Toronto: The Rob Ford issue and why we have yet to reach media fatigue

As a writer and general follower of news and politics, I have naturally been interested in following the Rob Ford scandal. We are in day 20 of this 50-car wreck of a story and it seems that every time we may be reaching a point of media fatigue, Ford does something else that is the metaphorical equivalent of 10 more cars slamming into the back of this mess.

First, I will explain what I mean by media fatigue; I have borrowed the term from where I first heard it, Drew Curtis’s book, It’s not news, it’s Fark (www.fark.com). The main concept of media fatigue is that when reporting on a large news item, the media has a tendency to take things too far and generally run the story into the ground, so much so that they start reporting on whether they have been reporting on this subject for too long. It’s very common in the media world but I don’t believe it has been happening in this case.

Usually by day 20 of any story, there is nothing new to report. Journalists start regurgitating information, creating sidebars and generally doing anything that could sell more papers. With a large scandal like this one, it’s not uncommon for stories to outrun their course because, hey, who doesn’t like a good scandal? The big difference here is that, unlike most other people who would have crawled into a hole somewhere to let this blow over, Ford has not only stayed in the public eye but has been followed by a continuous stream of incriminating evidence and buffoonish comments, giving the media more to write about without exhausting the well.

Here is an abridged timeline of the scandal starting Oct. 31, 2013 (information from http://www.thestar.com):

  • Toronto police have the “crack tape” in their possession. (Oct. 31)
  • Rob and Doug Ford radio show: apologies for drunkenness, but refuses to step down or take a leave of absence. (Nov. 3)
  • Ford admits to crack cocaine use and apologizes, but again refuses to step down; blames the media for why he didn’t admit it in May (stating that they did not ask the right questions). Ford also states that he smoked the crack in one of his “drunken stupors.” (Nov. 5)
  • Ford video rant hits the internet. (Nov. 7)
  • Ford admits to buying drugs in front of council (Nov. 13)
  • More allegations of Ford’s drunken behaviour surfaces (Nov. 13)
  • Ford makes sexually inappropriate comments in front of media about sexual harassment allegations. (Nov. 14)

For media fatigue to truly set in, there has to be no development in the story for an extended period of time. Ford has managed to beat fatigue by continually doing things that no public figure should. Also, the ford story has seen a true (journalistic) cornucopia of allegations, videos and other incriminating situations come to light. In all seriousness, the media just has to sit and wait for a couple days and boom, another comment. Another flub. Another mistake. This man cannot keep his nose out of trouble.

I am tired of hearing about Ford in many ways; the entire world now understands he is a fool and Toronto is no longer getting invited to parties, but everything that has happened up to this point has managed to stop the story from getting tired.

I am interested, however, in what will happen over the coming weeks regarding the scandal. He has been stripped of much power and left like a clown that no one wants to hire. The world has pointed and laughed. The “Rob Ford should step down” angle has been taken time and again (Even MP Jason Kenney seems to be getting on the bandwagon now). This is the point that will determine whether the media will let sleeping dogs lie or whether they will beat this poor sucker into the ground. I am leaning toward the latter. Why? Remember when Cheney shot his buddy in the face (Again, thank you Drew Curtis of Fark for the example)? It was such an outlandish accident that it took on a mind of its own after initial reports. Ford has made buffoonish remarks mixed with social faux pas and a smattering of illicit substance use. Better yet, he spread it out over almost 20 days; this story may never see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I hope to see the media leave this alone… but I doubt that will happen.

AI

  • Shortly before he was stripped of many of his mayoral duties, he likened this situation to a coup d’état, suggesting that this was like when the US attacked Kuwait and threatened to make the next election a bloodbath (Nov 18)

http://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2013/11/19/rob_ford_97_allegations_against_the_mayor.html

http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/Toronto/ID/2419135766/

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