Shocking news is hard to believe. Last night, there was lots of news, plenty of it shocking. The sun was setting on another day, literally, when newsrooms tore up their front pages and started from scratch, writes Nick Taylor-Vaisey. 

By Nick Taylor-Vaisey, for Maclean's

Shocking news is hard to believe. Last night, there was lots of news, plenty of it shocking. The sun was setting on another day, literally, when newsrooms tore up their front pages and started from scratch.

Mike Duffy, the Conservative Senator who’s fighting for his political life after questions arose about how he repaid improperly claimed expenses, resigned from his party’s caucus. Paul Godfrey, the chair of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission who had pushed aggressively for new casinos in the province, walked into a meeting only to get fired—a move that saw the agency’s entire board resign in protest. And then, the pièce de résistance of an evening built to shock: a video that few saw, but everybody talked about all night, allegedly starring Toronto’s mayor. Rob Ford will never be remembered as a boring man, nor will he ever escape questions about his conduct as a public figure.

But now they claim he smoked crack cocaine, and there’s allegedly a video to prove it.


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Who’s “they”? Two men who live in suburban Etobicoke, apparently. The Toronto Star claims the two men showed them a tape, via iPhone, on May 3—and that, during the 90-second video, it appears that Ford smokes crack. The Star had its version online before the night was out. All of this is alleged, none is proven, and Ottawa Citizen city hall reporter probably put it best: The Star, he tweeted, ”bet the company on what they saw.”

But the Star didn’t break the story. Gawker, the gossip blog, did. John Cook’s winding narrative went online at 8: 28 p.m. Cook reported that a tipster had contacted the website and claimed to know the guy with the video. Cook travelled to Toronto and, eventually, saw the video for himself. His conclusion was also that the man in the video was Ford, and that the man—if it was Ford—did appear to be smoking crack. The man who owned the video told Cook he wanted to sell it for six figures.

When all this had Twitter in a frenzy, and reporters around North America were reacting to the madness, the Star kicked into gear. Two reporters, Kevin Donovan and Robyn Doolittle, had been working the story for some time. Jonathan Goldsbie, a city hall reporter in Toronto, tweeted that he showed Doolittle Gawker’s headline and had ”never seen someone bolt out of a room faster.” Now we know why.

What happens next? Sit back, relax, and take a wild guess. On a morning when Duffy’s the cover story on most papers, and Godfrey also found some room, and Ontario’s LCBO avoided a strike, and Montreal MP Denis Coderre finally announced his run at the city’s mayoralty—well, Ford stole the show. The mayor who’d be hard-pressed to shock his city after a tumultuous term in office somehow managed to shock a continent, even if it’s all alleged and even if no one knows what happens next.

Nick Taylor-Vaisey teases the day on Parliament Hill and, whenever he can, asks you what he should report. Follow him on Twitter at @TaylorVaisey. This post was originally published on Maclean's and republished here with permission. 

Tamara Baluja is an award-winning journalist with CBC Vancouver and the 2018 Michener-Deacon fellow for journalism education. She was the associate editor for J-Source from 2013-2014.