The story that just won’t go away –- or –- just keeps on giving in Canada these days is that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was allegedly videotaped smoking Crack cocaine. The website Gawker broke the story and launched a $200,000 crowd-funding campaign to buy the footage.
Meanwhile, two Toronto Star reporters also said they had seen the same video but refused to pay for it since cheque-book journalism isn’t ethical. However, launching a campaign of character assassination based on unsubstantiated sources apparently is, and things have grown from there.
I had my own personal run in with the Toronto Star making stuff up several years ago. Back then I was on a TV magazine show called “Pizzazz” and when we were ready to launch, the local press was provided with an information package that included a tape of the pilot, lots of pictures, cast quotes and episode guides on which to build their reviews.
The Star review was scathing and humiliating. Problem was, its content revealed the TV critic had never watched the tape we sent. The show reviewed had no relationship to what we had created and provided.
The folks at the network (Global) being media savvy themselves, knew you didn’t go to war with people who bought ink by the barrel and tried to work the back channels to get another review, maybe a feature story that might undo the damage.
My approach wasn’t as civilized. I called the editor of the paper and told him his newspaper had printed lies. He called the reviewer into his office, found out what she had done and relieved her of her duties. She was made to apologize to me personally and the creators of the series.
Later in life, she learned from the lesson and went on to become a pretty good journalist. The network was royally pissed at me for going behind their backs, but we got over it and later I learned that they were genuinely appreciative.
Whatever rapprochement they officially made with The Star was above my pay grade. I do know that no apology or retraction was ever printed.
So maybe you’ve only got my word that any of the above happened. Except that I can prove it, if I have to.
Anybody who’s an adult realizes that when it comes to hard news and people in power sometimes the press goes on fishing expeditions, laying out assumptions or unsupported information in the hope of getting somebody to talk.
What’s struck me about the Ford Affair is how concerted the efforts have been to defend the original allegations. Among these was a story printed last Saturday with the headline “Digitizing A Fake Rob Ford Video is a Technical Impossibility”. You can read it for yourself here.
Now, I work in the film business and I knew that was bullshit.
But it was a question people who really want Rob Ford gone were discussing in my social media streams. And no matter how hard I tried to explain that fakes were easy and the tools were readily available and cheap enough for even a low level drug dealer to afford, I was excoriated for having that opinion.
So here’s the proof.
The video that follows was made by a guy in Ajax who paints cars for a living and isn’t a trained video professional. He accomplished it in less than an hour.
Does this suggest that the Gawker/Star claim is false? I can’t say. Does it suggest somebody might be trying really hard to unseat the mayor? Maybe.
Decide for yourself. Nothing pisses off the media more.