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Ten Years of Holding Victoria’s Feet to the Fire

Tyee Legislative Bureau Chief Andrew MacLeod was told his job would last two years. Thanks to our readers, it’s been a decade so far.

Barry Link 1 Dec 2017TheTyee.ca

Barry Link is editor of The Tyee.

Ten years ago, Tyee founding editor David Beers offered Andrew MacLeod a proposal: become this publication’s first Legislative Bureau Chief based in Victoria. MacLeod was a frequent contributor and impressed Beers with his ability as a journalist.

“Andrew was breaking stories at Monday magazine, some of which we published, and he expertly zeroed in on welfare policies and other issues that affected the most vulnerable,” Beers recalls. “The more I got to know him, the more I admired his principled approach to reporting, and I knew he would bolster The Tyee’s credibility.”

Beers told MacLeod there was enough to pay for him for two years with no guarantees of anything longer. Thanks to Tyee readers and their generosity, his position has lasted 10 years and counting.

“I have much appreciation for the funders, donors, fundraisers and team that have made it possible,” MacLeod says. “And it has generally been a fun and flexible place to work. It’s had its expansions and contractions, and various shifts, but I think there’s something about the spirit of it and the values that persists.”

Some things have changed since he first entered the Victoria press gallery. John Horgan is the third premier he’s covered and MacLeod estimates only one out of every four MLAs remain of the first legislative session he reported on.

But some things have not changed, including the fundamentals of reporting on politics. “I’ve learned it’s a good idea to always record interviews,” MacLeod says. “That paying attention to details is a good way to find stories. That it feels like the media collectively, including me, catches about one per cent of what’s really going on.”

Politicians sometimes make strange decisions, but those decisions might have an explanation behind them, he says. And he’s discovered MLAs hold a wider range of opinions on issues than voters might think from party talking points endlessly spun out to the public.

“And it doesn’t matter who the government is, it’s always important to keep as close a watch as possible on what they are doing,” MacLeod adds. “We are at a point where expectations are high and lots of promises have been made, but much of the job is paying attention to what people say, then seeing how that lines up with what they do. There’s a saying about not wanting to see how laws or sausages are made. Regardless of who is in power, they will still be making sausages.”

Beers points to MacLeod’s lead reporting on the health ministry firings and suicide as an example of how he’s become a go-to person for many sources in Victoria.

“And he retains his broad, systemic imagination about covering politics. That’s why he was able to write an award-winning book on the growing wealth divide in B.C. It brings nuance and context to political reporting, rather than reactive sensationalism,” Beers says.

“The faces and personalities change,” MacLeod says. “But the institution carries on.”

As does his valuable work for The Tyee.  [Tyee]

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