Did this election discredit the 'power of the press' or confirm it?
By Trey Shaughnessy
Published November 23, 2006
(This article has been updated)
If you listened closely enough on November 13, you could hear the sound of jaws dropping. What was thought to be a predictable campaign turned into one of the most exciting, unpredictable election nights in Hamilton's history – at least in the mainstream media.
I remember reading Jason Leach predict in a blog comment, "if the vibe on the street is any indication, we may have a new mayor come Monday". I paused, thought about blogging back, and finally left it alone, thinking he may be right.
I will admit I was surprised, but not as surprised as I thought I should have been with the results. In the November 18 Hamilton Spectator, both Terry Cooke and Dana Robbins wrote articles trying to explain themselves for getting it so wrong.
Cooke's article seems to be in contrast to his Cable 14 appearance alongside an equally surprised Laura Babcock. Cooke is a seasoned, well-spoken, intelligent individual, but he felt compelled to announce that he's been playing squash with long-time friend Eisenberger after his win.
His hindsight assessment was correct but he stopped short of saying there are other influences in this town, in the form of Raise the Hammer, Mayday, Community Action Network (CAN), Citizens at City Hall (CATCH), and the growing centre of power within the post-baby boomer generations.
Still, he was correct about this being an election based on trust. Is it now fair to say Hamilton lost its trust in Larry?
Robbins used his column to explain the Spectator's endorsement of Di Ianni, while thinking out loud why it is that his finger is not on the pulse of the community; after all he is the editor-in-chief of the city's only daily newspaper.
"So much for the power of the press," he wrote, as if the only press in town is the Spectator.
Mayday and CAN endorsed Fred Eisenberger, and Raise the Hammer endorsed policies that were similar to Eisenberger's. Could it be that the power of the press is shifting?
Could it be that these new media influenced a mere 452 votes from the incumbent to Eisenberger to secure his win? With over 7,000 daily page views to raisethehammer.org in the days leading up to the election, it's possible.
Babcock referred to this influence as the "blogosphere", a nice coined phrase for opinions that aren't influenced by undue factors.
Mayor-elect Eisenberger showed real creativity using the "blogosphere" with a campaign ad posted to YouTube. He didn't treat it as a fringe medium but he embraced it.
This is exactly what Hamilton needs for a mayor: someone who will be creative with the resources available. Maybe we can put an end to our cap-in-hand budgets every year when we cry foul over Queen's Park downloading but take no responsibility for our own mistakes - and then repeat it, year after year.
Di Ianni unfortunately had very little he could champion as a track record. Some of his losses were difficult to take. We still don't have a sustainable tax system, Via Rail is in question, a dangerous halfway house is still downtown, the Lister Block's future is shady, the Music Hall of Fame, the Maple Leaf fiasco, the Commonwealth Games, and more outdated sprawl development on Stoney Creek mountain.
The purpose of the Red Hill Valley Expressway was supposed to be for jobs and real employment in land that is now just used for daily commutes out of the city.
Oddly, some of Di Ianni's campaign promises concerned issues that he's had the last three years to address, for example poverty. I wasn't looking for an in-the-bag solution but at least a direction that I could see going somewhere. No, DI Ianni was leisurely adopting a business as usual strategy, a strategy that has not been relevant since well into Bob Morrow's watch.
Hamilton has practically missed out on the economic prosperity that has touched much of Ontario and mostly in the cities surrounding Hamilton for the last five years. We have made some progress but not nearly what it could have been.
I wouldn't entirely call Eisenberger's win an "anything but Larry" vote; that would be taking too much away from him. Call it a sign that Hamiltonians are fed up with status quo thinking, status quo planning and status quo development.
Call it the blogosphere influence, but I call it democracy, and the people have spoken. Fred, take us there.
Update: - I do deeply regret that I forgot to mention CFMU, Hamilton Indymedia, and View in my list of alternative media. I've been listening to CFMU since I was a student myself, so I don't know why I forgot to mention it. These news sources are very important to Hamilton. Indymedia actually broke the Di Ianni over-contribution story. -Trevor Shaw
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