That's the sound of a political smear going bust.
... and a newspaper's credibility flushed down the toilet.
The drive-by attack on Mayor Sam Katz was over so quickly you may have missed all the nuances.
So let us recap:The Winnipeg Free Press launched it's smear on Mayor Sam Katz on Wednesday.
Katz made a quip to a reporter for Shaw cable news, a show whose audience measures in the low tens. The Mayor said following a public ceremony to honour five Winnipeg Olympic athletes that standing next to so many beautiful women made him feel like Hugh Hefner (who celebrated his 80th birthday this week surrounded by beautiful women).
The Free Press seized on the comment and tried to turn it into a full-blown scandal, accusing him of unforgiveable sexism. A reporter finally found one (count 'em, one) critic to say she was upset at the comment.
To beef up the story they went to one of their own business columnists to say it was a sign of "systemic discrimination" against women. The reporter obviously failed to get a comment from any of the five (count 'em, five) Olympians, who, presumably, weren't that upset. That aside, the newspaper trumpeted that Katz was being "ripped" for his foul words.
The "news" was greeted with derision. Not one other news outlet in the city thought it worthy of comment. CJOB's Vic Grant and Richard Cloutier made fun of the Free Press. Women callers made fun of the Free Press.
Boy publisher Dandy Andy Ritchie and his sidekick Bob "Box" Cox (as the Free Press itself calls him) were undeterred. Having manufactured a story by finding someone, anyone, to be suitably outraged, they went to stage two of the smear ---- the follow-up. They did their best, devoting three full pages to the faux scandal.
One page was comments from readers. Many were suitably outraged. Then a full page of letter-to-the-editor. And a column by Lindor Reynolds, who was, you guessed it, outraged. And the cherry on top was a full editorial expressing-- what else--- the newspaper's outrage.
Noticeably missing for the second day in a row was any comment from any of the five Olympic women. Someone in journalism might call that outrageous, but not Ritchie and Coxie who have their own ideas of what a newspaper should be.
As before, the Free Press was ignored by every other news outlet. Not even CBC, which lives and breathes political correctness, would bite. The smear was dead and smelling up the joint.
But it smelled like roses to columnist Gordon Sinclair who on Saturday stepped up with his own anti-Sam spin. He said he called Lloyd Axworthy and encouraged him to run for mayor against Sam Katz.
Katz, declared Sinclair, was underqualified. "We're at a turning point in our city," he begged Axworthy. He said Katz only won because of a business/developer coaliton, something Axworthy's name-recognition could overcome, if he would only say Yes.
Sinclair noted that running for mayor would mean Axworthy would have to give up a salary of $200,000 a year from the University of Winnipeg. (No mention of triple dipping Lloyd's other income sources--a pension from the Manitoba Legislature for his six years as an MLA, a pension from Parliament, the old-age pension, CPP).
Also no mention of that little bit of outstanding nastiness, the attempt to have Axworthy, along with 67 other Western leaders, charged with war crimes before a United Nations tribunal in The Hague. Lawyers from Canada, Greece, Norway and Britain have prepared a dossier of their charges and submitted it to the chief prosecutor for the UN International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The charges relate to the bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, and include "willful killing," wanton destruction of cities, town or villages," and waging unlawful war.
But Axworthy said No. Sinclair was crushed. His other political love affairs have not fared well. His last endorsement went to Tory turncoat John Loewen who decided the scandal-ridden Liberals were his kind of people. Conservative Stephen Fletcher easily sent John packing in January.
Before that, Sinclair sang the praises of Donald Benham who was running for city council. Benham won a seat, but has turned into a running joke as he harps at everything Sam Katz does from the far left fringe of city hall.
His latest stroke of genius is to oppose mosquito fogging during an election year. The no-fogging technique of mosquito control was tried last year and almost killed ten people in the province who got infected with the most severe form of West Nile virus. Medical authorities have successfully kept secret how many of those ten were in Winnipeg.
