Toronto Mayor David Miller and the Maclean’s cover

The cover of the July 27, 2009, issue of Maclean's

The cover of the July 27, 2009, issue of Maclean's

The cover illustration on the July 27 issue of Maclean’s, constructed from a series of manipulated images, certainly is, well, provocative.

It features a less-than-flattering image of Toronto Mayor David Miller stuffed into an aluminum garbage can, banana peel adorning his scalp, with raccoons foraging around the rotting detritus at the container’s bottom.

And lest the reader think the current four-week-old garbage strike is the only reason “Toronto stinks,” the accompanying display type offers some additional clarity: “Skyrocketing costs, soaring taxes. Now a summer garbage strike. How Canada’s biggest city got itself into this mess.”

Ironically, the colourful coverage by Canada’s national newsmagazine comes on the heels of Miller’s efforts to push back against negative publicity generated by a recent newsfeature in the San Francisco Chronicle, in which the paper put the Canadian city at the top of its “World Travel Watch,” citing the unpleasantness for travellers posed by the lengthy municipal workers strike in Canada’s largest city. (Windsor got sideswiped in that piece, too.)

In response, Miller appeared on CNN to try to counter the article’s impact and reassure visitors. On Friday, the mayor held a press conference to underline his confidence in the “resilience” of Torontonians.

The Maclean’s illustration certainly took me aback in that, at first blush, it appeared strangely pro-labour. It’s certainly the kind of cover that would engage my journalism students in lengthy debate — about photo illustration generally, but also about the kind of editorial statement being made here and whether it meets, or should have to meet, journalistic chestnuts about fairness and balance.

When Maclean’s posts a link to the feature story inside, I’ll post it here. Meanwhile, what’s your view?

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