By Michael Ott for the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre
The loss of trust between the media and audiences that has characterised the Donald Trump era in the United States also played out when Rob Ford was mayor of Toronto, says the Toronto Star’s Washington correspondent Daniel Dale.
Just as many Trump supporters dismiss stories about the former real estate magnate’s lies, sexism and other potentially career-destroying behaviours, many Torontonians refused to believe the worst about their former mayor.
Dale spoke at Ryerson University earlier in February about similarities he found in covering both former Toronto mayor Rob Ford and current US President Donald Trump for the Toronto Star and what Canadian journalists can learn from how the U.S. media covered their 2016 election.
“Here we are, the Toronto Star, biggest newspaper in the city. We reported on the mayor smoking crack,” he said of the 2013 scandal. Readers were skeptical of the newspaper ran a story on a video of the mayor smoking crack cocaine.
“There was a lot of doubt that what we were saying was true,” Dale said. “There was a poll done—50 per cent of Toronto residents did not believe [we] were telling the truth about the crack video. It was a real reality check for us.”
Dale has since gained acclaim in the tough American media market for his coverage of Trump’s path to the White House. “Trump Checks,” his daily fact checking series, earned him a place on Politico’s list of “Breakout Media Stars of 2016” with the moniker “the lie-tracker.” Dale was also invited to discuss his Trump fact-checking coverage on CNN. Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore even tweeted his support for the Canadian journalist.
But Dale’s reporting on Trump has drawn the ire of those who refuse to believe news that reflects badly on the man who is now president of the United States.
“My email inbox is a dark place,” Dale told the audience of mainly journalism students before reading this email: “’I’m going to cancel my subscription to the Star after 20 years. Don’t believe everything you read about Trump online!’”