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May 2013 24

by D.S. Wood

Who in the hell didn’t already believe Rob Ford was on crack anyway?

I’m not sure it would even make the Top 10 Most Ridiculous Things Toronto’s Mayor, Evil Chris Farley, Has Done. It’d explain some of them, maybe…

But an allegation made based on a video nobody has been able to produce to date does not, necessarily, a crackhead mayor make.

Late May 16, New York City-based news blog Gawker, posts the story, “For Sale: A Video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Smoking Crack Cocaine.”

In the story, John Cook writes about flying to Toronto to hang out with shady Somali drug dealers who showed him cell-phone-shot video footage of, apparently, Rob Ford huffing on a crack pipe. Cook did not return with the video, but said shady types wanted six figures for it.

So he wrote about what he saw. He doesn’t say it could be Ford in this video he cannot produce, instead he asserts it categorically is:

“The man in the video is Rob Ford. It is well-lit, clear. Ford is seated, in a room in a house. In one hand is a clear, glass pipe. The kind with a big globe and two glass cylinders sticking out of it. In the other hand is a lighter. A slurred voice off-camera is ranting about Canadian politics in what sounds like an attempt to goad Ford.

“‘Pierre Trudeau was a faggot!’ is the one phrase the lodges in my mind. Ford, pipe in one hand and lighter in the other, is laughing, and mildly protesting at the sacrilege. He seems to keep trying to light the pipe, but keeps stopping to laugh. He is red-faced and sweaty, heaving with each breath.

“Finally, he finds his moment and lights up. He inhales.”

Later late May 16, the Toronto Star posts breaking news, reporting Gawker reported the story.

Later still, late May 16, the Star posts new breaking news, stating two of their reporters — Kevin Donovan and Robyn Doolittle — have seen the video. Two and a half weeks earlier, in fact.

They don’t have the video either.

So they write about what they saw. They play the accusation a little safer. It could be Ford, sure looks like him:

“It appears to show Ford in a room, sitting in a chair, wearing a white shirt, top buttons open, inhaling from what appears to be a glass crack pipe. Ford is incoherent, trading jibes with an off-camera speaker who goads the clearly impaired mayor by raising topics including Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and the Don Bosco high school football team Ford coaches…

“…Throughout the video Ford’s eyes are half-closed. He lolls back in his chair, sometimes waving his arms around erratically. He raises a lighter in his hand at several points and moves it in a circle motion beneath the glass bowl of the pipe, then inhales deeply.

“The reporters were allowed to watch and listen to the video three times. After, both reporters separately made written notes of what they saw and heard. Both reporters, prior to watching the video, studied numerous city-hall-related videos of Ford and, to the best of the reporter’s abilities, they separately concluded the man in the video was Ford.”

To recap:

Gawker basically runs with “Can’t prove it but he done it — I seen it!”

Meanwhile, the Star basically retorts: “Samesies. But first!”

Later than later still, late May 16, folks from Gawker and the Star and concerned Pajama People on behalf of both argue who should or shouldn’t be calling the story exclusive — basically, who saw harder this thing neither party can produce.

Also. They agree to disagree on which Trudeau “is a faggot.”

The Star went ahead and ran it front page, morning of May 17. A story about a video they do not have.

Then ran react stories all day May 17, asking important folks what they think about a video they haven’t seen.

End of day, the Star’s website has an entire section dedicated to its dozens of stories about this video scandal they can’t prove.

Given the Star’s folks claim they saw the video May 3 and Gawker’s guy says he started his hunt a week and a half later it seems likely the Star was sitting on it until proof they could present presented itself.

When someone else suddenly made the story public it seems likely they panicked and unloaded what they had.

Other news outlets play chase, writing about the video they not only don’t have, but also haven’t seen.

Meanwhile, Gawker is trying to crowdfund six figures to buy the video. They call it a crackstarter.

Pride in journalism.

It’s not that I do not believe there’s a video of Rob Ford smoking crack — it strikes me as entirely plausible there’s a video of Rob Ford smoking crack.

Oh, to be the man to top the Toronto mayor who used his mayoral might to declare war on the weather, hung out with biker gangs for photo ops and once expressed to reporters his fear Kenyans would turn him into soup.

(Note: See Mad Mel Lastman)

Ford is that man. That silly, silly and well-documented man. And writing it’s because he might be a crackhead and calling it news is not much different than writing about snow in winter and calling it news.

No, it’s not that. We do that.

It’s that professional media outlets are now the better bit of a week in, reporting the video exists without the ability to prove the video exists. Yeah, it’s relevant, and on Day One, sure, I will take a person entrusted with the truth at their word. Day Three or Day Six or Day Nine? I’ll need a little more than pinky swears.

The further removed from Day One we become, still having no video, the less credible the people claiming there is a video seem.

The Star knew that — I would assume that’s why they were sitting on the story until Gawker threw down.

They wanted the video. Or something that proves the existence of the video.

Because there needs to be a video.

Otherwise it’s shoddy journalism — there’s little point pulling the trigger before the gun’s loaded. Reporters ask Ford for comment first thing, May 17. Ford calls the story “ridiculous,” says it is just the Star attacking him, as is their rep to do, gets into his car and is gone.

That’s all he has to do, because there is no video — not one that matters.

The only video that matters is the one that can be produced, and that video does not yet exist — it might never exist.

Unless, of course, Gawker’s crackstarter hits $200K.

And then, then all of those dollars have to be delivered to shady Somali drug dealers and I’m sure that’ll go smashingly well and we’ll see a video of Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack straight away.

Professional spectator and deadline artist, D.S. Wood (@maddesperado) is a Canuck journalist and, on occasion, also a writer of Other Things.

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