BERTON: Personality politics and journalism

Opinion Mar 26, 2016 by Paul Berton The Hamilton Spectator

Donna Skelly, sometimes described as a "TV personality," is Hamilton's newest member of council, after she won a byelection this week.

In a way, she is following Jason Farr, another "media personality" who became a member of Hamilton council, or even Bob Bratina, a "radio personality" who became the mayor of Hamilton before becoming a Liberal MP last October.

Bill Kelly was with CHCH-TV before he became a council member. The station also produced former MPPs Jennifer Mossop and Ed Doyle, as well as MPs Stan Keyes and Geoff Scott.

The tradition of electing journalists — especially well-known journalists and "personalities" — goes way back and is evident wherever media is pervasive.

You might call it a natural fit. Journalists are often already well-versed in the life and language of politics.

They understand the issues — and the game — better than some, and they are attracted to it.

Chrystia Freeland, a member of the current federal cabinet, is a former Globe and Mail journalist. Michael Ignatieff, Rene Levesque, Peter Kent, Ralph Klein, Seamus O'Regan, and Joe Clark were all journalists before entering politics.

Being a journalist helps, but being a "personality" is better, at least at the voting booth.

Being both, like Skelly, is a bonus. Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy were surely appointed senators at least partly because they were familiar to Canadians, but they also knew the issues.

Other personalities, such as Ronald Reagan or Arnold Schwarzenegger, made their names in movies and TV. Even if they have nothing to say, people listen to actors because they are familiar, and familiarity in politics is everything.

Other people are elected not because they are personalities, but because they simply have a recognizable name. They, too, are somehow familiar.

Justin Trudeau had to prove himself as Liberal leader and prime minister, but his name gave him a leg up in politics. Ditto for Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush.

It also likely helped launched the impressive political career of former Hamilton MP and MPP Sheila Copps, who also was a journalist.

Last names helped the political careers of Rajiv Gandhi in India and Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, and continue to help their children. Believe it or not, the same is true for Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the infamously kleptocratic Philippine president of the same name. Marcos, nicknamed "Bongbong," is running for vice-president.

If you are desperate to get elected, you might consider renaming yourself Buddha or Mother Teresa, or maybe even Attila the Hun — it probably couldn't hurt.

It is of course not just voters who are drawn to recognizable names; readers, viewers and therefore working journalists are also apt to give such people more attention, for reasons which are not always the best. The more famous someone is, the more famous they are likely to get.

The more headlines they get, the more headlines they get, which his how Rob Ford and Donald Trump, both of whom were always more personality than politician, got to where they got.

Paul Berton is editor-in-chief of The Hamilton Spectator and thespec.com. You can reach him at 905-526-3482 or pberton@thespec.com .

BERTON: Personality politics and journalism

Voters — and readers — like familiar names

Opinion Mar 26, 2016 by Paul Berton The Hamilton Spectator

Donna Skelly, sometimes described as a "TV personality," is Hamilton's newest member of council, after she won a byelection this week.

In a way, she is following Jason Farr, another "media personality" who became a member of Hamilton council, or even Bob Bratina, a "radio personality" who became the mayor of Hamilton before becoming a Liberal MP last October.

Bill Kelly was with CHCH-TV before he became a council member. The station also produced former MPPs Jennifer Mossop and Ed Doyle, as well as MPs Stan Keyes and Geoff Scott.

The tradition of electing journalists — especially well-known journalists and "personalities" — goes way back and is evident wherever media is pervasive.

You might call it a natural fit. Journalists are often already well-versed in the life and language of politics.

They understand the issues — and the game — better than some, and they are attracted to it.

Chrystia Freeland, a member of the current federal cabinet, is a former Globe and Mail journalist. Michael Ignatieff, Rene Levesque, Peter Kent, Ralph Klein, Seamus O'Regan, and Joe Clark were all journalists before entering politics.

Being a journalist helps, but being a "personality" is better, at least at the voting booth.

Being both, like Skelly, is a bonus. Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy were surely appointed senators at least partly because they were familiar to Canadians, but they also knew the issues.

