It's common knowledge that Toronto mayor Rob Ford won't talk to the Toronto Star. If the new "Free Press and Democracy" motion is passed, however, Ford might not be able to keep mum much longer. J-Source's new Students' Lounge editor Rhiannon Russell reports on the Ford-Star saga, the new motion, and what it could mean, if passed.
TORONTO//by Rhiannon Russell--Toronto city councillor Adam Vaughan is set to present the “Free Press and Democracy” motion at city hall today.
The motion would prohibit city politicians from excluding certain journalists and news outlets from press conferences or news releases.
Though Vaughan doesn’t mention the Toronto Star in the motion, it is common knowledge that Ford doesn’t provide the newspaper’s staff with press releases or information about his briefings.
On Sept. 6, when approached by Daniel Dale, one of the Star’s urban affairs reporters, Ford told him “Till you guys apologize, I don’t talk to the Toronto Star.” Other reporters overheard the comment, and reported it – causing the remark to also make the rounds on Twitter.
Ford’s beef is with a 2010 story the Star published about an alleged altercation between Ford and a player on the high school football team he coached. Ford has maintained that the story is false, and since then has rarely spoken to the Star. He demands a front-page apology.
David Rider, bureau chief of urban affairs at the newspaper, says it’s challenging to report on city hall when the mayor ignores your news outlet, but he thinks the Star has good coverage regardless. “You can still do your job,” he says, “It’s just difficult.”
The press gallery at city hall wrote a letter to the mayor’s office, saying that press releases should go to every member of the gallery. “The mayor’s office is run by public money,” Rider says. “They should treat all media outlets the same.”
Vaughan says that the motion isn’t intended to advocate specifically for the Star. “There are individual journalists who aren’t treated fairly,” says the former journalist, “I’ve been there, I get it, and it’s just not right.”
“When you see a government start to pick favourites in the media,” Vaughan adds, “That’s an attack on a cornerstone of open, accountable, responsible government.”
Ultimately, regardless of the motion’s outcome, Rider says the Star will continue to cover Ford and city hall the same way.
“The Fords seem to be at war with the Star, but we’re not at war with them,” he says. “We’re just covering them the way we covered David Miller and mayors before that.”
On Tuesday, Ford’s press secretary, Adrienne Batra, wouldn’t comment on the matter.
Updates to come.