Press council hears complaint over Mayor Rob Ford 'crack video' story

TORONTO – Two newspaper stories detailing drug allegations against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his councillor brother will be scrutinized in public hearings today following complaints by readers.

The Ontario Press Council is looking into a complaint against a Toronto Star story that alleged the mayor was videotaped smoking crack cocaine, and another against a Globe and Mail article about his brother Doug’s alleged drug dealings.

The independent press council says the two complaints will stand in for the dozens filed against the newspapers over their coverage of the Fords.

At issue, the council says, is whether the newspapers “engaged in irresponsible, unethical investigative reporting.”

The Fords maintain they are being unfairly targeted by the media, particularly the Toronto Star.

The brothers’ ongoing feud with the paper began long before the disputed story was published.

The complaint centres on a Star article from May 16, 2013, called “Rob Ford in ‘crack cocaine’ video scandal.”

The story said two of the newspaper’s reporters had viewed a cellphone video taken by a drug dealer that apparently showed the mayor smoking crack cocaine and making racist and homophobic slurs.

It followed a similar one by the U.S. gossip website Gawker.

Ford has never addressed the allegations substantively, but has said he does not smoke crack cocaine and that the video does not exist.

A second hearing will focus on an article published in the Globe on May 25, 2013.

The investigative piece alleged that Doug Ford had, in his youth, been a drug dealer in west-end Toronto. He has been dismissive of the allegations.

The council panel will determine whether the articles were in the public interest, whether the newspapers made adequate efforts to verify the accuracy of the allegations, and if the Fords were given a proper chance to respond.

It will also decide if the Globe was right to include other Ford family members in its story.

After hearing submissions from the complainants and the newspapers, the council panel will deliberate in private.

Its findings and recommendations will be presented to the full council late this month and its decision will be made public.