing and misleading phone calls originate from Tory HQ? Was their menace and misleadance enough to swing any close ridings? Or was the whole thing just one of the many social dysfunctions entirely self-contained within the borders of Guelph, Ontario?

We still don't know. The press should really check on their dirt.

#1. Trudeaumania 2.0

The idea that Pierre Trudeau's eldest son would one day avenge his father and lead the Liberal Party back to its former glories has long been one of Canada's most revered prophecies, second only to our deeply-held belief that the first harbinger of the apocalypse will take the form of a five-dollar coin.

2012 marked the first year the Trudeau resurrection finally began to manifest in the flesh, however, and the press reaction was largely dominated by the emotions you'd expect to accompany any divine second coming -- namely skepticism and doubt.

True, some columnists were pretty stoked and almost everyone considered Justin's reign inevitable, but overall, the nation's pundits were considerably more measured than the Sun News stereotype.

Few considered him flawless, most made much of his missteps, and to the extent he received oodles of free coverage for doing nothing at all it was primarily due to the fact that his handsome mug sold papers and superficially bemused the otherwise apolitical.

J-Tru's omnipresent image is heavily propped up by the press, in short, but as we enter 2013 that image continues to be mostly that of an opportunistic celebutante. All things considered, that's probably not the best cross to bear, and -- who knows -- it might even prove heavy enough to sink his leadership ambitions altogether.

I know that dramatically contradicts the established media narrative of the moment, but whatever -- it's not like those guys never screw up.