Why people hate the media

In this case, Rob Ford is not to blame — at least not directly


This morning Canadian news outlets continued their quest to obtain search warrants used in Project Traveller, the investigation into a Toronto drug ring that resulted in 224 charges against 44 people. Included in the roundup were Muhammad Khattak (on drug trafficking) and Monir Kassim (charged with drug and weapons trafficking), men who appear with Rob Ford and Anthony Smith in that now infamous photo.

The media believe “the public deserves to know whether the warrants reveal any evidence that Ford may have been consorting with some of the alleged drug dealers.” But I’m starting to think much of the public wishes the media would stop consorting with Rob Ford. People are tired of the Ford probe to nowehere–i.e. is there nothing that will bring him down?

Quite likely, they’ve also tired of our interminable pride. This week’s sideshow is a perfect example.

On Monday, Canada’s biggest newspapers sat before the Ontario Press Council to defend their biggest stories about the biggest mayor of our country’s biggest city. Readers Darylle Donley and Connie Harrison made their complaints before the council. Donley took issue with the Toronto Star’s story about Mayor Ford’s alleged crack use. Harrison did not like the Globe and Mail’s long read on Doug Ford’s alleged hash-peddling past.

The publications defended their use of anonymous sources, explaining that unnamed contacts are sometimes necessary to break stories and produce good journalism. But the complaints elicited something else as well—editorial vainglory worthy of its own level in Ontario Press Council hell.

The Star ran a spread on its brilliant showing at the hearing, followed a day later by this bizarre Heather Mallick sashimi analogyThe Globe was no less satisfied with its performance before the panel.

I was once wary of people who sent me newspaper clippings defaced with their own ineligible screed (“F–K THE MEDIA”), but am now considering joining their ranks. The worst of it is not the chest pumping but rather the scorn for those who would challenge it.

Connie Harrison sat opposite Globe editor John Stackhouse on the second hearing of the day. “The little people,” she told the panel, deserve to know how journalists “do their homework.”

Harrison is not a staunch Ford supporter. She used to live in Toronto public housing and she’d prefer a more progressive mayor, “someone who doesn’t talk crap and just wants to make condos.” She believes the Globe should burn its sources—that is, identify those who spoke off the record in the Doug Ford hashish story, thereby (in my opinion) scaring anyone with important information away from ever speaking to a newspaper in this town again. “This thing is like an animal that’s been shot and someone needs to finish it,” she said.

Wrong as Harrison may be, she did not deserve to be met by casual disdain. Journalists rolled their eyes and I heard them snicker. On Twitter, writers offered scathing critiques of Harrison’s written complaint. When she asked the panel a question, one journalist uttered “f–king idiot” under his breath. (The only exception to this rule—as far as I saw—occurred when a co-author of the Globe piece introduced himself to Harrison after the hearing and told her he was very happy the discussion took place.)

The contempt was palpable, though no more so than it was sanctimonious. In the words of Globe and Mail editor-in-chief, John Stackhouse:

“We faced a dilemma: we could publish the story citing only anonymous sources, knowing the facts of the story are both true and in the public interest, or we could not publish at all. The latter option would have been journalistically and socially irresponsible.”

Somehow I think the world would have kept spinning.

Watching Stackhouse defend his paper’s piece as though it were the Magna Carta made me wish one of the Press Council panelists would lean into the microphone and just say it: “This isn’t Watergate. You published a story about a politician smoking a drug Justin Trudeau says he did by the pool when his kids were at their gran’s.”

Delusions of moral grandeur aside though, Stackhouse et al are right. Politicians—especially those like Doug Ford who plan to run for office in a “tough on crime” party—do not have a civilian right to privacy when it comes their own youthful indiscretions. And anonymous sources are usually necessary when bringing powerful peoples’ secrets to light.

But these things are not self-evident, and readers who wish to be briefed on the ways in which the news they read and pay for is gathered are not “f–king idiots.” The only people deserving of such a title, I think, are smug journalists who would label them that way. (Note to smug journalists: these are trying times. You might not want to alienate those still willing to penetrate your paywall.)

