A friend who was, and still may be, completing his PhD thesis explained it quite simply. It was that, towns with newspapers which lost their Parliamentary correspondents also saw a decline in voter participation.
It made me wonder about the relationship between media exposure and voter turnout. It is more profitable to cover Parliament Hill for a national market than to cover city hall for a local paper. So, more airtime and ink gets devoted to national issues, and voter participation rates follow the coverage.
Without more study I can’t say if it is a causation or a correlation, but on the off-chance that the reporting of politics actually affects the practice and participation in politics, maybe the media (not the amorphous concept, but the actual Canadian media industry, who could collectively fit in half a hockey arena) should stop writing headlines that are not only misleading but corrosive to a democratic discourse.
Take for example this recent headline:
Poilievre launches attack on Mayrand
Did a Minister actually violently assaulted a Parliamentary Officer? No, the headline writer was just being rhetorical, it’s meant to be illustrative.
Except, let’s try replacing the words:
Russia launches attack on Afghanistan
Man launches attack on neighbour
In both instances, you don’t need to read the story to know what has happened.
And with both headlines, if you were to read the story and find out nobody was attacked, it would be easy to distinguish the headline as being irresponsible.
The problem journalism has is that partisans relish the bad headlines of opponents. We only call out for self-interested corrections, which editors and journalists can dismiss as being motivated by partisanship. Therefor the normal means of gathering feedback and making corrections doesn’t happen in politics.
Non-partisans start tuning out the media and politics, complaining of negativity and hyperbole, but the headlines keep coming.
Meanwhile, sites like UpWorthy are among the most visited sites in the world, based on writing more positive headlines.
Imagine if Pepsi and Coke had to read headlines like, Cokes Plans to Destroy Pepsi, rather than Coke Unveils New Marketing Push for 2014. I think even Pepsi would complain, and Coke would be checking to see if they could sue.