It’s over 10 years, but some family members still haven’t forgiven me and The Guardian for choosing Blair Ross as a Guardian Newsmaker of the Year.
It wasn’t because they had anything in particular against Ross, who staged a lengthy and very public protest against the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) in 2001.
Rather, I think it was because the Blair Ross story wasn’t a happy one, or a positive one. At the time, Ross was a controversial figure who became the face of discontent directed at the workings of the WCB.
And it wasn’t just some of my family members who didn’t think Ross was the top newsmaker that year; other Islanders voiced their disagreement with our choice as well.
Ross and the individual I am about to discuss have absolutely nothing in common, but I was reminded of the little dustup over our 2001 selection while reading some of the reaction to The Canadian Press’s selections as 2012 News Story of the Year and Newsmaker of the Year.
A most unsavory individual, accused killer Luka Rocco Magnotta, was given the nod as both the year’s top Canadian news story and top newsmaker.
The Canadian Press makes its annual selections after surveying newsrooms across the country. And, as is obvious from the selection of an accused killer, the news story of the year and newsmaker of the year are not popularity contests.
That’s something I feel the public doesn’t always understand; that the choice of news story/newsmaker of the year isn’t always handed out for positive reasons.
A look at past Guardian newsmakers can quickly prove that. We’ve given it to popular athletes like Lorie Kane and Brad Richards, among others, who have made Prince Edward Islanders proud. But we also handed it out to a former nun accused of abusing children and, for 2012, we named The Impaired Driver the top newsmaker — hardly something to celebrate.
Our news stories of the year have ranged from the positive, such as the opening of Confederation Bridge (1997), to the negative, such as the 7.5 per cent public sector wage rollback (1994).
Every year is different and it’s the same with the news. Sometimes the big stories are events that make us proud (Royal visit by Prince William and Kate, 2011) while other times they don’t put the province in such a positive light (Prime Minister gets pie in face, 2000).
Luka Rocco Magnotta made the news after body parts belonging to a visiting foreign student began appearing in different parts of the country. It was an incredibly tragic story but it was one that shocked this country and others. There is a concern among some people that making him newsmaker of the year simply feeds Magnotta’s huge ego and that it could possibly promote copycats. We all pray that won’t happen. But the fact remains the Magnotta story was a big one last year.
So was the turmoil surrounding Tory Leader Olive Crane and her P.E.I. Progressive Conservative Party. The Guardian editorial department opted for ‘Tory Turmoil’ as 2012’s top news story. Some readers disagreed with us, most notably people who are upset with Plan B, the controversial highway realignment project in the Churchill area.
Without a doubt, Plan B was a big story on Prince Edward Island in 2012, along with others such as the HST, federal job cutbacks and EI changes.
In the end, we opted for Tory Turmoil and The Impaired Driver, our thinking being those two stories impacted the most Islanders. That doesn’t mean the other stories weren’t good contenders, but those were our choices. Just as we had the right to select them, others have a right to disagree.
Gary MacDougall is managing editor of The Guardian. He can be reached by telephone at (902) 629-6039; by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or on Twitter @GaryGuardian.