Bob Rae has it wrong.
On Sunday, the interim Liberal leader took aim at The Canadian Press for choosing Luka Rocco Magnotta as Canada’s 2012 newsmaker of the year.
As the National Post reports, Magnotta, the alleged killer who awaits his day in court in a Montreal detention centre, was the target of a global manhunt last spring after a Chinese engineering student was killed, his body cut up and remains mailed to four different locations in Ottawa and British Columbia.
The story made international headlines and will no doubt become part of a media frenzy when Magnotta’s case is heart before the courts.
But the fact that he was chosen as newsmaker of the year by CP drew the ire of Rae, who, like other federal politicians, attacked the media organization for poor judgment.
Rae was among the first to express his anger and disappointment on Sunday by tweeting to his followers: “Canadian Press reaches a new low with its naming Magnotta as ‘newsmaker of the year.’ Truly disgusting.”
He also called the choice “cheap sensationalism,” and suggested that many other people had “more impact and made more news.”
We’re a little surprised that a seasoned veteran politician such as Rae would not know the difference between a newsmaker and a person of the year.
First of all, any time a news organization chooses a “newsmaker” of the year, it’s not the same thing as “person” of the year. Typically a man of the year or person of the year is an individual who has offered some kind of leadership role, or has achieved something noteworthy in the eyes of the world.
Editors who chose CP’s newsmaker of the year would not have given thought to the quality of the person, but rather the value of the news and the impact that news had on society at large. We note that Amanda Todd, the teen girl who was bullied and blackmailed until she committed suicide, was the second choice for the newsmaker title. That story, too, was horrific, but in an entirely different way.
In our opinion, there was nothing particularly shocking about the news coverage given to Magnotta. As we have noted before on this page, newspapers and news organizations report the news. Period. The media would be doing a much larger disservice to the general public if it purposefully withheld stories about Magnotta or Todd, or any other crime.
But the details surrounding Magnotta were breathtakingly awful. He was even dubbed “Canadian Psycho.” As the Brandon Sun’s managing editor tweeted on Sunday, the allegations against Magnotta “ripped the lid off the unimaginable depraved underworld” of sadistic sex, mutilation and death.
If proven true, they suggest a man entirely without a moral compass, a sadistic lunatic who inflicted a terrible act upon an unsuspecting public. That’s no man of the year — but newsmaker, certainly.
All of this said, the newsmaker title is entirely up for debate — in this case it was the opinion of top editors at CP who made the choice.
Last year, CP chose NDP Leader Jack Layton, who died from cancer after leading his party to the Opposition chairs.
Given the swell of goodwill for Layton and his family following his death, it would be easy for the public to assume CP made the choice due to Layton’s achievement and character. Oceans of ink were written about the man and he was even given a state funeral. But it was the incredible news value of his life and death that made him the newsmaker of the year.
There were several other good choices this year, too — Pierre Poutine, for example, the alias of the unknown person who used a disposable cellphone to make fraudulent robocalls during the last federal election; Public Safety Minister Vic Toews would have been another good choice, given his comments to a Liberal MP that he could either stand with the government or “with the child pornographers” prowling online.
But CP chose Magnotta. This doesn’t show poor news judgment. It merely reflects the opinions of working journalists who deal with the news every single day of the year.