Other personalities, such as Ronald Reagan or Arnold Schwarzenegger, made their names in movies and TV. Even if they have nothing to say, people listen to actors because they are familiar, and familiarity in politics is everything.

Other people are elected not because they are personalities, but because they simply have a recognizable name. They, too, are somehow familiar.

Justin Trudeau had to prove himself as Liberal leader and prime minister, but his name gave him a leg up in politics. Ditto for Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush.

It also likely helped launched the impressive political career of former Hamilton MP and MPP Sheila Copps, who also was a journalist.

Last names helped the political careers of Rajiv Gandhi in India and Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, and continue to help their children. Believe it or not, the same is true for Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the infamously kleptocratic Philippine president of the same name. Marcos, nicknamed "Bongbong," is running for vice-president.

If you are desperate to get elected, you might consider renaming yourself Buddha or Mother Teresa, or maybe even Attila the Hun — it probably couldn't hurt.

It is of course not just voters who are drawn to recognizable names; readers, viewers and therefore working journalists are also apt to give such people more attention, for reasons which are not always the best. The more famous someone is, the more famous they are likely to get.

The more headlines they get, the more headlines they get, which his how Rob Ford and Donald Trump, both of whom were always more personality than politician, got to where they got.

Paul Berton is editor-in-chief of The Hamilton Spectator and thespec.com. You can reach him at 905-526-3482 or pberton@thespec.com .

BERTON: Personality politics and journalism

Voters — and readers — like familiar names

Opinion Mar 26, 2016 by Paul Berton The Hamilton Spectator

Donna Skelly, sometimes described as a "TV personality," is Hamilton's newest member of council, after she won a byelection this week.

In a way, she is following Jason Farr, another "media personality" who became a member of Hamilton council, or even Bob Bratina, a "radio personality" who became the mayor of Hamilton before becoming a Liberal MP last October.

Bill Kelly was with CHCH-TV before he became a council member. The station also produced former MPPs Jennifer Mossop and Ed Doyle, as well as MPs Stan Keyes and Geoff Scott.

The tradition of electing journalists — especially well-known journalists and "personalities" — goes way back and is evident wherever media is pervasive.

You might call it a natural fit. Journalists are often already well-versed in the life and language of politics.

They understand the issues — and the game — better than some, and they are attracted to it.

Chrystia Freeland, a member of the current federal cabinet, is a former Globe and Mail journalist. Michael Ignatieff, Rene Levesque, Peter Kent, Ralph Klein, Seamus O'Regan, and Joe Clark were all journalists before entering politics.

Being a journalist helps, but being a "personality" is better, at least at the voting booth.

Being both, like Skelly, is a bonus. Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy were surely appointed senators at least partly because they were familiar to Canadians, but they also knew the issues.

Other personalities, such as Ronald Reagan or Arnold Schwarzenegger, made their names in movies and TV. Even if they have nothing to say, people listen to actors because they are familiar, and familiarity in politics is everything.

Other people are elected not because they are personalities, but because they simply have a recognizable name. They, too, are somehow familiar.

Justin Trudeau had to prove himself as Liberal leader and prime minister, but his name gave him a leg up in politics. Ditto for Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush.

It also likely helped launched the impressive political career of former Hamilton MP and MPP Sheila Copps, who also was a journalist.

Last names helped the political careers of Rajiv Gandhi in India and Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, and continue to help their children. Believe it or not, the same is true for Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the infamously kleptocratic Philippine president of the same name. Marcos, nicknamed "Bongbong," is running for vice-president.

If you are desperate to get elected, you might consider renaming yourself Buddha or Mother Teresa, or maybe even Attila the Hun — it probably couldn't hurt.

It is of course not just voters who are drawn to recognizable names; readers, viewers and therefore working journalists are also apt to give such people more attention, for reasons which are not always the best. The more famous someone is, the more famous they are likely to get.

The more headlines they get, the more headlines they get, which his how Rob Ford and Donald Trump, both of whom were always more personality than politician, got to where they got.

Paul Berton is editor-in-chief of The Hamilton Spectator and thespec.com. You can reach him at 905-526-3482 or pberton@thespec.com .