Mayor Ford a hot topic at Humber media panel

A Humber Lakeshore panel discussion on March 19 consisted of city hall reporters (from left to right) Robyn Doolittle, of the Toronto Star, and Matt Elliott of Metro, as well as Humber media studies professor John Northcott, and John McGrath, a reporter for Novae Res Urbis.

A Humber Lakeshore panel discussion on March 19 consisted of city hall reporters (from left to right) Robyn Doolittle, of the Toronto Star, and Matt Elliott of Metro, as well as Humber media studies professor John Northcott, and John McGrath, a reporter for Novae Res Urbis.

Humber’s Lakeshore Campus became a hotbed of political discussion on March 19, when a pair of expert panels explored all things Rob Ford and city hall.

The event, organized by Prof. Dan Rowe, program coordinator for Humber’s bachelor of journalism program, brought together six journalists from across Toronto who discussed Ford’s legacy and how his time in office has affected journalists and the people of Toronto.

“Regardless of what you think of Rob Ford, there’s been a lot of attention paid to him, more than there often is to mayors,” Rowe said.

“Does that mean people will, regardless of what happens in the next election, maintain their level of interest in municipal politics and what goes on at city hall?”

Hamutal Dotan, editor-in-chief for the website Torontoist, said part of the reason why we are drawn to what happens at city hall is because it is so authentic.

“The thing about city hall, especially compared to Queen’s Park or Ottawa, is that it’s a form of government that is actually happening in front of you,” she said. “There’s a carnival aspect, but it’s real governance happening in real time.”

Edward Keenan, a senior editor with The Grid, a free weekly publication owned by the Toronto Star, argues we are starting to see a Toronto that tires of the sideshow.

“I feel there’s fatigue,” he said.

Keenan said interest peaked on the day the Ontario appeal court announced the mayor had won his conflict of interest case in which a previous court ruling had stripped him of the mayoral chair.

Keenan said that reaching a peak of attention for Ford might actually be in city hall’s best interests.

“Some of that interest that then leads to fatigue rubs off into more interest,” he said, suggesting that people may then turn their attention to issues around city hall, such as transit or homelessness, instead of focusing on scandals.

However, Keenan said shifts in interest do not mean people will, or should, cease paying attention to Ford and it is important to distinguish between the man and the office, and the actions of each.

“The mayor of Toronto can be a very important person in the city. Despite our weak mayor, the office can make a lot happen. The mayor controls the agenda, there’s just not a lot on the agenda right now.”

Ivor Tossell, moderator of the panel and a professor in Humber’s School of Media Studies and Information Technology, gave a four-legged analogy to illustrate how all mayors may not be created equally.

“Sometimes a dog park issue is a seething cauldron of politics and intrigue, a microcosm of the very essence of life itself. And sometimes it’s a dog park.”

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