Keith Davey’s media legacy

Senator Keith Davey chats with Prime Minister and Pierre Trudeau in this 1976 photo. C/O The Canadian Press
Senator Keith Davey chats with Prime Minister and Pierre Trudeau in this 1976 photo. The Canadian Press.

Toronto Star public editor
Kathy English’s latest column explores the media legacy of former
Canadian senator and Liberal strategist Keith Davey, who died last week
at the age of 84.

English calls Davey “the national’s first official media critic.” She writes:

“Davey’s landmark 1970 The Uncertain Mirror: Report of the Special Senate Committee on Mass Media was Canada’s first “national accounting for the media.”

“The three-volume report provided Canadians with a comprehensive public examination of the media and forced this country’s media to examine our journalistic standards.

“Davey warned us that “public confidence in the press is declining” and called for press councils, greater media accountability and better training for journalists — all of which came about to some extent in the years that followed.

” ‘The media’s business is the public’s business. The failure of the media, owners and workers to evolve anything approaching professional journalistic standards is thus a matter of public concern,’ the report stated. ‘As a matter of fact, steamfitters, plumbers et al have taken a more professional approach to their trade than journalists have; they at least insist on minimum standards of training.’ “

English calls Davey a “staunch defender of press freedom.” She quotes an old Daveyism that still holds ground today: “We hope the media will not be reluctant to embarrass the powerful. If the press is not a thorn in the side of the Establishment, it’s a wart on the body politic. Try thinking of the press as the loyal opposition, or a countervailing force.

“The job is crucially important, for what is at stake is not only the vigour of our democracy. It also involves survival of our nationhood.”