Power, Prime Ministers and the Press

Overview

An intimate history of the journalists who covered Canadian history, and made some of their own.

The history of the press gallery is rich in anecdotes about the people on Parliament Hill who have covered 23 prime ministers and 42 elections in the past 150 years.

Mining the archives and his own interviews, Robert Lewis turns the spotlight on the watchers, including reporters who got too close to power and others who kept their distance.

The Riel Rebellion, the Pacific Scandal, two world wars, the Depression, women's liberation, Quebec separatism, and terrorism are all part of the sweeping background to this lively account of how the news gets made, manipulated, and, sometimes mangled. Since Watergate, press gallery coverage has become more confrontational — a fact, Lewis argues, that fails Canadian democracy.

Reviews

Robert Lewis has written a brilliant, irreplaceable book. His own experience as a parliamentary reporter over many years gives the account a distinct, personal feel, but it goes well beyond anecdotage to giving us a real history of the often tempestuous relationship between political leaders and the press galleries over the life of the country. Well written, funny, insightful, it takes us through personality clashes and technological change in a thoughtful way. It is a remarkable celebration of our country and the value of a free and outspoken press.

— Bob Rae, former premier of Ontario and leader of the federal Liberals

The most important book of the year. Robert Lewis’s Power, Prime Ministers and the Press is essential reading for all who believe in a free press, democracy and the critical role of responsible journalism. It is both history lesson and civics lesson – as well as a magnificent portrayal of the National Press Gallery and the wonderful, often wacky, characters who have worked (and played) there from Confederation to tonight's news.

— Roy MacGregor, an award-winning journalist and author

This is the riveting story of the men and women who wrote the first draft of Canada’s 150 year history. Bob Lewis tells it with a verve and obvious affection for a craft that has been his life’s work. He also introduces us to the old, pre-Confederation firebrand, William Lyon Mackenzie's warning that ‘(W)henever the press is not free, the people are poor, abject, degraded slaves ...’ and reminds us why this admonition is as relevant today as it was throughout the fascinating history he brings to life in these pages.

— Allan Gregg, pollster and political strategist

About the Author

Robert Lewis

Posted by KathrynB on December 12, 2017
Robert Lewis photo

Robert Lewis

Robert Lewis spent twelve years as a Parliamentary correspondent and seven years as Maclean’s editor-in-chief. He has also been the vice president of content development at Rogers Media, and he is a former chair of the Canadian Journalism Foundation. He lives in Toronto.