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Cheer up, Toronto: Rob Ford’s shenanigans getting scant attention in international press

Good news for Torontonians– despite the apparent surge of interest in municipal politics in the city thanks to the scandal surrounding the city’s mayor, the international press is largely ignoring the story.

Aaron Vincent Elkhaim/The Globe and Mail

Good news for Torontonians – despite the apparent surge of interest in municipal politics in the city thanks to the scandal surrounding the city's mayor, the international press is largely ignoring the story.

Cormex Research examined the coverage 29 papers over the last year, and found that stories mentioning Mayor Rob Ford and alleged drug use only comprised 1.2 per cent of coverage about the city.

The bulk of coverage received – almost half – revolves around the Toronto International Film Festival. The next biggest area of coverage is research and innovation, at 15 per cent. Political coverage of any kind accounts for 5 per cent, just behind sporting events.

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Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada said it would not hear an appeal in Mr. Ford's conflict of interest case. The case centred on a vote in February of last year by Mr. Ford to let himself off the hook for failing to repay $3,150 in improper donations to the Rob Ford Football Foundation, which provides football equipment for underprivileged high schools.

The stories that have received the most attention are those revolving around the film festival, followed by the Via Rail terror plot, the Eaton Centre shooting and the Radiohead stage collapse.

"Canadians (and particularly Torontonians) can be forgiven if they think that people outside the country have adopted a jaundiced view of the city given the totally bonkers nature of both the story involving Toronto's mayor and the media crush it has engendered," the report states. "Nonetheless, a more dispassionate and analytical look at the issue suggests that Toronto's global reputation has not been seriously harmed by the events involving the mayor."

The tone of coverage about the city has shifted over the last two months however, with more negativity making their way into copy. That's only partially related to the mayor – the biggest hit came from the story of a busted-up terror plot involving a Via Rail train.

The truth is that people around the world are exposed to a lot of coverage about Toronto," the report states. "Rob Ford is only a small part of that coverage, and not necessarily the most negative aspect the city has shown over the last year. The city's global media profile is very strong, thanks to its very vibrant cultural industries and leading research centres. Toronto, despite its mayor, is still a good news story."

Unless you watch late night television, perhaps, where coverage of the Ford story has become a staple item on several shows including Jimmy Kimmel Live and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Even so, "when viewed against all the coverage that Toronto experiences over the course of a year, or even a typical month, Mayor Rob Ford has actually a minor factor in the city's global news coverage."

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The study covered the 12 months ending in May. The mayor has continued to be newsworthy, so anything he did since then wouldn't be reflected in the data.

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