Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Why covering Rob Ford is not as fun as it first appears

By: Metro Published on Thu Dec 26 2013

These days, whenever I tell anyone that I make my living writing about Toronto City Hall and our famous mayor, I tend to get the same response.

“Oh,” they say, with a knowing smile, “you must be having fun.”

And, yeah, I get it. With Mayor Rob Ford, crazy stuff happens. The city hall beat used to be dominated by stories about whether property taxes should go up by one per cent or a half of one per cent, or whether the city should license backyard chickens.

But now it’s like an HBO drama. Drug use! Police investigations! Lawsuits! Inadvertent football tackles on the council floor! It’s definitely not boring.

But I wouldn’t say that it’s necessarily fun. Covering Ford over the last year has been challenging. There are moments where it’s a total adrenaline rush. It’s hard to forget those times I spent counting down the minutes until the release of police documents, or the frenzied speculation that comes with every delayed mayoral press conference.

But it’s also been tiring. There have been times — especially lately — where a major Ford scandal breaks and I groan. It means another week where stories about other city hall issues fall to the wayside.

More than anything else, I think a lot of media members have experienced a major case of Ford fatigue. He creates piles of news, but there isn’t much variety to it.

In my role as a columnist and blogger, sometimes it feels like I could almost take a fill-inthe-blanks approach to writing about the mayor. It’s mayoral mad-libs: Mayor Rob Ford did [something scandalous] today. It was wrong for [reasons]. The mayor must do [something that won’t matter, because all this will just happen again].

But to ignore the mayor would be to ignore the important job he still has, and in a sense it’d be letting him off the hook.

To just let the mayor do outrageous things or say things that aren’t true without calling him on it would be a failure on my part.

But I also feel like I’ve failed when I let the Ford frenzy distract me from other city hall stories. And there are so many important stories. Stories about underfunded student-nutrition programs, miles-long waitlists for affordable childcare, our ongoing housing crisis, the need for electoral reform, and a hundred others.

There’s a necessary balance there — one I’m still trying to find — between stories about Rob Ford and stories about things that actually might make life in this city better.

That separation shouldn’t exist. Stories about the mayor should be stories about issues that matter. That they so often aren’t at Rob Ford’s city hall is the thing that takes the fun out of it — the thing that makes this hard.

This post was originally published at on 2013-12-26T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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