9.27.2006


What's News? The Alleged "Tielinda" Affair in Canadian News

If you saw the Calgary Herald and the National Post today - you were looking at this woman, Belinda Stronach, the striking, mega-rich woman who left business to serve the nation in opposition as a Conservative, then a Liberal cabinet minister, then as a Liberal in opposition.

Lay the National Post, Calgary Herald and Globe and Mail side-by-side today and ask yourself the old Sesame Street question: which one of these things is not like the other? The answer is: the Globe and Mail and the absence of any reference to the alleged Stronach/Domi affair on the front page. You'll need one turn over to get to the story, and big photos, on A3. The famous woman
the Globe put on the cover of today was Mona Lisa.

Ms. Stronach made it above the fold on Tuesday's Herald too, pictured alongside her friend Tie Domi. Maybe it was a function of press times that the Herald ran the story and neither of the national dailies, that I saw, covered it. I thought it might also be worth noting that the front page of Tuesday's Globe featured a photo and story about Conrad Black wanting his Canadian citizenship back. Funny, no such story on the cover of Black's former paper, the National Post.

There are myriad reasons, I'm sure, why one story makes the front page of one paper and not another - economics chief among them. Scandal, or the smell of scandal can certainly move papers. But is there more? Is there a question of values, of political ideology driving this? Do the conservative Post and Herald of the CanWest family have an interest or desire to highlight the failings of a Liberal? Especially that of an infamous Liberal who was once an infamous Conservative? For the record, I think it's a fairly safe assertion to consider the Post and the Herald conservative given positions published on their editorial pages.

Does the Globe and Mail have an interest to put the Stronach story on A3? Is it because they are liberal? Are they liberal? Again, looking at what makes the editorial pages, I would suggest the Globe is more liberal than the National Post - but that in itself does not mean the paper is liberal. My personal view is that the Globe is more centrist in its philosophy and more regularly skews to a liberal position.

Is it not about political ideology at all? Is it really about wanting to take the "high road" and not give an alleged affair a place on the front page? Is it about distinguishing your paper as more serious news?

Or is this just a question of celebrity? Ms. Stronach seems to me to be not much more than a celebutante, famous for simply being famous.
I have neither read nor heard any public account of her wowing her Conservative caucus colleagues or her Liberal ones with the strength of her ideas. She is certainly no great orator as evidenced by her performance during the Conservative leadership campaign and in any recent TV news interviews where she seemingly lacks the ability to speak extemporaneously on a given issue - even ones she would be able to speak to effectively. Maybe it's just me as a PR person, but it's rare that I listen to her and hear her message. What I hear instead are her talking points, carefully constructed in various forms designed to convey a message but ones she's unable to articulate with enough fluency to create a sense of message.

Celebrity, ideology, economics? I don't know if any or all of these things are factors in what made the news today but, as a media consumer, I still ask these questions. I think about the frame of the news, not just what is presented as news.

As a bit of an aside, I think if this story broke in the U.K. or the U.S., we would have already seen "Tielinda" used as a headline - drawing from that relatively new tabloid technique of a combined name to refer to a celebrity entity, as with TomKat, Beniffer and, Brangelina. As such, it is with tongue firmly inserted in cheek that I use it as the headline to this piece!

One other observation. Don Martin, "Calgary's Eye on National Politics", couldn't have asked for a better set up to the launch of his new book, Belinda: The Political And Private Life Of Belinda Stronach. The Herald is publishing an excerpt from the book on Friday which it is, of course, promoting alongside Martin's column today, calling the book timely and provocative. That reads a lot more like ad copy than editorial to me . . . but hey, I'm just a PR guy.

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