Roundup: Reporting the Rob Ford decision

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Related: Rob Ford, the morning after

 

Reporting the Rob Ford ruling

On Monday morning, Justice Hackland rendered a decision on Rob Ford's conflict of interest trial. Ford was found guilty and has been removed from office after 14 days, pending appeal.

Storified by J-Source · Mon, Nov 26 2012 11:20:46

In September, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford found himself on trial for an alleged violation of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, the backstory for which can be found here. 
TIMELINE: Ford's conflict-of-interest caseCityNews.ca provides a look back at key dates in Mayor Rob Ford's conflict-of-interest case. March 31, 2008: Rob Ford Football Foundation...
On Monday morning, Justice Hackland rendered a decision: Ford was found guilty and has been ousted from office. 
Justice Charles Hackland: "I declare the seat of the respondent, Robert Ford, on Toronto City Council, vacant"Jackson Proskow
But as with most things pertaining to Rob Ford and the media, the decision was not without drama in the form of technological delays, an errant tweet, and of course, the implications of the decision itself. 
The decision, which was to be released at 10 a.m., ended up coming out just after 10:30.
Here you go world #topoli http://pic.twitter.com/PPbkqSQZrobyndoolittle
In the time leading up to the decision, reporters were lined up, waiting for the decision in a old-technology-meets-new-media manner. The court clerk had to photocopy paper versions of the decision for reporters, the contents of which they would then tweet out, and their tweets then pulled into liveblogs set up by their news outlets. 
OK, so 30 or so reporters are waiting in line for the Ford judgment, as if for toilet paper in 1970 Moscow.Marcus Gee
While waiting in line, no shortage of jokes were made about the means of disseminating the decision. 
Wondering about delay on Ford conflict of interest decision? Media currently waiting for decision to arrive and be photocopied. #actuallyTorontoist
@balkissoon @goldsbie Yet another mystery of Ontario's courts. We're in line outside an admin office, not court. The 1950s sure are awesome.Kelly Grant
@kellygrant1 @balkissoon Photocopy or maybe hand to a monk who will transcribe it by candlelight.Matt Elliott
Engraving decision onto stone tablets taking longer than expected. Proceedings delayed.Matt Elliott
I was really hoping someone would come out of the court house, unroll a scroll, and do an old fashioned hear ye hear ye!Jake Tobin Garrett
After the Ford decision is photocopied, a carrier pigeon will deliver the decision to the reporters outside the courthouse. #TOpoliSean Walters
Though methods of communication may have evolved since the photocopier, reporters' desire to be first to break the news has not. Though, there were tweets noting the more important factor in their live reporting: being right. 
From the looks of the line, Torontoist will have the scoop. But much depends on decision-rifling skills.Ivor Tossell
We here at court will be reading the decision on Twitter too. Apparently @JProskowGlobal actually lined up first. Like an iPhone launch.Ivor Tossell
Team Star - @dmrider moi and @ddale8 - are crouched in the sprinting position.robyndoolittle
It's first come first serve to get the decision. As journo in line in front of me says, this is our Black Friday #fordcourtBen Spurr
Camerafellow shooting the world's boringest picture - reporters in line! Waiting for a document! - is booted by court man.Daniel Dale
No ruling yetDavid Rider
At one point before the decision, Toronto Star city bureau chief David Rider sent out the following, as retweeted by Ivor Tossell: 
CANX??? @dmrider: BREAKINGEST: @TOMayorFord guilty of breaching conflict of interest law, canx remain mayor of Toronto, judge rules.Ivor Tossell
"Canx" went from typo to meme in a matter of minutes. Rider would later clarify it was an automated message sent out by mistake.
"DAVE! WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?" shouts a reporter behind me.Ivor Tossell
"canx remain mayor of Toronto" = our generation's "Dewey Defeats Truman." #topoliShannon Proudfoot
YES WE CANX http://pic.twitter.com/Y9mIOK4hSteve Murray
And still we wait. Rumours fly. Chisel and monk jokes exhausted.Kelly Grant
Canx do it RT @ddale8 If only there were some sort of electronic system that let you rapidly send a document to lot of people simultaneouslyJohn Michael McGrath
Earlier email was placeholder sent by error. Big apologies all. No decision yetDavid Rider
As it turned out, before any reporters had tweeted the verdict, the decision had been posted online. 
@ivortossell Here's your decision. http://pastebin.com/R6YXTNkVChez Lounge
In the minutes that followed, reporters tweeted Rob Ford's guilty verdict and removal from office literally within seconds of each other. 

In a 90-second span between 10:30:12 and 10:31:43 journalists from Torontoist, Toronto Star, GlobalToronto.com, The Globe and Mail, Now Magazine, CBC, BlogTO, The Grid, and Metro had tweeted that Ford had been found guilty and ousted. (List is not exhaustive, nor necessarily in order.)

While no reporter got it wrong (#canx slip-ups aside), it made me think of Amy Sullivan's thesis from the summer, in which she responds to the race to be first with: "Who cares?"
Who Reported It First? Who Cares?Can we talk about the nonsense of caring about which news outlet first reports a big piece of news? I'm not talking about a genuine scoop...

