Media Scrum

Name for a tightly packed horde of reporters asking their questions while surrounding (and some may say threatening) politicians.

Like a rugby scrum, a media scrum can be just as aggressive and physical as its sporting counterpart. Jostling journalists yell their questions at their political targets in order to be heard, to get a good clip, and to best their fellow reporters.

Some politicians seem to revel in scrums, while others despise them.

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, ever the showman, offered up some of his most memorable bon mots – such as “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation” – while in the middle of scrums. Meanwhile, some politicians tried to bring discipline to scrums by altering their literal dimensions. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for instance, held reporters back behind velvet ropes like VIP lines at nightclubs – a move designed in part to help Harper avoid getting knocked off message by reporters braying in his face.

An unfortunate media experience for any hapless politician is to stumble unwittingly into a scrum and then be videoed running away. It’s painful for the fleeing politician, but media gold for the pursuing reporters.

The shape and dynamics of scrums changed dramatically during the COVID-19 crisis. More akin to tennis matches than rugby games, media scrums during the pandemic featured physically distant reporters calling out their questions to politicians standing well back of the pack. The ability of a scrum to hold politicians to account, however, survives in the COVID world.

Image source: Hill Times

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