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Guelph Politico is locally sourced and dedicated to covering the political and cultural scene in the City of Guelph. Est. 2008.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Newsmakers and Mad Men

Before we adjourn for Christmas, a couple of things caught my eye in today's news.
First, let's hit the way back machine and go back to the presidential election for a minute. Over $200 billion spent, a brutal knock 'em out over ideology and policy, a seemingly endless election cycle filled with gaffs and asides that have nothing to do with the actual politics of being president... And at the end of the day, it all seems like it was all for nothing. At least for one of the candidates.
In an article in the Boston Globe, Mitt Romney's eldest son Tagg said that his father "wanted to be president less than anyone I've met in my life."
“He had no desire,” Tagg Romney explained. “If he could have found someone else to take his place ... he would have been ecstatic to step aside. He is a very private person who loves his family deeply and wants to be with them, but he has deep faith in God and he loves his country, but he doesn’t love the attention."
So Romney hated the presidential election process so much, he did it twice? He spent millions of dollars of his own money petitioning for a job he didn't really want? He flushed two years of his life down the drain so that he might spend the next four years doing something he hated? Does anyone else think he should be made to pay back some of those campaign donations seeing as how his son just admitted that Romney was wasting everyone's time. But perhaps that explains Obama's handily won victory in November, his opponent just didn't put his best foot forward in the endeavour.
In other news, or rather other newsmakers, the Canadian Press has gotten caught up in some controversy by naming accused killer Luka Magnotta its newsmaker of the year. In a poll of editors and news directors from across the country, 22 per cent - a slim majority - voted Magnotta as Canadian Press' Newsmaker of the Year. The initial reaction was, shall we say, outrageous, as in people were outraged by such a scandalous selection for what is perceived as an honorific when all Magnotta did was hack another human being to pieces and be really, really vocal about.
But as the Canadian Press pointed out, the Newsmaker of the Year is not necessarily something won for achievement, and not always meant to be something given for accomplishment. "The Newsmaker isn't an honour or a popularity contest," said Scott White of CP. "It's a determination by the journalists in Canada - the people who make up the front pages and put together the daily newscasts - about what Canadian made the biggest impact on the news that year. The stories we all cover are sometimes unpleasant and ugly. This choice reflects that reality."
Even the more prestigeous TIME Person of the Year has made selections in the past that some may find dubious. Adolf Hitler won the title in 1938, Joseph Satlin in '39 and '42, Ayatollah Khomeini in '79, and Ken Starr, who shared the title with Bill Clinton in '98. In recent years, TIME has even been criticized for how frivolous they are with the title, even pandering in their choice for Person of the Year. For example, the selection of "The American Soldier" in 2003 and "You," as in the individual content provider, in 2006. In 2001, TIME chose then-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, which some considered a safe choice when the title should have really gone to Osama bin Laden. Who, in that instance, had a greater impact on world events: the lame duck Mayor of New York, or the architect of the biggest terrorist attack on U.S. soil?
Of course to compare bin Laden and Magnotta maybe false equivalency, they having nothing in common except that they're both evil men. Still, should the reasons for your infamy bar you for being recognized as the person who some experts believed made the most news in a year? Should we sanitize the news for the protection of our morals and sensibilities? While I personally don't think that Magnotta was the newsmaker of the year, I'm actually more offended that the guy behind that stupid "Gungnam Style" song was voted 17th in TIME's online poll for Person of the Year.
Now some critics have raised the point that being named Newsmaker of the Year is just the kind of notoriety that Magnotta, a narcissistic self-promoter that posted a video of himself committing his crime on You Tube and was captured in a German internet cafe while looking up his own press clippings, lives for. Those same critics think that it will inspire Magnotta-like copycats that they too can hack someone up for the sake of fame, but doesn't that gives the Magnotta's of the world too much credit, and Canadian news consumers too little?
It's a double-edged sword: we have to acknowledge the crimes committed by Magnotta, if only to get justice for his victim Lin Jun, but we also don't want to inspire anyone else distributed enough to kill and dismember an innocent person into doing something similar for the their own share of fame. As disgusting as he maybe, Magnotta had an indelible impact nationally and internationally in the year 2012, and while that impact can be measured by the good and the bad, we don't only take account of the good impact and discard the bad, otherwise we'd never grow as a people, or as a society.
For the record, CP's second place Newsmaker of the Year with 18 per cent of the votes was Amanda Todd, the B.C. teen who committed suicide after being cyber-bullied, and third place went to both NHL president Gary Bettman and players' union head Donald Fehr with 15 per cent of the votes. One was a young woman that suffered a tragic life and death, and the other is a pair of rich men fighting over how many millions of dollars are going to be given to other rich men. Perhaps we can just admit that overall, it was a pretty screwed up year.

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