Rob Ford’s return has been much discussed in the media, but the weird part is that Rob isn’t really taking part. Since his much anticipated return, he has severely limited which journalists can talk to him: he has cancelled interviews, and has generally tried to push away contact with the people who have made him so famous.
Why Mayor Ford? After months of your interactions with the media providing countless laughs and infinite entertainment, why must you cut us off? Why must we both quit cold turkey?
There is a real reason Mayor Rob Ford may want to avoid interviews with journalists who are sure to attack him. As a man trying to get better from a drug problem, being consistently berated is probably uncomfortable and unhelpful. That being said, Ford has said in his interviews today that the stresses of his job do not affect his illness, and getting elected is his job. We would all understand if he wanted a step back from media attention, but that hasn’t been his rhetoric (perhaps unfortunately).
Even beyond comedy reasons, it’s hard to understand why Rob Ford would want to spurn the media. He’s coming back to Toronto after two months of absence preaching a new message, a message of change and renewal. Logically, the best way to get that message across to the people who need to hear it, the voters, is by the same medium that they got the impression he was a drugged up bozo in the first place: the mainstream media. If Rob Ford wants to change hearts and minds, he needs as many media outlets as humanly possible to publish quotes of him apologizing, telling Toronto he wants to do better and proposing ways he’s going to do that. From a media strategy standpoint, there seems to be an issue here.
There’s another layer of misunderstanding to his new (non) media strategy. Journalists are going to write about Rob Ford no matter what. Not only is he interesting (in the “can’t stop looking at a car crash” kind of way) and politically relevant (he is somehow still polling in second in the Toronto mayoral race), he’s also perfect material for journalists: people ALWAYS want to read about him. So if you’re going to get written about no matter what, wouldn’t you rather journalists write about what you say to them instead of what you don’t? If you spurn journalists, they’re going to write mean things about you. That’s like an unspoken law of political media or something. Selecting specific journalists hasn’t really been working since even the ones he agrees to meet with are aggressive and attack-oriented, as seen during his CBC interview with Dwight Drummond today.
When he is talking to the media, such as on the CBC live interview that aired earlier today, he has so far been calm, apologetic and seemed honestly worried about what he has done and the problem he has struggled with, despite expressing that through repeating the same few talking points. Rob Ford was once abrasive and loud, but today Rob Ford is calm while journalists look like pit-bulls.
If I was Rob Ford (which unfortunately I’m not), I would take every chance to address the media and the population. If I were running Rob Ford’s campaign (again, which unfortunately I’m not), I would send him to every A, B and C list media outlet with a “look how reformed I am” message so that every person who has ever heard the word Toronto knows how hard he’s trying to get better. That is, unless I didn’t trust him to stick to that message. Oh, wait a second…