Rising political stars lose their candour on the way up

- October 11th, 2012

This passage in a column by Ezra Klein stuck out for me:

Ryan was, for awhile, my favorite interview, as he was willing to do something most politicians weren’t: Have a free-ranging, substantive, on-the-record conversation with someone who doesn’t agree with him. As he rose through the ranks of the Republican Party, his press strategy changed, and he ended those interviews. Our most recent back-and-forth, which was over his Medicare plan, was conducted, at the insistence of his office, over the relative safety of e-mail.

via What I learned debating Paul Ryan.

This is my experience and, I think, the experience of many other political reporters on Parliament Hill. In opposition, any politicians will be happy to to, as Klein puts it “have a free-ranging, substantive, on-the-record conversation” with a reporter. But once that politician moves up the food chain — becomes a minister, for example, or assumes senior positions on the opposition side —  the candour disappears and the only “quotes” you can use are ones developed by a committee of PR strategists and then e-mailed to you with the  politician’s name at the bottom.

It is possible to still have frank chats with senior politicians in Ottawa, even a cabinet minister, but when that happens, it’s sad to note that just before the politician in question begins discussing the interesting bits or wants to say something original or new, it will invariably be prefaced with a quick “we’re off the record, right?”.

Shame, that.

Categories: Politics

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1 comment

  1. In all my time in PR, I only once recall asking to be “off the record.” I do remember several times asking to be “not for attribution.”

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