Discover more from The Orchard
Global gives free election advertising to former reporter
Gary Bobrovitz, who covered city hall for 40 years, is running for Ward 8 in Calgary
A peculiar incident concerning the nexus of media and politics in Calgary’s municipal election occurred Sunday night, when Global News Calgary reported on the concerns of business owners in Ward 8 who’ve been impacted by road closures due to bike lane construction on 11th Street S.W., between Cameron Avenue and 12th Avenue S.W.
The video begins with footage of Gary Bobrovitz, Ward 8 candidate and former city hall reporter at Global, with his back facing the camera, speaking to the owner of Epiphanie Chocolate, and showing one of his election signs in the shop’s window. Other than that, Bobrovitz plays no role in the video.
While it’s odd that the video includes footage of a candidate campaigning without any rhyme or reason, it’s uniquely strange that he also happens to have been a TV personality on Global for decades, Meg Wilcox, a journalism professor at Mount Royal University, told me.
Bobrovitz, who worked at Global for 40 years, tweeted the story out, taking credit for pitching it to his former employer and citing it as evidence he “can get the job done.”
The story includes interviews with two business owners who oppose the bike lanes — the aforementioned chocolate shop and Peaseblossoms Flowers — as well as a quote from the city’s website explaining the improvement project, and comment from a director of the Beltline Neighbourhood Association, who points out that two-thirds of businesses surveyed support the roadwork.
Apparently, the complaints of a minority of business owners take precedence over making space for bikes as a means of addressing the climate crisis on a local level.
While many pointed out on Twitter that Bobrovitz is boasting of feeding a story to his former employer with a particular angle that’s advantageous to his campaign, Global Calgary responded to a few of the replies with an identical statement denying any affiliation with Bobrovitz’s campaign.
According to Wilcox, it’s tricky to delve into the ethics of pursuing a story like this, since all kinds of sources who may have ulterior motives pitch stories to journalists every day. “It’s what the newsroom chooses to do with it and how they cover it,” she said.
Of course, Bobrovitz is by no means the first journalist to enter politics — federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and former Alberta premier Ralph Klein are two that immediately come to mind.
“All people who run for politics are going to take advantage of their connections and networks, and what they do,” Wilcox said.
The duty of a news outlet is to navigate potential conflicts like this in a responsible fashion and resist manipulation by the well-connected. A task that can be easier said than done in the world of corporate media because of its dependence on advertising revenue.
Without passing judgment on the ethics of the piece, Wilcox agrees it’s not a good look for Global.
In any event, she observes, getting business owners a two-minute spot on the nightly news shouldn’t be equated with “getting the job done.”
In other news …
Anti-vaccination protestors gathered outside hospitals in Alberta’s biggest cities Monday to shout at health-care workers and patients about the New World Order, or something, as part of a series of like-minded gatherings taking place across Canada.
“When you move from demonstrating and protesting — which is people’s right — to interfering with hospitals, you’ve gone over a line that can’t be crossed,” Amy Kaler, the assistant chair of the University of Alberta’s sociology department, told Global.
Shameless opportunist that he is, Premier Jason Kenney used denouncing the vile display outside hospitals as a means of promoting his likely unconstitutional Bill 1, which prohibits protests that block “critical infrastructure,” as defined by his government.
Meanwhile, ICU admissions in Alberta have surpassed 200 for the first time since the pandemic’s outset.
The leaders of Unifor, CUPE Alberta and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 say they will simply ignore the Restoring Balance in Alberta Workplaces Act, which requires union members to opt in to paying dues and places restrictions on picketing activity, CBC Edmonton reports.
An outlier is the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA), which is in the midst of public negotiations with the government. UNA vice-president and former NDP MLA, Cam Westhead, cautions against the consequences of refusing to abide by the law.
Edited by Ximena González