Monday, January 15, 2007

How much for a friendly headline?

If you followed the questions a week or so about news blogger/aggregator/whatever Bourque Newswatch you may find this CP story interesting:

How much for a friendly headline?
Canadian Press

OTTAWA -- Reader beware: the headline on your favourite Internet news site may have been bought and prescribed by a political party, candidate, lobbyist, corporation or TV show.

In fact, just about anyone with deep enough pockets can pay some private Internet web proprietors to highlight legitimate news stories of their choice -- along with deeply provocative, or flattering, headlines.


It seems not many people were willing to comment for the story, including Mr. Bourque. Interestingly though, the reporter did however speak to Conservative lobbyist/strategist Tim Powers, whom Cheadle identifies as a Bourque client:

"It's on the screen that you can buy the service," said Tim Powers, a Conservative party strategist and Ottawa lobbyist. "There's nothing hidden, there's no small print."

It’s not clear if Powers was purchasing Bourque’s services for his lobbying firm or the Conservative Party of Canada. Both are listed on the Bourque site as clients. The article raises why the question of the CPC buying Bourque headlines is important:

…it does raise troubling ethical questions and opens a quagmire in Canada's election advertising laws, especially during campaign periods when parties' ad expenditures are supposed to be closely monitored.

If a political party pays a news site to highlight as a top story something that is deeply negative about an opponent, complete with a deliberately torqued headline, should that be considered advertising?

As I blogged before, while I believe in disclosure ethically I don’t care how Mr. Bourque wants to run his business, that’s his prerogative and the market will decide its value. But if the CPC is buying sponsorship on Bourque’s site that is running during an election there are strict election rules to be followed, and I'd like to know if they were or not.

If Mr. Cheadle or another reporter were to persue a follow-up to this story, I’d encourage them to find Stephen Harper, campaign co-chairs John Reynolds and Michael Fortier, or a CPC spokesperson and ask them these questions I posed a week ago:

1. Has the Conservative Party purchased headlines, or other advertising and/or sponsorship, on Bourque Newswatch?

2. If so, did any of this spending occur during the writ period?

3. If it did, was the advertising expense properly declared and accounted for by the Conservative Party in its filings with Elections Canada?, and

4. If it did, did the advertising purchased on Bourque Newswatch by the Conservative Party during the writ period duly include the "Authorized by the Official Agent for…" disclosure as required by Elections Canada?

UPDATE: Devin and Eugene also have thoughts on the story.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers


Anonymous said...

The sponsors page on Bourque does not appear to work.

Jeff said...

Anon, you want this link:

WE Speak said...

A very interesting client list on Mr. Bourque's site.

Liberal Party Of Canada, New Democratic Party of Canada, Conservative Party of Canada, PC Party of Ontario,Canwest-Global, Friends of the CBC, Rick Mercer's Report on CBC, Canadian Labour Congress, Canadian Alliance, Liberal Party of Ontario, Belinda Stronach Leadership Campaign, John Tory Mayoralty Campaign, Marijuana Party, Saskatchewan NDP, Summa Strategies, Pollara, SES Research, Biotech.Ca, Prospectus Associates, BC Liberal Party, and many, many more!

paulsstuff said...

Try looking at dailycanuck blog.

It's run by superblogs inc,which is owned by The Element Group.Among their clients are the Liberal Party of Canada and Ontario.The head of the firm works for the Liberal party and helped with the last two election campaigns.

So it would appear this partisan news blog should explain itself and where it's funding is coming from,besides advertising,and how much the Liberal party is involved.Kinsella and others are slamming Bourque for taking money for partisan purposes,when it looks like its going on with this news blog.

Anonymous said...

I went from Bourque to Neale (RIP) to National Newswatch (ugh!) to Daily Canuck (Kinsella recommended it, I should have known better) and now I guess it's back to Bourque.

Daily Canuck lost me when it said:

"Today you will notice some changes to this headline service and blog.
First of all, we are increasing our focus on the environment — particularly sustainable development and global warming. At the top of the page we’ve introduced a new “Green News” section which will focus on the ideas, people and technology that can help us find the way forward to a cleaner, greener planet. This space is now called the “Red Green Blog” to reflect our focus on federal politics from a Liberal point of view and our environmental emphasis. Some things haven’t changed, though — we continue to offer headlines, mostly on politics, and we continue not to sell them or distort their intent. In fact, no outside group is paying for any of the content we provide."

Daily Canuck is a Don Millar production, the guy responsible for foisting David Suzuki on an unsuspecting Canadian public. If Daily Canuck doesn't consider David Suzuki an "outside group", does that mean the site is nothing more than the "News According To David Suzuki" ?

Quick, someone revive Judy Rebick to get news that's comparatively a little more balanced. I suppose I could just stick to the CBC website, but watching paint dry on the wall is more exciting.