Fentie fudges facts about new election media strategy

ELECTION 2006 NOTEBOOK Friday, Premier Dennis Fentie announced he’s adopted a “new approach” to handling local media.


Friday, Premier Dennis Fentie announced he’s adopted a “new approach” to handling local media.

And, in launching it, misled everyone.

His strategy consists of cherry picking reporters for Yukon Party junkets to outlying communities, followed by friendly chats with all media outlets at the party’s Whitehorse campaign HQ.

The strategy was announced after the Yukon Party spent an undisclosed sum to fly two reporters to Dawson City and Mayo with Fentie, Yukon Party MLA Ted Staffen and party campaign manager Craig Tuton on Thursday.

The Whitehorse Star, CHON-FM and CKRW-FM were invited on the flight.

The Star and CHON accepted while CKRW turned down the offer due to staffing shortages.

The News and CBC were not told about the scheme.

But Fentie pretended otherwise.

“If you choose not to go that is entirely your choice,” he said, as reporters questioned him about the selection process.

“Yesterday, two members of the media chose to come along. Others didn’t.”

And it was clear that information about the trip was under wraps.

Asked how much the junket cost, Tuton was coy.

“We’ll spend whatever it takes to win,” he said.

How were selections done?

“I don’t do the selecting, I’m the message boy,” said Fentie.

When pressed, Fentie’s mood darkened.

“If you have a problem with what we did yesterday . . .” he said, raising his finger.

But, before Fentie could continue, someone caught his eye and the tension evapourated.

“The Yukon Party will be offering further chances for travel to Yukon media,” he said.

Offering paid flights is similar to a seat on a campaign bus in southern Canada, due to the massive distances between territorial communities, said David Tait, assistant professor of journalism at Carleton University and former reporter at the Whitehorse Star and CBC North.

But the offer to all media organizations was announced Friday — a day after two reporters had already been chosen, noted Tait.

“I think that’s careless politics,” he said.

“If you’re going to do something like that, you announce it before the first trip, and you don’t announce it, you discuss it first.

“I think they made a political blunder there, by laying themselves open to what anybody could anticipate from those who were not involved in this story.”

And, after accepting paid flights, media organizations must double their efforts to remain balanced, said Tait.

“It’s a gamble by the political parties when they bring reporters into these situations,” Tait said. (TQ)

Hey, he’s already won

No need to go through all the election rigmarole.

Dennis Fentie’s already won.

The premier took first place in curb appeal during the 2006 Watson Lake Yard and Garden competition.

He and Lorraine Nixon took another blue ribbon in the greenhouse category, and placed second in the whole yard competition.

If only it took a little water and mowing to govern the territory, the premier would have it hands down. (GK)