Star reporters discuss Rob Ford crack story -

Star reporters discuss Rob Ford crack story


Kevin Donovan and Robyn Doolittle have spent years observing Rob Ford.

The Toronto Star reporters covered the groping allegation, drinking accusations and the conflict-of-interest case that booted the Toronto mayor from office for a brief period.

But the journalists were not prepared for what they saw while seated in the backseat of a car in the north end of Etobicoke on May 3.

“I had no thought that I would see what I saw,” says Donovan, who has been with the Star for 29 years. “In my mind, it was not in the realm of possibility.”

On a high-definition iPhone, they watched a video that appeared to show the mayor smoking crack cocaine.

They watched the footage three times. It wasn’t shady or compromised. To the contrary, the man they believe to be Ford was in the centre of the shot, about five or six feet away from the camera, in a well-lit room.

The reporters took separate notes, then studied other videos of Ford.  “I have spent three years watching this guy, listening to this guy non-stop,” says Doolittle. “The voice is very distinct, the mannerisms are very distinct.”

Says Donovan: “It was just so clear to me that I have no doubt.”

On Thursday, the Star published the story.

After receiving a tip about the video at the end of March, the paper went back and forth with a man who represented a man claiming to be Ford’s drug dealer, the owner of the video.

They say the men wanted a large sum of money in exchange for the clip — “in their dreams, $1 million,” says Donovan. If not that, at least $100,000. He and Doolittle were still working on convincing the pair to go public without payment, when Gawker, a U.S. website, broke the news Thursday evening.

“We had to make a decision … to write a story quite quickly,” says Donovan.

Earlier today Ford called the allegations “ridiculous” and one more example of the Star attempting to smear his reputation.

His lawyer, Dennis Morris, was quoted in the paper’s story saying, “How can you indicate what the person is actually doing or smoking?” just from a video.

A valid question, says Donovan. Typically journalists can corroborate allegations using evidence and on-the-record sources.

In this case, it wasn’t an option. “We described how the mayor was behaving, we described what we saw.  So, without seeing any box of crack or anything like that, anything is possible. What we try to do is be as transparent as we can and explain what we saw.”

Christopher Waddell, director of the school of journalism at Carleton University, says no news organization reports such a story lightly. But “at some point the importance of what you’re going to report is greater in the public interest than the potential risk that you might face.”

Filed under:

Star reporters discuss Rob Ford crack story

  1. BS, no wonder the Star is near bankruptcy.

  2. The Star’s ongoing persecution of Rob Ford has become a joke. And even if this video is true, it shows to what level the Star will go to get rid of political opponents and that is not right either. It isn’t the press’s job to constantly hound people it doesn’t like. If they had put half as much effort into investigating the McGuinty Liberals, I would say they were doing their job. But no, they actively backed Smitherman for mayor and Smitherman was McGuinty’s right hand man. You could not criticize Smitherman in the Star. So the question should be asked – why are Toronto’s intelligentsia up in arms over Rob Ford to the point of employing the media and the courts to go gunning for him? Could it be that gravy train stalled on track 9 is light rail? Were Toronto’s great and good about to go feasting on the next best thing – light rail, and Ford has stopped them in their tracks. What else can explain the handout from McGuinty, Smitherman running for mayor (the architect of eHealth, ORNGE, Stewardship Ontario etc.) and John Tory stepping aside for Smitherman in order to take up the position of Chairman on the Civic Action Alliance team which is supporting light rail. Then we have the conversion of Karen Stintz from subways to light rail. There was also the round table talk organized by Sarah Thompson (Rob Ford groped me!) that included Stintz, John Tory and herself. There is a smell emanating….

    • Are you actually serious? If the mayor is smoking crack it’s none of our business? SERIOUSLY? The guy in charge of the police department is smoking crack with drug dealers, and it’s the Star’s fault? If he’s smoking crack, the media aren’t ‘gunning for him’, they’re doing their job by reporting on it. Why is this so difficult for Ford fans to understand?

      Get the tape out there, have it analyzed. If it’s a fraud, the Star will wear it. If it’s not… well… let the chips fall.

      • I am not saying it isn’t serious, I am saying that the Star’s whole performance over Rob Ford has been ludicrous to the point of embarrassment. I am seriously more concerned about the state of democracy in this country through actions by the Toronto Star than I am about a buffoon like Rob Ford. You tell me what is more serious, a flawed individual caught with a crack pipe (maybe?) or a cabal of crony capitalists trying to foist an over the top light rail project on the public? A cabal that runs from the premier of the province down to the mayor’s office and the media.

        • So… Ford should get a free pass… gotcha. Ford might be smoking crack, but it’s him who the city needs overseeing the light rail project, right?

          Something closer to the truth: You’re a Ford fan who wants this story to go away. You haul out the ‘left-wing media bias’ card to bail your boy out of trouble. It’s a convenient excuse. Make the story about the Star, not Ford.

          • Actually I’m not a Ford fan. I can’t even vote for him. Get your head out of your nether regions. There are bigger issues than whether Ford smoked crack. Ford hardly has any power at all. Meanwhile, as the media focuses on Ford constantly, the robbers are lining up to dip into the public pockets yet again.