Entertainers know that you should always leave 'em laughing. So its fitting that the obituary to the Free Press should be written at week's end by sports columnist Randy Turner.
In Sunday's column he notes the many female athletes have posed in varying degrees of nudity to use their sexuality to draw attention to their sports. Of course, he makes the expected resonant sneering remarks about Sam Katz; he wants to keep his job. But his column is clear. The Free Press has made a big deal about nothing. And the jokes on them.
One reader spent part of Easter Sunday making their feelings crystal clear in an email to Sinclair -- copied to, among others, this blog:
When reading the Winnipeg Free Press, I ordinarily give most of your columns only a cursory review. This gives me enough time to ponder how someone so intelligent and articulate can manage to be so logically inconsistent.
Examples include your lament at urban sprawl as you type away in the comfort of your Linden Woods abode or your campaign to free a drug mule from the clutches from a foreign country when any U.S.-led attempt at same would have led to righteous cries of heavy-handed "Ugly American" intervention in one of your columns.
Your article in this Saturday’s paper has finally led me to write to you. Apparently Sam Katz’s management of the City of Winnipeg has led to your Trostky-esque call to arms in an attempt to usurp Mayor Katz.
Your column alluded to a "business/developer coalition" that placed Mr. Katz in his current position. There can be no doubt that Mayor Katz did indeed receive support from this contingent of which I form a part of. As resident Winnipeggers who have both a pecuniary and personal interest in the success of our city, are we not entitled to support mayoral candidates of our choice?
Many of us "vile" individuals (the tone of your article suggests that would be indicative of the esteem in which you hold us) have signed countless personal guarantees to bank lenders and have chosen to raise our families in this community even when governments have sometimes acted as more of an impediment than a help. Our success or failure is inextricably tied to the success of this city. Unlike you, should our community falter, we would not have the luxury of pulling up stakes and moving to another newspaper.
I wonder what the wealth, employment and opportunity creators of this city have done to be so deserving of your derision and scorn. I marvel at your ability to bemoan those exercising our democratic right to voice our opinions via supporting the candidates of our choosing while you simultaneously attempt to subvert the outcome with one of your columns.
Although I rarely agree with anything you write, I respect that you are entitled to your opinion and I am perpetually grateful that we can have this dialogue in a democratic fashion. Perhaps one day you may find yourself charitable enough to respectfully disagree with the opinions of businesspeople instead of seeking to demonize us as some evil force that must be wrested of all say in any matter.
Mr. Katz’s overwhelming support (which extends beyond the evil business coalition thereby transcending any monetary raison-d’etre) has everything to do with the common-sense approach with which he manages the city. He is steadfastly working his way up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – Mayor Katz has the foresight to see that crumbling infrastructure must be addressed before coming up with vapid strategic directions for Winnipeg.
He must be doing something right – thus far, the only dirt you and many of your brethren have managed to dig up on him is some innocuous Hugh Hefner reference that subsequently proved to be more of a stain on the journalistic integrity of the Winnipeg Free Press.
To Mayor Katz: keep up the good work and we’ll stay behind you no matter what the gratuitous banter from those who can only muster enough intestinal fortitude to chirp from the sidelines. Those of us who literally have gone to the pains of putting everything on the line here in our beloved ‘Peg like what we see so far!
Proud to be a Winnipegger & Unapologetic for Being One
Playboy, by the way, has always been a big booster of the Olympics.
Check out their Playboy Olympic Edition.
"While the 2004 Olympic Summer Games will offer a chance to see some of the most raw, awe-inspiring athletics and fierce competition in the world, Playboy levels the playing field with a unique showcase celebrating the sexy athleticism of the human form -- a stunning, 12-page nude pictorial in the magazine's "Women of the Olympics" September issue (on newsstands Friday, August 13, 2004).
And for you lovers of speedskating, Cindy Klassen's main rival, German champion Anni Friesinger, the former champion and winner of four Olympic medals, posed for a German magazine. The photos are nothing that couldn't run in a daily newspaper.