The Ontario Press Council dismissed complaints about the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail’s stories on the Fords, saying the papers reported in a fair and ethical manner. Meanhwile, Toronto councillor Doug Ford dismissed the Press Council’s decisions as the work of "a bunch of old cronies." 

The Ontario Press Council dismissed complaints about the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail’s stories on Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his family, saying the two newspapers reported in a fair and ethical manner.

In September, the press council heard complaints about the Globe’s use of anonymous sources in an investigative piece that looked into Ford’s family's alleged drug dealings and the Star’s story on a video that allegedly showed Ford smoking crack.

The Press Council, however, expressed concern that not enough has been done to build public understanding of the laws and procedures followed by the media, particularly for investigative stories.

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“When writing stories where such techniques are used, it [the Press Council] urges news organizations to make better efforts to explain their approach and why it serves the public interest,” the press release said.

“Transparency will help consumers of media better understand the reasons behind decisions to cover specific issues,” said Frances Lankin, chair of the Ontario Press Council. “It will also help the public to understand the journalistic guidelines and court decisions that define the ethical and legal parameters within which reporters do their jobs.”

The Press Council said it received dozens of complaints for both stories. It invited both Mayor Ford and his brother Doug Ford to the hearings; however, neither attended.

The Press Council said The Globe and Mail used anonymous sources appropriately and said the Globe was right to include other Ford family members in its story. But it qualified that, saying “the Council is concerned about the copious amount of detail on the two Ford siblings and believes the Globe came close to crossing the line into what are the problematic, but private affairs of family members.”

Doug Ford dismissed the Press Council’s decisions on the show AM640 with John Oakley.


“They are a bunch of old cronies, all of the insiders trying to make judgments on the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail and a lot of them probably worked for the Toronto Star at one time,” he said.

The hearing was actually conducted by retired provincial judge George Thomson, president and CEO of the Investment Funds Institute of Canada Joanne De Laurentiis  and Drew Gragg, deputy editor of the Ottawa Citizen.

Doug Ford said he has no time for “ragtag newspapers” like the Star and the Globe and dismissed their reporting as unethical journalism. He said their use of anonymous sources “totally discredits” their reporting.

“I could go after them … but I have a job to do,” he said.  

The Star’s editor-in-chief Michael Cooke called the Press Council decision a “validation” of their reporting. Meanwhile, the Globe’s editor-in-chief John Stackhouse said the Press Council’s decision reaffirmed the role of the free press in democracy.

“It recognizes the role of news organizations in questioning the actions—past and present—of public officials, and probing difficult questions pertaining to them,” Stackhouse said in a Globe article. “We are also heartened that the council endorsed our policy around anonymous sources: although it should be rare and thoroughly scrutinized by senior editors, such sourcing is often necessary to investigative reporting and public-interest journalism.”


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.