"Can we talk about the nonsense of caring about which news outlet first reports a big piece of news?" Sullivan asks. "I’m not talking about a genuine scoop—a report that wouldn’t have otherwise come to light—but about news that we’re all eventually going to find out anyway." She continues:


"Has any publication ever received a Pulitzer for being the first to report a major announcement? Is there some secret reward at stake—free cookies for a year? A trip to Hawaii? Do colleagues buy you a drink to congratulate you on beating the other networks by ten seconds?


"Because if this is just about bragging rights, it needs to stop. Now. And not just because it can lead to some outlets rushing to report incorrect information, as CNN and FOX did with the recent Supreme Court decision on health care reform. But because the race to be first is no longer just a feature of news coverage but often the main factor driving it."

But back to Ford: Included in the verdict is a 14-day period during which Ford will remain mayor. 
Following that, Ford's future is not clear, as Hackland's ruling didn't explicitly specify whether Ford would be eligible to run in any ensuing by-election, leaving journalists to speculate. (Ford has indicated he will appeal the ruling, which may also affect the timeline.)
Can Ford run again?David Rider
Still unclear whether Ford can run in by-election. Hackland seemed a bit unfamiliar with council workings. Hard to determine intent.Matt Elliott
But what defines the end of the current term? Does the term end with today's decision or not?Kelly Grant
Some confusion about what this means: no "further disqualification from holding office beyond the current term." What is the "current term"?Daniel Dale
Not yet sure if that means the usual term - to 2014 - or the "term" that has now ended, which would mean he could run in a byelection.Daniel Dale
I would *think* that means Ford could run in 2014 but not in a by-election?Matt Elliott
What followed was journalists tweeting relevant excerpts from the ruling and filing online. 
Judge says Ford's actions were "characterized by ignorance of the law & a lack of diligence in securing professional advice"Jackson Proskow
#TOpoli Nail in the coffin quote: "there must be some diligence on respondent's part...some effort to understand & appreciate obligations"John Lorinc
Most devastating quote? "It is difficult to accept an error in judgment defence based essentially on a stubborn sense of entitlement...Daniel Dale
Hackland says "the mandatory removal from office for contravening... the MCIA is a very blunt instrument"robyndoolittle
Judge on Ford's defence: "Outright ignorance of the law will not suffice, nor will willful blindness as to one's obligations."Ivor Tossell
But the question of Ford's eligibility in a byelection is what kept being revisited.
"I decline to impose any further disqualification from holding office beyond the current term" = Rob Ford can't run in a by-election, no?David Topping
Like, Rob Ford has been thrown from office before his elected term is up—which isn't now, or in fourteen days, but in 2014. Right?David Topping
Okay I've thought about this: I think Ford can't run for 2 years. Hackland says "beyond the current term" A term of council is four yearsrobyndoolittle
Once again I'm no lawyer, but Hackland's decision does not cite S 10(1) B, barring Ford from running again. So my arg: Ford can run again.John Michael McGrath
The phrasing "this current term" is, I believe, meant to apply to Ford's term of office ending in 14 days (per the decision.)John Michael McGrath
Answering a few different questions: there's no reason that Hackland and the COTA have to use the same meaning of "term".John Michael McGrath
@jm_mcgrath You're erring on the side of believing that Ford can run in the by-election? I see plenty of evidence otherwise.David Topping
@jm_mcgrath From the text of the decision + the City of Toronto Act.David Topping
"I decline to impose any further disqualification from holding office beyond the current term" = Rob Ford can't run in a by-election, no?David Topping
City of Toronto Act: a person filling a council vacancy "holds office for the remainder of the term of the person he or she replaced."David Topping
In other words, someone's "term" can extend past the point they no longer hold that position: http://j.mp/RdmMDe (See #209)David Topping
Time to throw @jm_mcgrath and @dtopping into the secret gladiator pit on the roof of the clamshell to define the term term.Jon Robson
But even the lawyer who brought Ford down was unsure.
Ruby says he understands "almost nothing" about how things will play out from here, in terms of who becomes mayor and when, and who can run.Matt Elliott
The overall lessons for those covering this morning's decision?
Today's losers: Coach/Mayor, Torontonians. Today's winners: The Law, Media.Corey Mintz
Slowly dawning on local journalists that none of us are ever going to have this much fun again.Ivor Tossell
The full text of the Rob Ford decision can be found here: 
Magder v. Ford - Pastebin.com

Comments

The Toronto Star covered the Rob Ford ruling with aphodisiacal delight, and devoted an entire sectionto this ruling, letting every report and/or columnist who was interested to contribute a story about it. This was  in addition the front page story. A bit of overkill and a lot of sour grapes.

Pathetic.

 

Another pathetic, biased mish-mash that reminds one of the sandbox.  Why is everyone falling over everyone else to be first in a universe where "first" no longer means anything - most certainly not in this instance, when the more important point is to be factual and complete???  Personally, I would prefer that the first article I read about an event such as this be just that, factual and complete, with editorial opinion and broad spectrum commentary (man in the street, other pols etc) to come.  The media landscape that has been created is going to make ADD/OCD sufferers of us all.

I should also point out that shortly after 10:30 a.m. the full text of Judge Hackland's decision was posted in .pdf format online, thus enabling anyone to read it, which made much of the twittering babble both irrelevant and annoying. 

When every media outlet is babbling and frothing and tweeting essentially the same 140 characters, who has an advantage?  nobody, of course; the only advantage will go to the medium that provides the additional factors - as above. 

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