Media, Public Journalism and Canadian Elections

First published: December 16, 2004

The news media have little influence on public opinion and voters during Canadian Elections, according to most studies done by academics, but public journalism could hold a key to resolving this disconnection with our audience. This essay explores some of the current literature and delves into public journalism as a potential solution.
Studies done on the role of media in Canadian elections present an interesting tension between the perceived importance of the press and its actual influence on voters and public opinion. Beginning with Walter Lippmann’s seminal work Public Opinion in 1922, he successfully framed the role of journalists and journalism as having a huge influence on citizens, their thoughts about politics, and public life. He also created a doctrine of journalism that sets in motion a separation between the public and the press, which over decades would evolve into a significant chasm that has yet to be successfully bridged. Lippmann’s impressions of the press’s influence would eventually be questioned as social and political scientists undertook research starting in the 1940s, which would lead them to the conclusion that the news media has very little impact during elections.