Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Newsmaker of year hits new low: readers

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OTTAWA -- The selection of Luka Rocco Magnotta as Canada's 2012 Newsmaker of the Year lit up the country's social media and news websites on Sunday with a cyclone of outrage and condemnation.

The alleged killer, who now sits in a Montreal detention centre as his case goes through the legal process, was the subject of a global manhunt last spring after a Chinese engineering student was killed, his body cut up and his remains mailed to four different locations in Ottawa and British Columbia.

The event, including Magnotta's capture last June at a Berlin Internet café, was splashed across newspaper front pages and websites all over the world.

Magnotta was chosen in the annual poll of the country's newsrooms by The Canadian Press.

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae was among the first to express his anger and disappointment on Sunday, tweeting to 33,361 followers that the "Canadian Press reaches a new low with its naming Magnotta as 'newsmaker of the year.' Truly disgusting."

After being challenged about the news value in a response by one his followers, Rae went on to say The Canadian Press had resorted to "cheap sensationalism" and that "lots of people had more impact and made more news."

Toronto Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett tweeted the choice was "awful," while Conservative MP Jay Aspin, who represents the northern Ontario riding of Nipissing--Timiskaming, called on the news agency to retract the selection.

"I appeal to decency & better judgement of the Canadian Press and ask them to rescind their choice of Luka Magnotta as Newsmaker of the year," Aspin tweeted.

Magnotta was the choice of 22 per cent of the editors and news directors who cast ballots. The second-place choice with 18 per cent of the votes was Amanda Todd, the B.C. teen whose suicide sparked a debate on bullying. NHL president Gary Bettman and players' union head Donald Fehr were the third choice with 15 per cent of the votes.

The news agency's editor-in-chief noted that over the past few decades the poll has recognized other offensive newsmakers and events.

"The Newsmaker of the Year survey has been conducted by The Canadian Press since 1946 and over the decades, the country's newspaper editors and broadcasters have at times made some controversial selections," said Scott White.

"Ben Johnson won after the steroid scandal in 1988. Russell Williams won two years ago. The Newsmaker isn't an honour or a popularity contest. It's a determination by the journalists in Canada -- the people who make up the front pages and put together the daily newscasts -- about what Canadian made the biggest impact on the news that year. The stories we all cover are sometimes unpleasant and ugly. This choice reflects that reality."

Magnotta has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him. A preliminary hearing for his case is scheduled for March to determine if there is enough evidence for a trial on the allegations against him.


-- The Canadian Press


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 24, 2012 A4

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