    • How is it persecution when over and over the mayor denies accusations
      about his behaviour and then evidence surfaces in the form of photos
      and tapes that corroborates the accusations? So far the record is something like Ford 0 – Toronto Star 17. The most ridiculous aspect of the Mayor Ford saga is that he and his defenders still expect that his denials will have some credibility. None of us would believe the crack story if it wasn’t for the the fact that he has been caught doing what he denied over and over.

    • ” it shows to what level the Star will go to get rid of political opponents”

      reporter: Hello, Toronto Star

      caller: I’ve got a video of the mayor smoking crack. Are you interested?

      reporter: Uh, geez I’ll have to think about that for a moment….um yes?

      If the mayor was a leftie you’d be telling us how the Star sat on the story for so long to cover it up and it would never have come out it not for the US media.

    • Would this be a bad time to point out that Donovan broke the ORNGE story?

  3. Search the Macleans website for “Obama” and you’ll find countless stories. Now that his admin is embroiled in scandals that may make Nixon look like a beacon of propriety and there’s nary a mention of “he who must be cheerleaded”.
    The American media is begrudgingly scrutinizing Obama after years of fawning accolades (query the extent to which the media abdicating its watchdog role for 6 years contributed to the result). The British press have been all over it. But our trusty largely left leaning media in Canada is predominantly turning the other way.
    Ironic, though fitting, that the story to be ignored is the left’s politicization of an institution bent on attacking conservatism.

    • You got it in one, arthur. The media continues to dredge up stories about Conservatives while allowing cockroaches like McGuinty, Smitherman and Miller to fly under the radar. Let’s see there was a Liberal senator caught up in the expenses scandal, wasn’t there? You’d never know from the brief mention in the paper. They’re all over Duffy and Wallen.

      • Don’t forget Michael Bryant

      • To be fair, he also seems to have missed that the Republicans doctored their Benghazi email releases, the AP thing is about some genius in the loop at the CIA screwing up two years worth of deep cover Al Qaeda espionage, and that the IRS scandal has basically given both parties carte-blanche to continue improperly hiding large campaign donations in “non-profit charities” for use at election time since the IRS no knows what will happen to them if they try and pay attention.

        And, you know, that Obama’s not our president….

  4. Though it might not matter to his supporters, Ford’s antics have succeeded in making him an internationally renowned personality — an accomplishment unparalleled in Toronto’s and Canada’s history. Quite an achievement. This latest bit of infamy must make some of the commenters here proud to defend his record. Unfortunately, radioactivity tends to damage everything it touches.

  5. Public figures have to face the fact that their life will be under scrutiny from all sides. Because of this, they need to be conscious about what they do and say. No newspaper, given the current information, would withhold if they felt confident of it’s veracity.
    Mayor Ford has always struck me as emotionally stunted. The “I can do no wrong mentality of a spoiled, petulant child”. Each time he has faced a blunder, he denies it and just shrugs later when he is found to have lied. For him there does not appear to be consequences for his actions.
    I am not surprised that brother Doug is scarce right now. He can not wear this if he intends to proceed further with his career. At some point, he has to realize Rob is going to destroy his chances to move ahead.
    Smoking crack is a crime. The police must step in should the evidence of a crime prove to have credibility, they must charge him. To do otherwise is to make a mockery of the justice system to the youth of this Province. Rob clearly needs an intervention for his sake and the sake of the City.
    I can not fault a paper for reporting. I can fault Rob for demonstrating such poor judgement. If a paper falsely accused me of smoking crack cocaine, my very next step would be slap them with a lawsuit for damages. The fact that wasn’t done speaks volumes.

  6. I really like the aspect of this story that has a group of self-confessed crack dealers taking video evidence of their crimes and calling up the media for a showing.

    I also like the part that has 2 Toronto Star reporters hanging out in the back seat of an admitted crack-dealer’s car, and somehow come away with only a story about a video that allegedly exists that only they saw…. in a crack dealers car.

    • To be fair, the Gawker author has seen the video as well and is currently $140K away from croudsourcing its purchase.

      So, either the fundraiser will fall short, we’ll get to see it in 9 days, or a mental health institute’s getting a nice donation.

      • So why is Gawker trying to raise $200,000 for a purported video that the Somali drug dealer would accept $100,000 for?

        And who are the owners of the Gawker blog?


        • I’m guessing because they figured it’d end up costing at least $200,000 to have the video doctored well enough that some people might actually believe it. Or they wanted the number high enough that it wouldn’t reach it’s goal so that they wouldn’t be embarrassed when they couldn’t produce the video.

      • “To be fair”, the Gawker author has claimed to see the video and there are already a bunch of discrepancies between what he claims to have seen and what the Star reporters claim to have seen.

        And, “to be fair”, who would donate to a crowd funding campaign to give a bunch of crack dealers $200,000? You think they’ll be paying income taxes on that? So the campaign is not only funding a crack dealing operation, but also contributing to tax evasion.

        How absolutely patriotic of the anti-Ford crowd.