Canadian, U.S. elections overlap

Campaign coverage is colliding on TV, Web

TORONTO -- Welcome to the North American election.

Canadians are set to mark ballots for a new federal government in two weeks' time. But local coverage of the Canadian election campaign is being swamped by an increasingly dramatic U.S. presidential election beamed into Canada via U.S. networks and 24-hour cable channels.

Just how much overlap is there? A debate this Thursday night by Canada's five political party leaders will air at the same time that the two U.S. vice presidential candidates tangle in St. Louis.

"It's a big issue for us," Jamie Purdon, director of newsgathering for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. "We don't report with the same volume on the American election, but we still report on it."

The CBC has employed the Internet as a way of amplifying coverage of the Canadian election via a dedicated site. And reporters on the planes and buses of party leaders continually blog or report online, in addition to preparing traditional TV and radio clips.

But the blogosphere recently got the pubcaster in hot water when columnist Heather Mallick's scathing critique of U.S. vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on the Web site angered right-wing media on both sides of the border.

"Mallick's column is ... viciously personal, grossly hyperbolic and intensely partisan," and should not have run on the site, CBC publisher John Cruickshank said when issuing a formal apology this week.

CTV News president Robert Hurst insists that he's bringing Canadians to coverage of their own election by focusing on properly gathered and vetted TV coverage.

"Because of the speed of telecommunications, we have these online, new media activities. That's new. But at the end of the day, (election coverage) comes down to journalism, to a reporter finding a story and presenting a story with editorial oversight," Hurst said.

Canadians go to the polls Oct. 14.