Just minutes after the end of a recent televised political debate, a high-profile Canadian newsman straightened his tie, looked into the camera lens of a national news programme and, using boxing metaphors, gave this assessment of what he had just seen. 'Sitting at ringside,' he said, 'my impression is that the prime minister was TKOed [technical knockout] ... If I had been the judge, I would say Mr [Paul] Martin lost just about every round.' A million Canadians, many of whom will be voting in next week's parliamentary election, were watching and listening. Many of them, presumably, had not yet made up their minds. But now, they were subjected to the unsolicited instant analysis, the 'spin', of a newsman with a national TV audience. In fact, the newsman was not a judge and the debate was not a boxing match. But his facile verdict delighted the political handlers of the prime minister's opponents, the so-called spin doctors, who were listening in the wings. They were smiling, because they knew that in the arena of modern politics, perception is everything. And perception is created by political reporters, whose job it is during a campaign to create a kind of serial drama that will engage viewers and readers day after day. These reporters know that you cannot win over an audience with the dry analysis of policy and position papers. You need 'human interest'. Thus, a complex political event is reduced to a boxing match, and one of the most important institutions of democracy, the election, is trivialised. Spin has become a growth industry. Virtually around the clock, reporters' portable computers are flooded with 'spin' emails from the camps of the different candidates - gossip, slogans, innuendo, anything to influence the reporter's judgment. Daily polls are another aberration of political coverage. They have become like updates on a horse-race: who's leading, who's falling back, who has momentum, who's sliding into oblivion? An entire campaign can be reduced to lines on a graph, stripped of all content and analysis. This year, Canada's national broadcaster, the CBC, decided that it would not do any more 'horse-race' polling because, it admitted, these polls were turning the serious business of politics into a game of 'who's on first?' It was a rare and welcome nod to the intelligence of the voting public. But it was too good to be true. After the first week of the campaign, the CBC's leading news programme broadcast what it called The Poll of Polls - a summary of all the horse-race surveys of the week. They just couldn't resist.