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Rob Ford scandal hurting Toronto’s global brand, research finds

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford wipes his forehead while talking with his lawyer, George Rust-D'Eye, at City Hall on Nov. 18, 2013.

DEBORAH BAIC/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Toronto's political scandal is hurting the city's "brand" globally.

According to the most recent findings of Cormex Research, which has tracked newspaper exposure of the Rob Ford scandal, newspaper coverage globally climbed 31 per cent by mid-November from a year earlier.

"Toronto's tone of coverage was also deteriorating rapidly, as the city's share of negative exposure climbed from 12 per cent in 2012 to 26 per cent in 2013," Cormex said Wednesday.

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"The Rob Ford story accounted for 60 per cent of total negative media exposure."

The scandal, of course, has become the butt of jokes on late-night TV, and has played in newspapers around the world, including financial publications such as The Financial Times and Wall Street Journal.

"The results point to an even bigger impact of Rob Ford on digital media and television, where the story's elements of hourly developments, a constant flow of new video and a polarizing character around which to build a narrative are attracting more and more global media to the scandal," said Cormex chief Andrew Laing.

"Toronto's brand globally is hip and smart, generated by its cultural industries such as TIFF and performers such as Drake, and its education and research organizations like the University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Kids," he added.

"Now there's a new narrative – bad political governance – and it's quickly overtaking the good news story that is Toronto globally."

According to the Cormex research, the Ford scandal now represents more than 40 per cent of Toronto's exposure on CNN, MSNBC, HLN, Fox and CNBC combined.

"After the first week of the Rob Ford story, most people thought/assumed that it could not get more bizarre, but that was last week, and by Thursday and what has been described as delicately as possible as 'P-gate,' the story simply left orbit from reality," Mr. Laing said.

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"And still there is no end in sight as the mayor and his brother actively seek out interviews on major outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, Foxnews and many others that can't believe their luck in landing this story in the middle of a relatively slow news cycle."

Here's an interesting fact: The Ford saga has not yet topped the Toronto International Film Festival in print media attention, but it has "easily rivalled" it in digital media and "far surpassed any other story on U.S. cable news networks."

Another fascinating tidbit: Based on Twitter use in eight countries, the Ford story accounts for more than 4 per cent of Toronto's Twitter profile, close to that for Drake. And, said Mr. Laing, it "will likely surpass Drake by next week."

The story is, of course, having the biggest impact in the United States. Its effect is less so in Asia and Australia and New Zealand.

And it's not going away, Mr. Laing added, as some media outlets treat it "in soap opera-like fashion."

"Eventually, I believe the single biggest issue in the Rob Ford story will not be the crack allegations, nor the elements of the legal case," he said.

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"Instead, it will be about the media and the impact the Fords are having in attracting and/or generating long-term negative global media exposure for the city, day-in, day-out, as the city finds itself wandering through its nine circles of media hell."

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About the Author
Report on Business News Editor

Michael Babad is a Report on Business editor and co-author of three business books. He has been with Report on Business for several years, and has also been a reporter and editor at The Toronto Star, The Financial Post and United Press International. His articles have appeared in major newspapers around the world. More

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