News

QMI Agency Newsmaker of 2014: Jian Ghomeshi

By Ted Rath, Postmedia Network

It's rare such a newsmaker comes from out of the blue and changes the conversation of a country.

But such was the story of Jian Ghomeshi in 2014, QMI Agency's choice for Newsmaker of the Year.

Picked by the majority of QMI Agency editors in newsrooms across the country, the CBC radio superstar's confession that his rough "tastes in the bedroom" got him kicked off the air turned quickly into a deeper discussion about how we deal with sexual abuse and harassment in our society.

It was a watershed that started with a Facebook post in late October.

In response to the CBC announcing it had dumped its most popular radio host, Ghomeshi took to social media to win what he hoped would be a public relations battle.

"Dear everyone," the post started, in his famously friendly tone.

He defined his firing as nothing more than the CBC's disapproval of his sexual habits, which he argued are nobody's business but his own. He said he was the victim of a smear campaign by a spiteful ex-girlfriend. He swore he'd fight it, launching a $55-million lawsuit.

Supporters stood by him. Then came the accusers — nameless at first, then some identifying themselves — telling stories of how Ghomeshi choked and hit them on dates, of aggressive sexual advances, and of workplace harassment. His supporters quickly disappeared.

Then came the charges — four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking.

The aftershocks were felt on Parliament Hill, where more stories of sexual harassment followed.

Political employees shared frightening stories of sexual bullying and casual harassment in the world of politics.

Former deputy prime minister Sheila Copps told her own tale of sexual abuse while a politician.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau suspended a pair of his MPs — Massimo Pacetti and Scott Andrews — after hearing allegations of "personal misconduct" from a pair of NDP MPs.

By coincidence, a similar story began playing out in the U.S., as women lined up to accuse legendary comedian Bill Cosby of date rape.

What's more, they gave their names.

Trailer Park Boys actor Lucy DeCoutere was among the first to allow her name to be used when she told a tale of a bad date with Ghomeshi. She even waived a publication ban on her name as her case is before the courts.

The Ghomeshi affair appears to have given strength to a legion of women willing to identify themselves and face abusers.

As Ghomeshi's charges wind through the courts in 2015, the discussion will no doubt stay with us.

"Ghomeshi's fall from media darling to outcast is remarkable, but how his story got people talking about their own experiences of abuse or harassment is what makes him a top newsmaker, although no doubt a reluctant one," Owen Sound Sun Times managing editor Doug Edgar wrote in his vote.

"The details were riveting," wrote Monique Beech, Sun Media's digital content director, "the testimonials from alleged victims compelling and the larger public conversation around sexual abuse that it sparked necessary."

QMI Agency News Story of the Year: The terror attacks in Ottawa and Montreal

We had heard the warnings for years: One day international terrorism will hit Canada.

While politicians debate whether the attacks in Montreal and Ottawa in October can be classified as terrorism or the actions of deranged men acting out terror fantasies, the end result was the same: Two dead Canadian soldiers and gunfire in the halls of Parliament. And it shook us to the core.

QMI Agency editors from newsrooms across the country unanimously voted the deaths of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, 53, and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, 24, as the news story of the year.

"The deaths of these men — both at the hands of terrorists inspired by Islamist extremists — was easily the biggest single event in a storyline that was percolating along all year — the radicalization of young Canadian men," QMI Agency National Bureau chief David Akin said in his vote. "Their deaths are forcing many changes across Canada, and the mood of the country in the wake of their deaths is giving the federal government the political cover it needs for our combat mission in Iraq."

Opposite, in fact, to how terror is supposed to work, the ISIS-inspired attacks in Montreal and Ottawa only shored up Canada's support for the airstrike mission against the terror group.

The attacks also woke us up from our complacency that such violence only happens elsewhere. We were riveted by reports on Oct. 22 when Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, after shooting Cirillo, tried to continue his rampage in the Parliament Buildings, where sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers gunned him down.

"It represented an attack on our way of life," Winnipeg Sun managing editor Kevin Engstrom said. "It is a memory we're unlikely to ever forget."

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