Toronto Star claims Rob Ford coverage helped newspaper profits


By Tamara Baluja, Associate Editor

The Toronto Star’s coverage of embattled Mayor Rob Ford, who admitted to smoking crack cocaine, helped stabilize fourth-quarter profits at parent company Torstar Corp., the Canadian Press reported.

But its coverage of Ford wasn’t the only reason behind the improved results. “If that were the case, the results would be even bigger,” said John Cruickshank, the newspaper’s publisher and president of the Star Media Group, laughing, when asked to comment on the role the mayor’s coverage played in the company’s earnings.

“This really was our revenue sources across all of the spectrum getting closer to historical levels,” Cruickshank said at a conference call. “I think the fact that our newsroom has really dominated that local story has meant that we do have a singular relevance for people in this community. I’m sure advertisers are very much aware of that.”

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Cruickshank’s remarks are interesting, given that editor Michael Cooke told a Toronto audience of journalists in November that the Star had lost a number of subscribers due to its Ford coverage.

“We endured about half a million dollars worth in lost business and subscriptions from Ford Nation. The Ford brothers—with their cotton candy, disgraceful radio show on CFRB—urged everyone who would listen to them to cancel their business with The Star,” Cooke said. And the mayor’s brother, councillor Doug Ford also claimed that reporter Daniel Dale’s libel notice against Mayor Ford was an attempt to sell newspapers.

Still, the year finished “on a positive note,” David Holland, president and chief executive officer of Torstar Corp., said in a release issued on Wednesday, despite a “hit” in its online audience figures when the Star put up its paywall in August.

Torstar reported a net income of $20.6 million in the three months in the quarter, ending Dec. 31, compared to $21.1 million a year earlier. In its media operations, the rate of decline in print advertising slowed compared to the year-to-date trend.

“It’s fairly consistent with some other metropolitan dailies,” Cruickshank said. “It’s higher than we anticipated although we’ve done quite well on the revenue side. The net result of that is that we’re continuing to think through what the model for the future should be.”

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