If a debate happens in city council, and nobody is around to report on it, does it have an impact?
Last Thursday I noticed that the Toronto edition of the National Post had front page coverage of Toronto’s city council meeting.
Front Page – with a giant picture to boot!
I’m trying to remember the last time a council issue was the lead cover story in the Vancouver Sun… How about the last time there was a photo of a council meeting?
Sadly – from what I can tell – neither The Sun, nor The Province, nor anyone else, have a single reporter exclusively dedicated to Vancouver city hall and municipal politics (if I’m wrong about this please send me a note – who is it?). This is akin to the Globe or National Post failing to assign someone to cover Parliament Hill. Vaughn Palmer does an excellent job covering the BC legislature for The Sun – so why not have someone do the same for municipal politics?
The lack of coverage fosters a city whose political and policy ideas are often unheard and poorly debated, whose municipal scandals go unquestioned and unpublicized and whose council members and mayor go unscrutinized.
Maybe The Sun may feel it simply isn’t profitable to have such a column. I understand (although doubt it). But this function is so important, some solution must be found. Maybe the Vancouver Foundation or some other agency could endow a reporter to cover the City Hall beat.
Or maybe… the Sun should consider outsourcing the role.
Sounds crazy? Admittedly it’s hardly ideal. But a news website in Pasadena, California, recently hired an Indian journalist to cover local politics. The journalist can watch local council meetings over the internet (the same could be done in Vancouver), many documents are available through the city’s website (as they are in Vancouver), and as the editor of the news web site noted “Whether you’re at a desk in Pasadena or a desk in Mumbai, you’re still just a phone call or e-mail away from the interview.” It’s not my favoured solution, but it is better than nothing.
Vancouverites often claim they’re not jealous of Toronto, but maybe we should be. With the Globe, the National Post and the Toronto Star writing regularly about the city’s politics I know I’m feeling envious.
Addition 11:20am PST – David Beers, editor of The Tyee, has emailed me to say: “Was surprised to see you single us out as one who is stingy on coverage of Vancouver city hall. In fact we do have one reporter who has been dogging the issue of homeless housing, covering city council sessions and often the byline on a cover story. Check out Monte Paulsen’s work.”
It is true, the Tyee has more in depth coverage of city hall than anybody else in town… all to glad to be called out on the oversight and hope readers will check out Paulsen’s work. Also, to be fair, the Georgia Straigt does a review of city councilors and talks about municipal politics, but it doesn’t have consistent reporting on the subject.