Political campaigns can be rollercoaster, Ride the Comet! type affairs. Sometimes the ride is Space Mountain, sometimes the Runaway Train. Sometimes it’s a Small World. Sometimes the Tiki Room. Others times it’s Pirates of the Caribbean - with the ups and downs of phoney, animatronic puppetry.
A bias? Well, this will be a tough argument for either to win, especially when both candidates claim it about the same coverage.
This certainly isn’t a wedge issue between two candidates. They stand united. Both mayoral candidates have accused me of a personal bias – against them, and for their opponent. But both candidates can’t be right, can they?
I sure hope so. I would say this points to balance, with both candidates claiming similar treatment. However, the way these two particular candidates have approached this issue; and their execution of it, has been quite different.
“I feel you have been somewhat biased in supporting the incumbent, there was an article and two unrelated photos of him on page three in the paper this week, and this was also online,” said candidate Trenten Laarz in a statement given to the Mirror.
Indeed, a picture of Dale Bumstead related to LNG, and another at Encana’s Event Centre birthday celebration adorns page three of the latest Mirror edition.
“While as the mayor, I understand my opponent has a function to be the mayor; however when the campaign is on, and anything a mayor does for his city is clearly positive news, this is not a fair election race,” Laarz said.
When it was pointed out to Laarz (and Bumstead) that both candidates had the same amount of coverage during the campaign season the last ten days of so – three stories (or online ‘impressions’ each), Laarz said the ground was uneven.
“I acknowledge on the next page of the Mirror there is an photo of myself, about my vehicle being damaged, this is very negative, as I was trying to express awareness to others, and show that our police force needs more support as part of my campaign.”
I get it. One candidate had to see his car keyed, the other showed up and helped cut a cake, and hung with the Premier and the Prime Minister of Canada. So Trent gets a photo of him installing more signs. To make coverage even for each candidate running for mayor.
* * *
I discovered myself the incumbent’s concern through social media. I logged on and it appeared one of the mayor candidates was no longer on social media. Since it seemed everyone but myself was sharing a “If I have been hacked…” memo, I asked as to his status online. I was told he felt I have not been unbiased in treatment of two mayoral candidates. He was quick to note it was not a problem with coverage, rather the personal sharing habits of the managing editor.
“You have made decisions of your own personally how you are sharing stories,” said Bumstead.
As the Mirror ran the incumbent mayor with the Premier of British Columbia and the Prime Minister of Canada, because it was news, I shared a picture of the 20-year-old challenger Trenten Laarz hanging signs to shore up coverage and impression amounts. Because it was news. I appreciate that my sharing of one photo is tantamount to a photo hanging with John Horgan and Justin Trudeau, but please. It was in an attempt to make coverage even for each candidate running for mayor.
Instead of a conversation about openness and transparency, community, it’s silence from one candidate, while the other simply asked me what was going on. That simple. I’m a pretty accessible guy myself.
Now, I myself as the photographer, could have asked the incumbent to step out of the frame of the cake cutting photo, or retake a second one (fake news), but my thoughts on public spectacles, and candidate hubris in general, makes me think that this would be the end result of that move as well.
Laarz says the whole exercise points to public engagement.
“I am just as passionate about my community as much as any other candidate. We heard that last night from all the candidates running for council. I also can take criticism of my ideas and people not voting for me, I understand it, but I’m not about shutting down ideas or people that are not aligned with me,” he says.
“I’d like to hear from voters interested in public engagement; not a person’s fan club.”
“I hope I can bring back the public engagement in their community. I have heard a lot of people’s ideas, complaints, and current positive things and I hope to help Dawson Creek grow and make it a place everyone can call home.”
In closing – this is a newspaper. Like all newspapers, the reporting staff write the news. The editor edits, and editorializes. If you would like to subvert either one of these positions, by controlling exactly what you say as candidate, that is absolutely no problem. Please see the sales department. We will cut and paste your words verbatim right into the newspaper, and online. We will put a frame around them though - and issue docket number for the sales department and receipts.
Since 1998 - Rob Brown has covered countless municipal election races, 25 odd plus mayoral races, and either managed or advised more than a dozen mayoral or councillor candidates in races across Canada at the municipal level, and advised at another 10 in races provincial or seat nomination levels. He has lost count of the individual races. He keeps saying “races” because this appears to be the first race with an actual opponent for many candidates this year. At least Brown isn’t saying “fiscal gap” yet.