The Fraser Institute has gone from being regarded by journalists and editors “with suspicion and derision” to its current lofty status “as a go-to source for every major media outlet in Canada,” wrote Geoff Turner in the online magazine The Tyee, in an examination of the think tank’s public relations success –as opposed to the quality of its evidence-based research.
Turner, a journalism student at the University of Western Ontario, cited research by UWO political scientist Donald Abelson documenting how well the think tank has fared in “the muddy trenches of public opinion.” The piece also takes a hard look at the institute’s close links with some media owners, notably CanWest.
The Tyee piece, rightly imo, focuses on the Fraser Institute savvy public relations strategies and the links with owners of big media. But I would add that it also received media attention because, when it began, it generated new ideas and lacked traditional Canadian politeness. As I wrote in a profile when he retired, institute founder Michael Walker “tread ground most others avoid. Alone among voices of the right, he agreed to be interviewed for The Corporation, a provocative documentary attacking the impact of multinational corporations on society.” Journalists gravitate toward new ideas and toward people who speak out — to someone who is, to quote a source in my profile, “a shit disturber.”