How Each Toronto Paper Covers a Terrorist Execution
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How Each Toronto Paper Covers a Terrorist Execution

And the one paper that chooses not to cover it at all.

In Front Page Challenge, Torontoist analyzes the best and worst of Toronto’s major dailies.

The execution in the Philippines of Canadian John Ridsdel by ransom-seeking terrorists is the top story on four out of our five daily papers this morning. A second Canadian remains captive by the group, presenting the young Trudeau government with its first international terror crisis. Incidents such as this give readers a clear idea of the agendas and ideological stances of Toronto’s newspapers; how much space they devote to such a story, the words they use to describe the aggressors, their editorial position on what Canada should do next. But when it comes to fighting terror or the admittedly small stakes of winning Front Page Challenge, one paper has taken the wise advice of the computer from the movie War Games; sometimes “the only winning move is not to play.”


globe apr 26
The Globe and Mail


Canadian hostage executed by Islamist extremist group” states this morning’s Globe, with a photo of Ridsdel sailing his boat. The majority of the front page is devoted to this unfolding story with two columns, one illustrating the reaction to the murder, the other an analysis of the challenges facing Canada in terms of this country’s official policy to not negotiate with terrorists. The Globe reports Trudeau expressed outrage at the murder and resolved to assist in the jihadist group’s capture, but did not indicate if our government would consider paying the ransom for the remaining Canadian hostage (estimated at $8 million). The Globe devotes some front page column space to a Montreal mob trial where a judge has ruled that the RCMP must disclose details of their surveillance techniques to the defense, and to the ongoing melodrama of Bombardier’s continuing failure to meet delivery targets for Toronto’s new fleet of streetcars (we’re only getting 16 more this year; Bombardier was originally supposed to have delivered four times as many as they have so far).


post apr 26
National Post


The National Post highlights the exoticism of the terror crisis locale with their headline “Canadian Hostage Executed In Jungle,” devoting the entire front page to the story from four angles: the killers, the hostages, the reaction and more background on the victim. The group responsible for the situation, Abu Sayyaf, are described by one analyst more as opportunist kidnappers using the theatrics of Islamist terror groups to drive up their ransom demands. The Post‘s columnists haven’t yet gone so far as to blame the Trudeau government for allowing this murder to happen but there is a faint editorial indicator of what is likely to come with the use of quotes in their headline “Trudeau ‘Outraged’ by Killing.”


star apr 26
Toronto Star


The Star goes for a more prosaic angle to their coverage with the headline “The Price Of A Canadian” accompanying Mitch Potter’s analysis of the incident, pointing out that while the official government’s policy on ransom negotiation is clear, the reality is that private back-channel efforts to intervene are often made, as disclosed by Ridsdel’s university friend Bob Rae, who was quietly involved in the ultimately fruitless efforts to save him. But this story is only one of many on the Star‘s front page this morning, including a lifestyle feature on tips to control an overflowing email inbox, and the continuing pressure on Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to release details of the SIU report on the shooting of Andrew Loku.


metro apr 26
Metro Toronto


The Metro does not put this terror incident on the front page this morning, concentrating instead on the main Toronto stories of the day; details on the worst streets in the city for bike theft (over 15,000 bikes are stolen here annually, primarily on main arterial roads downtown), and what @norm has been waiting for—the cover art for this Friday’s release of Drake’s Views From The 6. The “Started From The Bottom” line proved too irresistible to not accompany a photo of Drake hanging out on the roof of the main pod, surveying his city as if he were Batman overseeing Gotham. This release threatens to supplant Get It On Credit as the most iconic depiction of Toronto on an album cover ever released.


Toronto Sun


sun april 26
As one would expect, the Sun takes the most emotional and inflexible position on the execution in the Philippines with their headline “Killed By Savages.” The Sun is the only paper to indicate in their headlines the actual method of Ridsdel’s death, and despite their outrage at the killing and the fact that a second Canadian’s life hangs in the balance, offer an editorial reminder to the government that they cannot negotiate with terrorists (just in case those wishy-washy Liberals are considering meeting Abu Sayyaf’s ransom demands).


This week’s winner: In a bold decision, the Metro zigs where the other papers have zagged; they put an interesting spin on the national position to never negotiate with terrorists by refusing to even give Abu Sayyaf any front page publicity for their crime, instead proudly putting Drizzy on top of the former World’s Tallest Freestanding Structure™ in a defiant display of freedom and unbreakable local resolve in the 6ix. This show of editorial strength vaults Metro back into a three-way tie with the Star and the Sun on our standings.

Newspaper Number of Wins
Toronto Star 7
Toronto Sun 7
Metro 7
National Post 3
Globe and Mail 1


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