A photo I took when we went through this ritual in mid-2008.
June 13, 2008. A Friday. I was covering City Hall for Eye Weekly at the time.
At 2:24 in the afternoon, the City put out a press release. Seventeen minutes later, my editor forwarded it to me, asking if I had any idea what it was about:
Media Advisory: Mayor David Miller to make important announcement
Media are advised that Mayor David Miller will make an important announcement today.
Date: TODAY – Friday, June 13
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: Mayor’s Protocol Lounge, 2nd Floor, City Hall, 100 Queen St. W.
Reasoning that it was either really good/important news (something so urgent they were announcing it late on a Friday afternoon) or really bad/embarrassing news (something so unfortunate they were announcing it late on a Friday afternoon), I decided that it was worth my time to schlep down to City Hall. So did the rest of the media, who — along with a whole whack of curious councillors and political staffers — enthusiastically stuffed into Miller’s office much as they did today, to hear what course-altering proclamation the mayor had in store.
And then he spoke, announcing that Toronto Hydro had just sold off Onezone to Cogeco, and that the City would be putting its $75 million take from the sale toward addressing the backlog in repairs to public housing. The collective, unspoken response of the assembled press: “Oh. That’s… good… news…”
Very few people who were reporting on City Hall back then are still doing so now. Which is not to blame anyone’s relative inexperience for the hype of last night and this morning; the mayor and his squad knew exactly what they were doing, and pretty much everyone, regardless of their experience at the Hall, bought into it.
But I do attribute the reaction, at least partly, to limited memories. Instead of “Ah, damn, another one of these,” the sentiment today could better be described as “What. The. F—.”
Aside from the much-noted suggestion that “Live trucks should arrive well in advance to run cables,” the advisory for this morning’s press conference was virtually identical to the one put out on June 13, 2008. Of course, it was also pretty similar to the release put out last September 25, but it wasn’t necessarily closer to that one than the other.
The City website archives all official news releases since amalgamation. The teasing phrase “important announcement” had only been used in a title on four occasions prior to today: “Three levels of government to make an important announcement for the TTC’s 50th anniversary of the subway” (3/29/04) — $1 billion of transit funding; “Media Advisory: Mayor David Miller to make important announcement” (6/13/08) — the Onezone sale; “Media Advisory: Mayor David Miller and City Manager Shirley Hoy to make important announcement” (7/28/08) — Hoy’s departure and the mayor’s pick of Joe Pennachetti to replace her; and “Media Advisory – Mayor Miller is to make an important announcement” (9/25/09) — that he wouldn’t run again. While certainly all substantial and significant declarations, the media was really only batting one for four in terms of sexiness. And despite anything that might be said by Kevin Sack — who is essentially the City’s publicist — both the word “important” and the phrase “important announcement” tend to be used rather liberally in the City’s press materials.
Though newer journos might be forgiven for thinking otherwise, not every advisory heralds something apocalyptic.
The vast majority of Council business centres on budget numbers swirling around. Sometimes those numbers are bigger than others, and sometimes city policy is of more consequence than city politics.