It happened again. I heard another tunnel being dug by those who should know better.
The scraping sound of shovels as newsmakers burrow beneath the surface, and then pull the grass over the hole behind them. Hoping, of course, that they will escape the media bloodhounds.
Once upon a time in the reporting trade journalists would develop relationships with sources and folks who had access to public information. The unspoken, and sometimes spoken, understanding was pretty simple: if you've got some good news to spread around, we're all ears.
News is news - and anything that helps inform our readers about what's happening in the community is worth publishing. The quid pro quo of that understanding was also pretty simple: if the source, or their organization or political party, landed in some difficult terrain, he or she would be available for comment.
But that's all changed in the last decade or so.
Presidential candidates unashamedly ignore questions, business leaders send out press releases with pre-chewed statements having no intention to speak to a reporter in person, politicians of all levels have 'communicators' who are essentially bodyguards designed to stall journalists.
None of the latter is new. But during the last couple of years a new layer of hide-and-seek has developed: the email "interview." This is where the person being asked questions wants the questions emailed in advance and will only reply in an email.
Hardly spontaneous, and usually filtered through a "communicator," the ploy was once boycotted by journalists.
But the news business is a hungry beast, and journalists are pushed to have the "other side" in stories - even if the other side is a carefully crafted one-way email statement. So, readers are now seeing more and more - "X replied in an email."
And how do these media manipulators defend their behaviour? The usual way - blame the media.
They say they don't want to be misquoted, or taken out of context.
I must say, I have some sympathy with those arguments.
Who wants to be misquoted? But these justifications fall apart
when the email responders simply refuse to answer the questions - any questions.
What is most irritating is that those same people often come back and say they won't deal with the media because the media fails to present a balanced view. They seem to miss the irony in their attack.
They don't provide the other side and then complain vociferously that the story is one-sided.
And, of course, after I point all of this out in a column, they will also say the editor is biased. The truth of the matter is that what I dislike intensely is the disrespect shown for readers and the public.
Readers know when they're being sold a bill of goods, and they know when politicians or leaders are hiding from the hard questions.
They can connect the dots. They also know that politicians are counting on voters and readers having short attention spans and even shorter memories.
Unfortunately, they are often right.
What is also frustrating is that most of the folks who "go-to-ground" when journalists come knocking do themselves and their political parties and organizations a huge disservice.
Barring being caught in a sordid video tape with a primate on YouTube, most questions journalists ask can be answered without further incriminating oneself.
There are, dare I say, simple, civil ways of spinning answers without having one's nose grow.
I'm sure there are even people who make a living teaching other people how to deal with the media - but, perhaps they're all busy crafting email answers now.
Pat Tracy is the editor of the Burnaby NOW. Follow her online at www.twitter. com/PatTracy.
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