March 1, 2013 Globe and Mail article profiles Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s new chief planner (Marcus Gee)

A March 1, 2013 Globe and Mail profile of Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s new chief planner, opens with the following headline and paragraph:

Toronto’s new chief planner is a breath of fresh air in a stuffy bureaucracy

City hall likes its unelected officials bland and obedient. Most of them are happy to play the part, keeping their heads down and letting city councillors grab the headlines. Not Jennifer Keesmaat. The city’s new chief planner is on her way to becoming modern Toronto’s first celebrity bureaucrat, and some people don’t like it.

[To read the article, click on link in first sentence of this blog post.]

Comment

I would add in passing that I recall hearing Jennifer Keesmaat saying, in a CBC Radio interview, that some planning topics require a little more space than can be adequately addressed in a newspaper article.

Her comment can be applied to a Globe and Mail columnist article, as it can be applied to a typical blog post such as one you’re now reading.

A newspaper article has a basic requirement. It must attract and maintain the interest of a reader. Attending to this imperative involves application of instrumental reason.

Given the nature of the medium and accompanying business model – such as it exists in the current publishing environment – the capacity to adroitly – that is, skilfully and with some sense of flair – capture the reader’s attention and turn complex topics into blurbs is a basic requirement.

Establishing a pared-down – that is, a somewhat simplistic, polarizing, and engaging – narrative highlighting two strongly conflicting ways of seeing things is a time-tested instrumental means of attracting and maintaining a reader’s interest. Our brains are wired for stories; the media narratives that engage us tends to have a pretty standard structure.

The headline and opening sentence of a newspaper story are especially important in getting attention. For that reason, these items may or may not be directly related to the rest of the story, at least in my experience of some decades ago as a freelance writer addressing a newspaper readership.

What stays in mind is Keesmaat’s comment in her radio interview.

 

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