The ethnic press and access to Harper

Sure, mainstream media may be struggling for access in Harper’s five question world, but how bad is it for the smaller players? Turns out, if you’re a member of the ethnic media, the answer is: not so bad.

As Steve Ladurantaye reports in The Globe and Mail, members of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada are being granted exclusive one-on-ones, in addition to being invited to take part in round table discussions. The council is headed by Thomas Saras, who has been the organization’s president for the past 12 years and is also editor of a monthly  publication called Greek Patrides.

“We offer our members the ability to reach political leaders,” Saras told Ladurantaye. “I help them meet the politicians … this is the first time I can remember the Prime Minister’s Office being so close to the press.”

So why all the love now?

“The appeal for politicians is obvious,” writes Ladurantaye, “One meeting with Mr. Saras’s band of editors can lead to stories in hundreds of publications – because many of them publish in different languages, there is little fear of competition and overlap. Some prefer to run question-and-answer type pieces that are made available to them after the sessions; others just run a photo of the politician shaking hands with the grinning editor.”

But not everybody in the loose coalition (which has about 450 newspapers in its membership) believes they are getting the right access: Some are uncomfortable with the sense of camaraderie and worry the group’s close ties with politicians skew coverage.

Indeed, adds Ladurantaye, Saras’s style is not for everybody.

Madeline Ziniak, vice-president and general manager of OMNI Television, heads another association called the Canadian Ethnic Media Association. She told Ladurantaye:

“We encourage our members to be judicious in their outreach to politicians, because gone are the days of naive ethnocultural communities. It’s not enough to have your picture taken with the Prime Minister, you need to step up and provide quality coverage.”