How to cover Ottawa and Parliament

Peter C. Newman has spent decades reporting on the politicians, financiers and power-brokers that help grease the Canadian economy. In an excerpt from his new book, he reminsces about his time as a reporter on Parliament Hill:

"The 'rules of thumb' for Press Gallery coverage of Ottawa, all of which contained a grain of truth:

How to Cover Ottawa

The 'rules of thumb' for Press Gallery coverage of Ottawa, all of which contain a grain of truth:

1. Any Ottawa news story more than six weeks old is news all over again.

2. If you want to allege that an MP molests pigs you don't have to produce the pig. You just have to get him to deny it.

3. Any story you don't have to retract is a great story.

4. In any situation where estimates are used (casualties, crowds, etcm) the largest estimate is the most accurate.

5. If it's important enough, they'll say it in English.

6. A 'source' is someone at the Press Club bar. An 'informed source' is someone at the Press Club bar who has talked to someone not at the Press Club bar.

7. An 'informed source familiar with the minister's thinking' is the minister.

8. A story on polls is only news when it confirms what your editor wants to hear.

9. The only reason anyone in Ottawa talks is when they are trying to hide something.

A note about #5: remember that Canada is a bilingual nation, and that politicians sometimes have messages specifically for their Quebec constituents that they will only deliver in French.

(excerpted in the Ottawa Citizen. Not online)