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The Myth of the “Gagged Clam”: William Lyon Mackenzie King’s Press Relations

Keywords: Canada , Mackenzie King , Media History , Political Reporting , Press Relations

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Abstract:

William Lyon Mackenzie King was the longest-serving Prime Minister of any Westminster-style democracy. He was also the only Canadian Prime Minister to work as a reporter for a daily newspaper. A solid understanding of media manipulation techniques was part of his mechanism for gaining and holding power. King attempted to ingratiate himself with Canada’s most influential journalists and publishers and maintained strong relationships with those who showed discretion in their dealings with the Prime Minister. King had no press or public relations advisor and did not hold press conferences, but he maintained strong personal relationships with key members of the then-tiny Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery and with their employers. While most historians and journalists who devoted any effort to analyzing King’s media strategies concluded he was wary and secretive, a more careful examination of the record shows King, in fact, carefully used his control over information to quietly forge links to many elite journalists in Canada. He honed these techniques while working in the United States as a labour negotiator and media consultant for the Rockefeller family and during his years as journalist.

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