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Mayor Rob Ford arrives at city hall in Toronto, Ontario Friday, November 8, 2013.
Mayor Rob Ford arrives at city hall in Toronto, Ontario Friday, November 8, 2013.

Public editor: What readers think of Rob Ford and the media coverage Add to ...

I asked readers Thursday to let me know their thoughts on Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and the media coverage, especially since comments have been closed on the stories for legal reasons. I received dozens of e-mails and thank you for those. I will write a separate blog post soon on the question of closed comments, but for now, there is a split between readers who think the media is savagely attacking the mayor, and others who think reporters are doing the right thing.

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Those comments are below, but first let me answer questions from one reader who wondered:

– “I noticed that after Rob Ford admitted to his crack use the majority of headlines changed the perspective from ‘the Rob Ford Scandal’ to ‘The Rob Ford Crisis’. It’s a very clear change in tone and uses two words that are becoming the norm for media outlets. I’m wondering if there was a clear decision or if you might be able to shed some light on why the change of terms.”

I don’t know whether there was a specific decision to change the term from “scandal” to “crisis,” but I think given the news – especially the repeated calls from municipal politicians that Mr. Ford should step aside or have his powers reduced – the crisis description is fair.

– “In regards to your comments about photographing Ford’s children while trick-or-treating. In your article you said that if the request from Ford came to not photograph his children, that reporters probably would have respected those wishes. Unfortunately, I disagree with you... On Thursday when Chief Blair was set to release information to the public, the cameras flocked to Ford’s house in the morning and swarmed on to his property. Yes, Ford freaked out, but the reporters were all the way up his driveway with no respect whatsoever for his property. It was reminiscent of paparazzi and it left me wondering what kind of rights they would respect if they wouldn’t even stay off his driveway.”

His children were not present and, in fact, I am told his wife and children left earlier in the day and they were not photographed. It’s worth reminding readers that photographers do have the right to take news photographs while standing on public property (such as a sidewalk), but if they were asked not to be on Mr. Ford’s private driveway, in my view, they should comply.

– “If you know that media scrums allow the speaker to pick which questions they will respond to, why is there not an effort on the journalist side to have some sort of order to the questioning? We know that Ford will either ignore or lie about them either way, but why not at least try to work as a singular unit? Everyone is reporting the same information after all.”

The media is not a single unit, but a group of competitors working for different outlets and they try to get an answer to the question they feel is most important. However, in a sit-down news conference, where either the subject or someone else recognizes one outlet at a time, reporters are given one question and one follow-up and the answers tend to be more complete and focused.

Here now is a sample of other comments from readers:

From time to time wildlife photographers capture a herd of wildebeest on the African veld being chased by a pack of hungry hyenas. Through crafty and well-practiced manoeuvring, the hyenas single out their target. First, they circle the wildebeest to slow him down, yipping and yapping and and confusing him. This serves to separate the wildebeest from his herd, and his fellow herd-mates run even faster in order to distance themselves and escape what could be a similar fate. All of this is, of course, instinctive. The hyenas are intent upon devouring the wildebeest. At first the wildebeest thinks he has a fair chance of escaping. And so does the observer. We see that the wildebeest is bigger and appears to be more powerful. But then the hyenas close in, nipping here and nipping there, attacking from the side, attacking from behind, jumping at him and biting his heels relentlessly. They just don’t give up. The wildebeest turns this way and that , trying to defend himself but he soon realizes he is outnumbered and then exhaustion sets in. In due time the hyenas have him on the ground, biting and pulling and succeeding in killing and disemboweling the wildebeest and in fact, having him for lunch.

Does any of this sound familiar?

By the way, I think Rob Ford is the best Mayor Toronto has had in recent memory – a Mayor who cares more for the city than all of the councillors put together, and certainly more than the hyenas.

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You must be deluged with comments. Good luck but here are my five cents (no more pennies in Canada). His father was a politician and obviously the family has deep ties with the political elite, including the likes of federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty as a personal friend. It’s incredible to me then that these people (the Ford family included based on hearing his brother’s rhetoric and seeing his mother and sister’s interview) seem so low class then. Thankfully I live in Mississauga and have Hazel to look up to. Final comment: if the best that Doug can come up with is that the Chief of Police should resign because he went fishing when brother Rob has been associating with [suspected] …criminals, been repeatedly seen drunk in public and consumed illegal drugs, what Kool-Aid has he drunk?

Thank you to the Globe, Star and other media outlets for so diligently following this train wreck.

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Since I was at work, I watched the Rob Ford news conference the other day on the CBC website. For the 20 minutes before it started, the camera shot was of the empty podium, but the mic was picking up the chatter of the journalists. In short, the comments were inappropriate and clearly biased. I’m not suggesting that the story is not true, but I would be more comfortable knowing that I’m being informed by journalists who are providing an unbiased account of what’s happening.

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The media must (repeat: MUST) keep the spotlight on him. He likely will crash and burn – and take down a lot of people with him. Literally and figuratively. Including family, kids, colleagues. And it’s terribly sad. But without this media spotlight, he will continue to do untold damage. The man is rich, coddled, powerful, and still in denial. As is his family. They still can wreak havoc.

Please stay on this story. The spotlight needs to be intense.

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I am disgusted by the news media’s failure to mention that all these videos have been released publicly without mention that they were recorded without the person’s consent. How would anyone like a video or tape recording made public when they were drunk. Would a Toronto councillor who was convicted of drunk driving like to have had that video of her actions when she was pulled over? Mayor Ford’s only mistake was to be seen publicly or to have not taken precautions that he couldn’t be taped.

He denied the drunk driving and marijuana charge in Florida until it was demonstrated to him that it couldn’t be denied. Then again he said “I’m not perfect, I owned up to my mistake.” And once again Doug knew nothing about it. Even your own paper reported it.

The media’s relationship with Rob and Doug Ford is a good deal more complex than any media outlet would care to admit. They sell papers, pull eyes to web pages, draw audiences to broadcasts – all of which is me saying that were the Ford brothers to vanish from the news, the media would lose money.

The news media in Canada share responsibility for where we find ourselves.

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… It’s not complicated at all, they have hated his guts from the beginning. The media has succeeded in destroying Ford, but they have also succeeded in confirming the old saying: “if you set out to destroy someone, better dig two graves”… I sense “journalists” rank up there with politicians in the “scumbag” index. Nobody looks good in this…Ford, the Toronto Star, the Police Chief.

Follow on Twitter: @SylviaStead

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