As to the most important thing, the accuracy of either story: with unnamed sources and no video, and no telling police warrants to speak of yet, Connie Harrison and media skeptics like her won’t get the certainty they crave. If it’s any consolation though, sometimes clues are enough—clues, for instance, like this one: Rob and Doug Ford were given more than 10 chances to refute the allegations against them in print. They took none.

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Why people hate the media

  1. Yes, people do.

    But the media would never listen before.

    Now that all the news in the world is online, we’ve finally gotten their attention…and paywalls won’t change that.

    • On this matter of coming on here and telling everyone, “we’ve finally gotten their attention,” that’s very generous of you Emily but totally unnecessary, the credit should be all yours.

      Working tirelessly at the stand 24/7 Emily, grinding out feature articles like a madman, almost 7,900 of them to date ( 50 or 60 a day), you’re a public service phenomenon.

      So I hope you don’t mind Emily but I’ve just sent 50 bucks off to Columbia University and entered you up for a Pullitzer Prize and it looks like you might click.

      Best Explanatory Reporting in 2013 by a Bot Internet Troll. This Emily for your distinguished explanatory reporting and lucid comment in connection with a recent protest.

      Congratulations, well done sir.

  2. This article was very good. Except for the last 2 lines, which ruined it. You don’t need to refute baseless accusations against you. You don’t. Period. You don’t need to refute 9/11 truthers, nor do you need to refute the flat earth society, nor do you need to refute the band of journalists on the Rob Ford witch hunt. Ford has been refuting them for years, sometimes in court. When there is no evidence, a refutation would actually give more credibility to an accusation than ignoring it completely. Ford stated he cannot comment on a video that does not exist, and in fact that is a perfectly accurate thing to say. Going further to even debate things that were made up out of nowhere, that is a pointless exercise. Politicians know this. Lawyers know this.
    The rest of the article was very good… it’s a shame you had to ruin it at the end.

    • You’re just picking a side to believe. Ford may have refuted some mud that was thrown at it, but more then a handful or two has proven to be true. If journalists choose to skeptical of him, it’s because Ford has previously given reason for doing so. You don’t get the benefit of the doubt when you frequently and routinely act like someone who’s unhinged.

  3. Great writing, Emma.

    • ohhhh ho ho “Teitel Page”, now I get it. LAWLLLLLLLLZZZZZ

  4. Good article, Em. To repeat, my great and sincere wish for you is that in your 60s you become Margaret Wente (sans the plagiarism mess).

    • My sincere wish is that we get no more Wentes foisted on us by the part of the media that thinks winding people up and playing phony contrarian is good for business.

  5. I read the press council proceedings. The Star and the Globe both deserved praise for their stands (if not self-praise…that is a little unbecoming). Donley and Harrison unwittingly misfired a couple of large-caliber shots and hit the Ford Nation squarely in the foot. It was rather embarrassing for the complainants.

  6. “This isn’t Watergate. You published a story about a politician smoking a
    drug Justin Trudeau says he did by the pool when his kids were at their

    readers who wish to be briefed on the ways in which the news they read
    and pay for is gathered are not “f–king idiots.” The only people
    deserving of such a title, I think, are smug journalists who would label
    them that way.

    You know, I usually love watching media people try to understand “why people hate the media”. Never once do you get it right. But Emma, I have to admit, you got close this time. Good piece.

  7. The short answer to your headline is: sanctimony. Your post shares that quality with the Globe and Star responses you are criticizing.

    • I suppose you might have a point if Teitel were a plumber or an internet troll who decided today would be a good day to rip on the media. But you fail to recognize that Teitel is one of the media, you know, the group she is criticizing, the ones you think were sanctimonious.
      Because you are so influenced by your political leanings that you choose to slag Teitel for making a valid, though politically sensitive point for you, then, well that make you a bit sanctimonious.

  8. Well done, Emma. Beautifully written.

  9. Depends, are the union media types copy/paste propaganda types like CBC or are they investigative both side reporting journalists? I like the later, as they tend to have more facts than emotional idiocracy.

    As for The Star, its a piece of liberal garbage. I don’t even visit their web site. They have made it clear they want to victimize anyone that isn’t a statism freak,

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