Rob Ford vs. The Toronto Star: Mayor's Battle With Paper Heats Up
UPDATED: Mayor Rob Ford's office has issued a statement on its official Facebook page regarding the Toronto Star. The full statement is below:
"The Toronto media has access to the Mayor's office on a regular basis.
There have been some comments made recently regarding access to information from the Mayor's Office and the Toronto Star. This is an issue that stems from a factually incorrect article the paper wrote while I was a candidate for Mayor. The Toronto Star has still taken no responsibility for their mistake.
To be perfectly clear, the Toronto Star receives all notifications, press releases, media advisories from the City of Toronto. Their reporters are welcomed into the Mayor's Office during media availabilities with the rest of the press gallery.
As the Mayor of Toronto, I'm accountable for my actions and I believe the media also has an equal responsibility to provide the facts to their audience to whom they are accountable."
The mayor's office issues its own press releases separately from the City of Toronto's official statements.
Postmedia's Thandi Fletcher has also written a piece that analyzes what Ford's fight with the Toronto Star means for journalism in Canada. One of the sources she interviewed compared it to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's tight rein with the media during the election campaign.
From the piece:
[Concordian journalism professor Alan Conter] likened Rob Ford's war against the media to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's tight limits on media access during the recent election race, during which he only allowed five questions from reporters at each daily news conference during campaigning.
"With the five questions, it isn't just vetting questions, it is limiting access to the prime minister," said Conter. "So it is effectively blocking access to a whole bunch of people."
The long-brewing battle between Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and the Toronto Star, the city's largest newspaper, got ratcheted up this week.
For more than a year, the mayor has frozen out the paper, refusing to answer questions from Star reporters and not sending press releases to the paper. Ford says the ban is a response to a story the paper ran about how he allegedly assaulted a high school football player he coached. Ford says the story is libellous, has issued a suit which has since lapsed, and is demanding an apology from the paper.
Earlier this week the Star filed a complaint with the city's integrity commissioner over the ban.
"Mayor Ford has no obligation to speak to or be interviewed by the Star. That is entirely his choice. However, when it comes to public press releases and public notifications from his office as mayor of all the people, that is another matter. That directly affects our ability to cover city hall and serve our readers," Star chairman John Honderich wrote.
"We don't expect a ruling that says the mayor must speak to us, but we should have equal access to public documents," a Star spokesman told CP24.
On Friday, Rob Ford and his brother, Doug, fired back at the Star. "I have no respect for the Toronto Star whatsoever. If people want to read a paper, pick up the Globe, Post or Sun. That’s what I encourage people to do," Ford said on the John Oakley Show on AM 640.
The mayor's brother, Doug, took an even firmer stand. "You can go to the Supreme Court and try to get Rob to talk to the Star — he won’t talk to you. He just won’t. Until you do it. It’s simple: put that one-liner (apology) in there, it’s over," Doug said.
But Ford might be on the wrong side of the fight on this one.
Councillor Adam Vaughan, an opponent of Ford's tried to move a motion earlier this month to end the ban on sending releases to the paper. It was deferred by the mayor's executive committee.
The City Hall press gallery has long stood with the newspaper in this fight. In February they issued a letter calling Ford's refusal to distribute press releases an "abuse of process."
Journalists from other also outlets routinely forward press releases to the Star and even the National Post's Kelly McParland, a columnist with no great love for theToronto Star, thinks the mayor should direct his bluster elsewhere.
"He occupies a public office, and the public has a right to know what he’s up to. He was also elected mayor of all of Toronto, not just those sectors that share his views, or think he’s a swell guy. Freezing out one news organization while accommodating others just creates an impression of pettiness that diminishes both the office and its holder," McParland writes on The National Post's Full Comment blog.
How Twitter Reacted To The Rob Ford vs. The Toronto Star Fight: