Thursday, March 28, 2013

Credibility of Toronto Star story on Mayor Rob Ford's drinking questioned

TORONTO - Depending on one’s outlook, the current debate about Mayor Rob Ford hinges on three aspects: 1) Was he drunk at the Garrison Ball last month? 2) Was he asked to leave the premises? 3) Is the Toronto Star waging a vendetta against him?

Everyone else seems to be plunging headlong into the debate, so here I go.

What seems most significant about the three issues, is that the Star broke the story — made the over-imbibing allegations — but chose to use mostly anonymous sources.

In journalism, anonymous sources are always suspect, but are acceptable if the “sources” are in physical or emotional risk if they are identified. Can that possibly be the case with Ford? If someone squeals on him, has he a team of hit men ready to exert retribution?

In writing about the case, the Toronto Sun’s Simon Kent has noted: “By my count, at least 12 anonymous sources are used in the story, but I am happy to be proven wrong. Maybe there are more … many former staffers, senior staffers, junior staffers, current staffers, committee members, party guests, a real estate agent, a source, more sources close to the mayor, restaurant staff and a DJ. All unnamed.”

Credibility is questioned, as Kent accurately notes, when anonymous quotes “are seemingly chosen because they affirm the paper’s position on the man.”

And the Star’s editorials on Ford make it clear that the paper has little use for the mayor, and will move heaven and earth (rhetorically speaking) to get rid of the guy.

One of the more curious assessments, as quoted in the Sun, was “left-leaning” Councillor Sarah Doucette’s view that there’s concern about the mayor’s drinking — but that she hasn’t personally seen him impaired.

Perhaps she should expand on just who has these “concerns.”

As for being bombed at the ball and asked to leave, the organizers deny allegations. No one complained to them. Hmm. Maybe they are fudging facts, maybe not — but still pretty thin for a front-page story and scolding editorial: “Come clean, Mr. Mayor.”

Maybe the Star could also “come clean” and identify their anonymous sources?

That said, Ford sure has a talent for controversy.

No sooner is he out of the woods on one embarrassment, but he’s into the quicksand with another.

At least the imbibing allegations at the Garrison Ball have overshadowed the strange Sarah Thomson claim that Ford grabbed her rump and made an improper proposal. Doesn’t sound like the mayor’s style.

Editorially, the Star notes that Ford dismissed that accusation as a lie “but a photo emerged showed him rumpled and stained.”

“Rumpled and stained?” What is the Star suggesting? How does “rumpled and stained” relate to grabbing Thomson’s bum?

And then Barbara Amiel joined the fray with her Maclean’s column claiming that Thomson offered to “bed” her husband in return for him granting an interview to her newspaper.


Amiel says “the proposition did not intrigue” Conrad Black, who found it “enterprising” and endorsed Thomson in the 2010 mayoral vote.

Amiel says the incident happened around 2002. Thomson told the Star she was joking at the time, and thought it was in 1998 when Black launched the National Post and she was running the Hamilton Examiner.

It’s unknown if Black looked “rumpled and stained” after his encounter with Thomson. Maybe a Star editorial someday will inform us.
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