When being open to media doesn’t work

Scott Stinson raises an interesting point in today’s National Post column: Showing love to the media doesn’t always mean they’ll heart you back.

Throughout his campaign, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has made a deliberate effort of engaging with media far more than his rivals, writes Stinson. Not that it appeared to help Iganatieff much, he adds:

“The problem with being open with the media is that the reporters may not ask the questions you’d like to hear. So it was on Sunday. Mr. Ignatieff had spoken at length about what he sees as the contrasting visions of Canada presented by his party and the Conservatives.”

Stinson continues:

“But when it was the media’s turn to speak, no one was asking Mr. Ignatieff to explain the Liberal ideals. Reporters asked how he felt to hear Mr. Harper pitching for Liberal votes to stop the potential of an NDP government. They asked how he could remain confident that Liberal voters would turn out in droves on Monday. Did he have any specific evidence that there are Liberals unaccounted for by the pollsters that will bail him out of trouble?”

And, most significantly, reporters asked Ignatieff if he planned to remain as head of the Liberals after the election. As Stinson notes, this is a bit of an odd question — how likely is Ignatieff to say he plans to blow town if defeated?

Indeed, here’s what Ignatieff responded:

“The Liberal party is a democratic institution. It’s a fact. I want to stay. I want to continue. I want to win this election on the second of May but my faith is not just in my hands. Hey folks, it’s in the hands of millions of Canadian voters out there.”

As Stinson writes, this statement turned into a golden nugget for journalists:

“The exchange gave the reporters a little something new, and sure enough, the stories that emanated from that press availability all began with Mr. Ignatieff discussing his future with the party. ‘Ignati’ff commits to stay as Liberal leader,’ said one headline. ‘Ignatieff wants to stay on as leader,’ said another. One more split the difference: ‘Ignatieff says future as Liberal leader in voters’ hands.'”

Likely not the message Ignatieff and camp were hoping to send at the campaign’s close.