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Public editor: What readers think of Rob Ford and the media coverage

November 10, 2013

By Sylvia Stead

web-ford-fridayI asked readers Thursday to let me know their thoughts on Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and the media coverage, especially since comments have been closed on the stories for legal reasons. I received dozens of e-mails and thank you for those. I will write a separate blog post soon on the question of closed comments, but for now, there is a split between readers who think the media is savagely attacking the mayor, and others who think reporters are doing the right thing.

Those comments are below, but first let me answer questions from one reader who wondered:

– “I noticed that after Rob Ford admitted to his crack use the majority of headlines changed the perspective from ‘the Rob Ford Scandal’ to ‘The Rob Ford Crisis’. It’s a very clear change in tone and uses two words that are becoming the norm for media outlets. I’m wondering if there was a clear decision or if you might be able to shed some light on why the change of terms.”

I don’t know whether there was a specific decision to change the term from “scandal” to “crisis,” but I think given the news – especially the repeated calls from municipal politicians that Mr. Ford should step aside or have his powers reduced – the crisis description is fair.

– “In regards to your comments about photographing Ford’s children while trick-or-treating. In your article you said that if the request from Ford came to not photograph his children, that reporters probably would have respected those wishes. Unfortunately, I disagree with you… On Thursday when Chief Blair was set to release information to the public, the cameras flocked to Ford’s house in the morning and swarmed on to his property. Yes, Ford freaked out, but the reporters were all the way up his driveway with no respect whatsoever for his property. It was reminiscent of paparazzi and it left me wondering what kind of rights they would respect if they wouldn’t even stay off his driveway.”

His children were not present and, in fact, I am told his wife and children left earlier in the day and they were not photographed. It’s worth reminding readers that photographers do have the right to take news photographs while standing on public property (such as a sidewalk), but if they were asked not to be on Mr. Ford’s private driveway, in my view, they should comply.

– “If you know that media scrums allow the speaker to pick which questions they will respond to, why is there not an effort on the journalist side to have some sort of order to the questioning? We know that Ford will either ignore or lie about them either way, but why not at least try to work as a singular unit? Everyone is reporting the same information after all.”

The media is not a single unit, but a group of competitors working for different outlets and they try to get an answer to the question they feel is most important. However, in a sit-down news conference, where either the subject or someone else recognizes one outlet at a time, reporters are given one question and one follow-up and the answers tend to be more complete and focused.

Here now is a sample of other comments from readers:

From time to time wildlife photographers capture a herd of wildebeest on the African veld being chased by a pack of hungry hyenas. Through crafty and well-practiced manoeuvring, the hyenas single out their target. First, they circle the wildebeest to slow him down, yipping and yapping and and confusing him. This serves to separate the wildebeest from his herd, and his fellow herd-mates run even faster in order to distance themselves and escape what could be a similar fate. All of this is, of course, instinctive. The hyenas are intent upon devouring the wildebeest. At first the wildebeest thinks he has a fair chance of escaping. And so does the observer. We see that the wildebeest is bigger and appears to be more powerful. But then the hyenas close in, nipping here and nipping there, attacking from the side, attacking from behind, jumping at him and biting his heels relentlessly. They just don’t give up. The wildebeest turns this way and that , trying to defend himself but he soon realizes he is outnumbered and then exhaustion sets in. In due time the hyenas have him on the ground, biting and pulling and succeeding in killing and disemboweling the wildebeest and in fact, having him for lunch.

Does any of this sound familiar? Read more in the Toronto Globe & Mail.


From → Analysis

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