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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 29 August 2014

How MSM Helped Ford Win Again

Traditional wisdom suggests that political leaders should be cautious about the amount of attention they get during their reigns; too much exposure can be a good thing.  Especially when it's exposure on their gaffes.
Not so Rob Ford, but then Ford has never been a leader - he's a celebrity.  People laugh at his antics, relish the opportunity to rant against his latest outrage, etc.  More than just being a lampoon of what's wrong with modern politics, Rob Ford is a living, breathing meme.
He's not news, but he's a hell of a story.
News outlets across Toronto have been competing with each other for the most in-depth, creative coverage of Ford's follies, frequently at the expense of actual news.  When David Soknacki, a mayoralty candidate with more substance than support held a news conference around a Land Transfer Tax reform proposal, most of the press flocked to see Ford do card tricks with a magician.
You can picture the logic: "Ford stories sell and besides, Socnacki's not gonna win anyway."
Exactly.  Why cover substantive policy conversations from serious candidates that aren't already headline-grabbers?  It's the job of the press to give people what they want, not to inform them about what might be useful to know and consider, right?

Look, I get it - the press has an admitted Ford-addiction, as do thousands of people around the world, literally.  He's a thing, like Game of Thrones - you can't not look away, anticipating the next horror.
If they weren't in a position of some particular importance to our democracy, I may be more forgiving - but seriously, how can they pick on Ford for his lack of substance when they don't give us more about the other candidates, the issues, the ground-level conversations?
It gets worse - because the press keeps feeding their Ford habit, they keep feeding ours.  The second-worse-case scenario for the press and the public is, Rob Ford loses - many will rapidly lose interest in city politics and the press, so used to Ford fun as reliable fodder will start looking for the next titillating hit.
The worst case scenario, of course, is Ford wins again and the process continues, only at an even more cartoonish level.
People vote for the name they know.  If Ford wins, it'll be in no small part to the notoriety the press have enabled him with. 

Is that a headline we really want to be reading?
Something to think about.

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