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The Top 100: The press with the most scoops and sway

By Rachel Aiello      
Huffington Post Ottawa bureau chief Althia Raj interviewing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photograph courtesy of Adam Scotti

You can have all the power and influence in the world, but much like the old philosophical question, if no one is there to break the story, or report on it, did it really happen?

On Parliament Hill, the relationship between the politicos and the press that covers them is symbiotic; both sides are needed for democracy to function, and it depends on the day which organism is benefitting the most.

There’s been a good amount of regeneration in the parliamentary press gallery in the last year, with a number of senior political reporters retiring. So, it’s quite possible we could see some fresh faces atop next year’s list.

In 2017, these are the top 15 journalists, editors, hosts, columnists, and personalities to keep an eye on.

The CBC continues to be a powerhouse of political coverage, both from their Ottawa bureau that has flourished over the last few years under the leadership of Rob Russo, the parliamentary bureau chief. The bureau has brought in a number of top-drawer reporters recently, including Murray Brewster, who is a veteran Hill reporter with a reputation as an authority on the defence beat.

CBC’s Rosemary Barton, who hosts Power & Politics. (P&I photograph by Jake Wright)

As well, Rosemary Barton, host of CBC’s Power & Politics, continues to set her voice apart as a tough interviewer who can strike fear into those sitting across from her. Insiders say she balances this with an affable personality that has helped her build a solid fan base.

Similarly Chris Hall, CBC’s national affairs editor and host of The House, has been pointed to numerous times as a guy who really has a finger on the pulse of what’s happening on the Hill.

Off the Hill, but not far removed, CBC News’s Chief Correspondent and host of The National, Peter Mansbridge, has deep connections inside the PMO. Although Mansbridge has announced he’ll be stepping down after Canada Day, he’s not expected to step too far out of the limelight.

He continues to push the national political conversation weekly through his “At Issue” panel, which features two other top media influencers, Toronto Star and L’actualité columnist Chantal Hébert and National Post columnist Andrew Coyne.

Hébert has been described as a wise interpreter of the news who has an apt analysis of the way the political winds are blowing. Her connections and insight are important to the Canadian francophone community, and her 139,000 Twitter followers give her one of the largest platforms in the country.

Coyne similarly offers a valued perspective and sometimes contrarian take that can re-shape Canadians’ perspectives on the way a political story is being presented.

National Post columnist Andrew Coyne. (P&I photograph by Jake Wright)

Another columnist with a strong reputation who straddles the world of television and print is Susan Delacourt, political columnist for the Toronto Star and iPolitics. Insiders have described her as “fair” and “relentless,” and say she is trusted in Trudeau’s inner circle.

In the world of print journalism, Globe and Mail Ottawa bureau chief Bob Fife continues to set the political agenda and lead Question Period with the revelations in his breaking stories. He gets doggedly invested in his stories, and has a reputation as an excellent mentor for younger journalists.

As well, Globe and Mail Editor-in-Chief David Walmsley has been named for his decision to hire strong reporters like Fife, is considered very plugged-in—despite being in Toronto—and oversees coverage of all media.

Canadian Press parliamentary reporter Joan Bryden is also top of the charts when it comes to breaking insider Liberal stories and because her work is carried nationwide in newspapers and by the major broadcast channels, her audience is one of the largest.

La Presse Ottawa bureau chief Joël-Denis Bellavance is regarded by insiders as one of the smartest reporters, who for 22 years on the Hill has broken major security stories by digging for documents and working deep sources, proving that “being nice really works in journalism,” as one person told P&I.

Similarly, Kate Malloy, editor of The Hill Times, made the list this year as numerous politicos pointed to the newspaper, now published twice-weekly, as an Ottawa institution that has been a go-to-read in the bubble for nearly 30 years. Decision-makers read it, and its reputation has been built and maintained under Malloy’s leadership.

Another press gallery member with an important readership and strong source-base is Huffington Post Ottawa bureau chief Althia Raj, who through the recent addition of Facebook Live videos of the major goings-on in Ottawa, and sit down streamed interviews with top ministers and Prime Minister Trudeau himself, is bringing the Hill to an online, sometimes younger crowd.

An addition to the list this year is Bloomberg News’ Josh Wingrove, who is well-liked and respected. He brings a financial lens to bigger political stories, and is the conduit for the economic crowd to other Hill news. Wingrove has been growing his profile through television appearances as well, and with another big federal budget and possibly bigger deficit around the corner, this could be a busy year where his perspective is strongly valued.

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